Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

The Common Citizen

Posted Dec 4, 2012 by Marvin Brown in The Civic, No Comments

We are now living in the time of new thinking about our selves, our human relationships, and our relationships with the planet.   Everything that we hold dear, everything we hold in common, is threatened.  Perhaps the notion of the common citizen will be helpful.

Everyone has the experience of difference—of being Other—although those in positions of privilege can afford to ignore these differences, since it only affects their soul, not their prosperity.

Sometimes it is too easy to say that we share a common humanity, especially for those who enjoy an uncommon amount of the earth’s resources and sleep in warm beds and secure homes.  The change we need is not so easy.  The fact is that the portal to grasping what we share in common—our common humanity—is the recognition of differences.

There is this space between our common humanity and our social differences that I have called the civic.  The question is who will write the invitations to enter this space?  We cannot invite ourselves.  We can only say that we would like to come.  The invitation must come from the Other, from the one or the group that is socially different.  When we receive an invitation, we will recognize it: it is an invitation to be a common citizen.

There are national citizens, of course, but we must move beyond national citizenship to common citizenship, which is realized in conversations that are grounded in what we have in common and that are willing to examine current social arrangements.

Today, some people benefit from these social arrangements and others suffer.  These social arrangements, however, can be changed.  The common citizen connects with others on the basis of our natural lives—living in human and non-human communities—and engages in civic conversations aimed at resolving the disagreements that spring from our social differences.

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Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

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