London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Democracy and participation: daily experience in Swedish schools

Author(s) Bergström & Holm  
Publisher CiCe Publications  
Year 2003  
Editor Europe of Many Cultures, Alastair Ross Ed.  
Language English  
Age group -  
New political systems like the New States in Germany, the European Union and the recently established regions in former central states, also the new regional structures in prospective EU member states, have to solve the problem of identity. Mostly, they construct a sort of identity of the polity by the means of culture (common heritage, language etc.). In this top-down and pre-modern model they expect the citizens to identify themselves with the 'common culture' which is associated with the territory and the political system. In a second step we demonstrate that this model of identity policy can not work for various reasons. The reification of 'culture' ignores the process of reconstruction and cultural awareness, which depends much more on life conditions on post-modern societies than any authority. We are going to give evidence for that aspect by presenting a few examples how children deal with regional and European history. Culture, if ever, has to be constructed in a communicative process, what we call a bottom-up model. We want to proceed, however, to the democratic option. We are convinced that identification depends on participation and commitment. For EU, for instance, we claim that the more civic engagement crosses the borders of national states, the more associations and lobbies, also the published and public opinion are organised cross-culturally, the more people can and do identify with that network. We conclude with a few proposals how to improve citizenship education according to these findings.

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