Current approaches to democratic state building place serious conceptual limits on policy options. A democratic future for Bosnia’s people will require far more searching engagement with identity formation and its politicization than reform efforts have so far contemplated. Theories of discursive democracy illuminate how this might be possible. We deploy the discursive idea of symbolic capital to show how one might identify the lines along which people in Bosnia could constitute meaningful, internally legitimated political communities – or that would indicate the experiment was not worth attempting. Unless advocates of democratic state building can articulate, rather than assume, a sufficiency of common ground among the populations’ multiple, overlapping and conflicting identities, they may have to revert to the default of separate political communities.
Link to article