The Construction of Citizenship: Essays on Philosophy and Politics.

Gonzalo Gamio(autor)
Lima: Fondo Editorial UARM / IDEHPUCP, 2021

Throughout history, democracies have taken different forms of representation and citizen agency. In that sense, citizenship – understood both as the condition of individuals being holders of universal rights and the capacity of political agency they have – represents a fundamental object of study for thinking about current political regimes and the protection of human rights. In the book “La construcción de la ciudadanía. Ensayos sobre filosofía política,” Gonzalo Gamio delves into this concept, understanding it from its capacity to “give direction and depth to people’s lives, if they consider political action as a potential option of meaning” (2021: 4).

The publication of the Institute of Democracy and Human Rights of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru together with the Editorial Fund of the Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University, compiles a series of essays written between 2006 and 2020. In these, the author explores “the fundamental determinations of the construction of citizenship: the ethics of political participation, public deliberation, the culture of human rights, social inclusion, intercultural dialogue, and the secularism of the liberal democratic state” (2021: 8). From a phenomenological reflection, these influence the exercise of citizenship and, therefore, public life in our country. Indeed, in the face of our weak democracy, it is necessary to recover common deliberation spaces and, above all, to confront forms of political alienation. Thus, the eradication of authoritarian mentality will only be possible if the political action of every citizen is recovered.

The essays are divided into four chapters. The first chapter, “Practical Deliberation and Civic Ethics,” addresses the need for the cultivation of the humanities and their relationship with the construction of citizenship. It also examines the two current concepts of citizenship from a perspective that reconciles them with a view to the full defense of human rights. The second chapter, “Agency, Cultural Identities, and Diversity,” develops the discussion around cultural identities in a culture of peace. In addition, it reflects on the values that these identities imprint on our conception of the world and the dangers of fundamentalism. The third chapter, “Politics, Religion, and Secularization,” analyzes the process of secularization in democratic states and its impact on the public sphere. Finally, in the fourth chapter, “Perspectives on Freedom,” it reflects on political freedom, from the comparison of ancient and modern paradigms.

The depth of the book represents an essential contribution to the discussion about citizenship and, especially, the freedom of every citizen, but not as the capacity of each isolated individual, but in concert. As Gamio points out following Hannah Arendt’s definition, “civic power arises from the encounter of people in a plural space of exchange of arguments” where “the word is the force of power, not the use of force” (2021: 4). Thus, this view of citizen agency makes it possible to recover deliberative and civic discernment practices that allow strengthening the current democracy and combating any form of strengthening of authoritarian regimes.