Theory and Society

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 467–486 | Cite as

State-authorizing citizenship: the narrow field of civic engagement in the liberal age

  • Erica WeissEmail author


Liberal citizens are held ethically accountable not only for their own acts and behaviors, but also those of their state. Reciprocally, a proper liberal subject is one that metonymizes with the state, merging their fates and moral worth, and taking personal responsibility for the state’s actions. I claim that as a result, the liberal subject is not only self-authorizing according to liberal theories of moral autonomy, but also state-authorizing. I demonstrate the above claims through a consideration of changing activist practices among the Israeli political left. I show that the hegemonic model of civic engagement is oriented towards the state and state policy as the privileged and naturalized site of ethical intervention. I then describe the ways this model hampers political endeavors by restricting the sites of intervention as well as structural access to political participation. I also consider contemporary efforts at political engagement that bypass the state.


Activism Ethics Hegemony Liberalism Israeli political left State 



I would like to thank Yifat Gutman, Inna Leykin, and Tom Pesach who were kind enough to read drafts of this article while it was in preparation. I would also like to thank the Theory and Society reviewers of this article, who read very carefully and offered sharp, helpful, and constructive advice.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyTel Aviv UniversityRamat AvivIsrael

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