The main idea of this paper is that self-government should be regarded as a principle whose basic
meaning is that people, in order to fulfill their aspirations and pursue a life worth living,
must have the right and power to influence their individual and social circumstances. When
applied to political theory such principle allows to draw the outlines of what John Dewey called
“radical liberalism” or “radical democracy”, a political culture that presents some fondamental
differences when compared to the two dominant contemporary alternative standpoints, liberalism
and communitarism. Considering the works of Jefferson, Thoreau, Tocqueville and Dewey
as belonging to a same political family the paper traces its main constitutive traits.