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This chapter explores the crises of the Roman and American republics. Understanding these crises requires that we view politics as an arena of identity contestation rather than simply interest articulation. What changes in both Rome and the United States is that participants came to see each other as Strangers, no longer sharing the same background assumptions, the same sense of the past, nor the same anticipation of the future. Borne of distrust, norms of getting things down turned into norms of obstruction. This had implications for how politics was experienced. The changes in these norms not only disabled these institutions, making them unable to actualize a future, but also made possible alterations in the political framework that might have been inconceivable before. In particular, one sees the elevation of individuals who offered solutions by promising to bypass those ineffective and unresponsive institutions. That is, as institutions and processes become distant abstractions that no longer answer to fundamental questions of the future of the community, the individual becomes the tangible personification of politics, answering these questions in a singular voice.
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