The Need for Better Understanding of Government and Governing

AuthorGregory Tardi
Pages19-38
 
The Need for Better Understanding
of Government and Governing
Introduction: Understanding Government and Governing
e modern state, its institutions, mechanisms of governing, and
the ocials who act on its behalf, all amount to a complex set of
structures and processes. Government and governing are not eas-
ily understood. Citizenship denotes the existence of a community,
indeed of a community of interests, not only among the mem-
bers of society but also between the state and its society. Society
is more than passive claims by individuals to a number of rights,
entitlements, and various forms of assistance, but is also the active
participation of individuals in the conduct of public aairs and
contribution to the general welfare. One cannot be a good citizen
without knowing and understanding their own place in society, and
equally importantly, the construct of one’s own society and state.
A broader vision, a -degree perspective also involving at least
some historical awareness, would result in a general understanding
of society and the modern state. A perspective on one’s own state
is, of course, helpful in eective participation in government and
public aairs more generally.
Passive citizenship is equivalent to belonging legally to a country
without making any contribution to the polity. Wilful abstinence
POLITICAL LAW IN CANADA
from public life may be a societal problem. At best, the inactiv-
ity of citizens engenders political risks and damage. At worst, it
puts the very legitimacy of the state into question. To counter such
structural diculties, the achievement of active participation by a
large number of citizens can result only from a progressive response,
in which each step results from the cooperation of citizens and
their state. e path of this response comprises the following steps:
interest in government and public aairs on the part of individuals,
in tandem with the fostering of such interest through campaigns
of information about the major issues of the day by appropriate
organs of the state; the development of ongoing awareness through
the media; and increasing education about the state and statecraft.
All these steps should lead to greater understanding of government
and governing. e ultimate result would be more intensive par-
ticipation by citizens in public life, which may mean voting, but
may also be other forms of public activity. Realistically, government
and governance will be of greater interest for some citizens than for
others. us, the explanations set out hereafter will be of particular
interest for students and practitioners of the social disciplines: law,
political science, public administration, along with f‌ields such as
journalism. is book is also particularly intended for those pro-
fessionally engaged in the practice of law, in politics, and in public
service. For these, no amount of information can ever be sucient.
Once it becomes apparent that more knowledge of, and atten-
tion to, public aairs is needed by a greater number of citizens, we
must address the twin questions of what knowledge ought to be
disseminated and how such information is to be cast.
e various forms of study have developed over the centuries to
explain the structure and the functioning of the state. Political sci-
ence aims to analyze politics systematically. Public administration
seeks to examine the inner workings of statecraft. Even more pertin-
ently, public law sets out the legal rules that underlie both political
science and public administration. Most specif‌ically, constitutional
law deals with the establishment and architecture of the state and
enshrines the fundamental rights of individuals that the state is

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