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- Basic Elements of Citizenship
- Citizenship as a Juridical Status of Membership
- Citizenship as a Foundation of Democratic Practice
- The Impact of Citizenship on Identity
- Transformations in the Civic Community
The concept of citizenship has a great elasticity of meaning because of its varied spatial and functional dimensions (e.g., we speak of family citizenship, state-national citizenship, cosmopolitan citizenship). The notion is all the more difficult to use as it refers to very different historical experiences, ranging from the civil makeup of ancient Rome to the contemporary experience of postnational citizenship in Europe, including numerous liberal, republican, and communitarian declensions from this membership. Another difficulty lies within an ethical framework that is an essential part of the scientific debate on citizenship. A few years ago, issues related to the ethical implications of citizenship led certain theoreticians to believe that the notion had become theoretically ineffective in social and political sciences. Although such an opinion may be somewhat excessive, it highlights the need for a rigorous definition of the concept. In this research paper, citizenship is defined as (a) a juridical status of membership in a political community, (b) a status that is the condition of the political participation of citizens in the democratic functioning of the community, and (c) a status that endows individuals with a sense of citizenship that differs from their other social and cultural identities. These three basic elements of citizenship are discussed in the first part of the paper; then, recent transformations of modern civic configurations are examined.
Basic Elements of Citizenship
Three basic elements are necessary to consolidate the notion of citizenship and to outline distinctive characteristics that make using the term heuristically possible in political science.
Citizenship as a Juridical Status of Membership
The first element identifies the juridical foundation of citizenship as a status of membership in a political entity (often national but not exclusively so) that is juridically codified. In this regard, citizenship is often linked to nationality, which entails the recognition of rights and obligations associated with this status; in most nation-states, this criterion of nationality is still the condition for inclusion in the citizen community. With the development of migration trends and with the diversification in the scales of citizenship, the residency criterion is also sometimes taken into account to facilitate the civic integration of those who live in a nation or other juridically defined territory without full membership as a citizen of that nation-state or other group. This juridical foundation is at the center of the sociological debate put forward by Thomas Marshall when, during his famous conference in Cambridge in 1949 (see Gershon Shafir, 1998, chap. 6), he made citizenship a federative concept for political science. For Marshall, who was particularly concerned about the coherence of an English society threatened by class divisions, the interest in this concept lies in the ability of the juridical status to guarantee equal rights to all citizens. In the now established fashion, Marshall characterizes citizenship as consisting of three components: (1) the civil element, that is, individual rights such as freedom of the person, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, right of ownership, right to sign contracts, right to a fair legal system, and so on; (2) the political element, including the right to participate in political activity, right to run for office, right to vote, right to petition, and so on; and (3) the social element, mainly through the free and equal access to its social welfare system. Heavily influenced by the British historical experience, this liberal and evolutionary model of citizenship still reflects an interest in putting the status of citizenship into a historical perspective that includes the birth of the constitutional state, the advent of universal suffrage, and the birth of the welfare state, all of which encouraged the progressive expansion of such a juridically codified social role. Here, citizenship is a type of indicator of political modernity. This perspective on citizenship, contested by many critics of Marshall, especially Albert Hirschmann, is based on the evolution of Western societies in which these societies moved away from feudalism and its system of discriminatory orders. Since the introduction of this argument, many works have completed this model by including new elements; in particular, scholars such as Will Kymlicka (1995) have added an important cultural dimension that establishes the notion of “multicultural citizenship,” which is intended to take into account cultural, linguistic, or religious diversity. However, in American Citizenship, Judith Shklar (1991) shows that the symbolic possession of citizenship status is often just as important and sometimes even more fundamental than the actual practice of rights attached to it. Taking the example of American citizenship, for a long time denied to those of African ancestry and linked to the practice of slavery until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, Shklar argues that for many who have benefited from the fight for civil rights, what is important is not only the regular practice of rights as the recognition of a juridical and a political status that give a minimum of social dignity but also this symbolic recognition.
This first element of citizenship gives rise to a number of important debates and scientific studies in political science, including current discussions surrounding the dissociation between citizenship and nationality. Whether one considers a postnational model of civic membership, as Rainer Baubock or Yasemin Nuhoglu Soysal suggest (see Shafir, 1998, chap. 10), or analyzes the partial denationalization caused by the emergence of European citizenship in 1992, as described by Yves Deloye (2008), the debate is centered on the pertinent degree of the social closure of the limits of citizenship and the ability today of this status to match juridically the open conception of human rights that now contrasts with the former closed-minded conception of national rights.
Citizenship as a Foundation of Democratic Practice
The second element of citizenship is characterized by the philosophical and historical link between this membership and the workings of political democracy. Because this link marks the advent of a new way of legitimizing power, which is completely dissociated from any aristocratic or theocratic perspective, citizenship entails a division of political work between the government and the governed, which has made the idea of a change in power the very principle of representative democracies. Political science literature usually compares two stances on this issue. In an elitist version, defended in the past by Gaetano Mosca, Joseph Schumpter, and more recently by Samuel Huntington, the main idea is to protect democracy from excessive interference by citizens, because civic apathy is seen as functional for the democratic political system, helping it avoid “govern-ability crises” such as those encountered in Western democracies in the 1970s. Conversely, the participatory version advocates a strong involvement (in the sense in which Benjamin Barber uses this term) of citizens in the public sphere. The advocates of this opinion are therefore inclined to increase acts of citizenship. In using this term, some theoreticians have recently advocated a profound transformation of the studies dedicated to citizenship. They leave behind the perspective of citizenship as the possession of a membership status representing the modern civil freedoms guaranteed by the state, which in return demands the loyalty of its citizens, and instead put forward the practice of civic freedom and the repertoire of political expression (e.g., flash mobs, consumer awareness, hijacking political symbols through art), which play a role in making citizens the first actors of a citizenship that escapes the state’s control and sometimes even questions it. The reversal of this perspective from top to bottom cannot be mentioned without referring to the old dialogue between two antagonistic civic conceptions observed by the English historian John Pocock (see Shafir, 1998, chap. 2). According to Pocock, two ideal conceptions of citizenship have coexisted since antiquity. The first, expressed by Aristotle, emphasizes the civic dimension and defines citizenship as a mode of activity specific to humanity; the second conception, outlined in the work of the Roman lawyer Gaius, sees citizenship above all as a specific legal status and one that values its civil dimension. Beyond this founding opposition, the contemporary analysis tends to emphasize the fact that an “act of citizenship” questions the nature of “civic virtues” expected from citizens. Usually when citizenship is discussed, this questioning is related to the normative position of those who participate in the debate. The argument between liberals and communitarians is largely influential in political science and in other disciplines. Following John Rawls, liberals view citizens as individual rational agents rather than as members of a community that helps shape their values. Conversely, the communitarian critique (as presented by Michael Walzer and Alasdair MacIntyre) claims that the status of citizen presupposes an engagement in the public sphere, a sphere that constitutes the cement of the community and the solidarity that characterizes it. The topic of this intense debate, which borders on normative political philosophy and political science, points to the third element of citizenship: the impact on identity.
The Impact of Citizenship on Identity
This third element of citizenship emphasizes the principle of separation between citizen membership and other social memberships—rival sources of identification. As Jean Leca (1990) indicates in his classic text, citizenship constitutes “a civil society distinct from family, lineage and seigneurial com-munities” (p. 148). If the model of the Western medieval city analyzed by Max Weber is often referred to here as the paradigm of this necessary differentiation between civic identity and corporate or religious identities, it is, however, with the political experience of liberal revolutions of the 18th century that this illustration of modern citizenship develops. It is then associated with two fundamental historical movements: (1) individuation, which contributes to strongly linking individualism to citizenship, to the extent that the individual and the modern citizen merge in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789, and (2) the universalization of rights, which makes citizenship all the more inclusive. By causing a reorganization of social and religious identities between the public and private spheres, citizenship demonstrates the establishment of a social formation where the combination of status and affiliations to primary groups (family, ethnic, religious, etc.) is compatible with the promotion of an allegiance to a political community. As the classic sociologists Emile Durkheim and Georg Simmel had established, the system of division from which these civic allegiances are created favors the emancipation of the individual and the promotion of civil liberty. The classic works of Reinhard Bendix (Nation-Buildingand Citizenship, 1977) and Ernest Gellner (Culture, Identity and Politics, 1987) show that this civic emancipation is often in harmony with the affirmation of the nation-state, whose cultural cohesion is linked to the ability of citizenship to evoke in individuals a strong sense of identification to its culture and to its political vision. The comparative historical sociology of the nation-state, as described by Deloye (2008) and Juan Linz (1993), claims, however, that this cultural homogeneity is often questioned by the populations and therefore depends on the level of success in establishing political and social identities. One must be particularly aware of the diversity of historical paths in building the nation-state. As Linz indicates, the process of nation building—which aims to historically complete the process of state building and to develop among its citizens a strong subjective sense of belonging to the same political and cultural community—is often in the end thwarted by demands for cultural, religious, or linguistic recognition. Such demands make it politically very costly for a republican-type homogeneous citizenship to emerge, capable of making peripheral or social identities invisible— identities that individuals hold on to because of their primary socialization. Taking this historical fact into account, Linz puts forward a conceptual reflection useful for an analysis of citizenship: Establishing the exceptional character of the nation-state (with the exception of the successful model of the French state and its model of republican citizenship), he encourages us to abandon “the idea according to which every state should try to be a nation-state” in order to “turn to methods of state [and civic] integration rather than those based on national construction” (Linz, 1993, pp. 356, 365). At the heart of this conceptual shift— which leads him to prefer the notion of “state-nation” to “nation-state”—is a whole series of essential questions examined by political theory and by the comparative approach to citizenship: the recognition of cultural diversity in a liberal democracy, the development of “multicultural citizenship” models, the political construction and political validity of multinational states founded on the plurality of civic and cultural methods of identification (e.g., in Canada, India, Belgium), the “postnational” future of contemporary societies, and the transformations of the different types of political patriotism and allegiance associated with models of citizenship. The common factor here is the insistence that the observer distance himself from the abstract notion of citizenship, that of “man born again” (a favorite expression of many French revolutionaries of 1789), without the primary social or cultural characteristics, to recognize the man who is embedded, enclosed in a series of social identities that help shape his behavior in public and make him feel like a “citizen.”
This shift links up with the communitarian and feminist critique formulated in contrast to a universalistic conception of citizenship linked to an “ideal” separation between the public and the private sphere. For the communitarian critique of liberalism, the issue is the atomized conception of “Oneself,” with no true meaning, or historical and empirical contingency, which is capable of thinking in an independent and rational way and capable of implementing civil liberties, which are recognized by one’s status as citizen in a purely autonomous way. Contrary to this definition, which Isaiah Berlin strongly defends in his Four Essays on Liberty (1969), the communitarian theoreticians developed the hypothesis of “Oneself,” inevitably “embedded” and dependent on his common environment. This “communitarian constitution of Oneself,” to borrow Charles Taylor’s terms, leads the communitarian critique of liberal citizenship to emphasize the fact that the political and civic identity of citizens is constituted on the basis of an attachment to one or several communities of reference that noticeably reduces the degree of possible differentiation from the political city.
This tension of citizenship between private man and public duty, formerly mentioned by H. Mark Roelofs (1957), is also at the heart of the feminist critique of liberal and republican citizenship. According to Carole Pateman (1989), quite rightly, this critique betrays the androcentrism of the traditional notion of citizenship, which, behind a conception of the abstract universal, tends to reflect the civil evolution of men more than it does of women. From this point of view, it is obvious that the famous typology of civic rights formulated by T. H. Marshall and discussed earlier hardly concerns women who, in most Western countries, are denied the civic rights considered by the British sociologist. In the same way that universal suffrage was considered “universal” for a long time when only men had the right to participate in the election of parliamentary elites, the notion of citizenship remained for too long a prisoner of a conception of politics that overlooked gender. In light of gender, studies on citizenship are now enriched with new sociological analysis and major conceptual reappraisals; the Duties (the “we” prevails) idea that the public and the private sphere constitute two hermetic and distinct spheres, a hypothesis that is at the foundation of liberal and republican conceptions of citizenship as described, for example, by Engin Isin and Bryan Turner (2002, chaps. 8 and 9), has been criticized because it was the main source of the exclusion of women from the political city. In a similar way, the universal perspective of citizenship was strongly modified to recognize the multiple irreducible differences between men and women. Some of the most substantial studies in gendered political science, however, deal with the inclusion of women in parliament. Whether in terms of correcting the flaws of representativeness, adjusting the electoral system to increase the presence of women in elective assemblies, or thinking of the effects of parity on politics, research on civic representation has been greatly expanded as a result of a gendered approach that most often combines political theory with comparative political analysis.
Transformations in the Civic Community
Beyond these theoretical debates, the concept of citizenship is an excellent reflection of contemporary political metamorphoses, as Isin and Turner (2002) have shown. The controversies enliven the numerous studies on citizenship that force political science to put the political actor in touch with themes such as rights and obligations, political loyalty in political configurations made more complex by the globalization and the uprooting of politics, and new methods of political communalization in multicultural societies often marked by postcolonial demands. Without trying to cover every civic transformation, Figure 1 summarizes the two main transformations of political citizenship observed at the beginning of the 21st century. The first line of evolution concerns the normative impact of citizen-ship; the second transformation applies to the degree of politicization of the contemporary status of citizenship.
In the same way as classic works approach the topic of citizenship, the identification of individuals as members of a political community (local, national, or postnational) is historically linked to the normative integration of citizens. It is because individuals share not only the same system of values and representations but also common rules of behavior that they become aware of their “unity.” The strength of the idea of identification with a national “we” revealed by various political science studies is also due, in one part, to this normative tonality of membership in a nation-state and its emotional capacity to unite citizens around a body of central and shared values and rules. New civic methods experimented with in Europe, North America, and Asia are probably in line with a different perspective. In many current political configurations (e.g., European Union, India, Canada, Australia, South Africa), a plurality of values coexist in the public sphere and set the social actor against cultural subsystems of different values. In this case, the question of political legitimacy is no longer asked in relation to ultimate values but often on an administrative and a technocratic level. The weakness of cultural integration—which was at the heart of this state-national civic project, for instance, the republican one—is compensated for by the economic capacity of the social welfare system to ensure to every person a certain equality of access to material well-being. The pragmatic running of society occurs here without reference to the founding values on the basis of which citizens struggle to come together because of former or present distributive conflicts. This new paradigm creates a model of citizenship, slightly inclusive in political and cultural terms but also capable of encouraging equal—more or less fair—access to economic and social goods and services (bottom of Figure 1). From this point of view, it might seem to have an affinity with historical logics used in this process of building the “state-nations” referred to by Linz (1993). However, such a conception of citizenship makes it very difficult to develop a strong sense of belonging to contemporary political spheres whose economy is also highly globalized and increasingly discriminatory.
In the manner of an ideal type, it is possible to compare these two models of civic configuration. On the one hand is the model of citizenship, which was experimented with for Western countries, encouraging the politics of vertical integration and a certain level of homogenization or at least a certain level of cultural convergence. This model is based on a common body of values, beliefs, and representations, which conveys norms and duties that the state has to uphold. At the other end of the scale is a model of multicultural citizenship, whose horizontal inclusive logic is limited to ensuring that every citizen has equal access to the economic and social welfare of society and is free to choose his or her cultural and identity affiliations. Numerous intermediate positions are possible between these two models.
A second line of evolution takes shape in the background once attention is turned to the contemporary sources of civic “communalization.” Three dominant sources of communalization can be identified in a broad outline, thanks to Max Weber’s old typology: a cultural source (religion, e.g., for feudal societies), a political source (e.g., the civic loyalty demanded by the nation-state), and an economic source (e.g., access to the economic market). Historically, these three sources of communalization operate in a mixed way but in varied proportions and according to different connections. What is at stake here is clarifying the respective contributions of the political order, of the cultural order, and of the economic order to the communalization of citizens. Today, in Europe and elsewhere, the market and economic or professional mobility hold a decisive place in the processes of regional integration, and these forces may lead to rivalry between groups with different cultural identities. At the same time, other social institutions, such as religion or the family, may lose some of their power to regulate relationships between cultural groups. Thus, these contemporary transformations of citizenship call into question the very status of the political with respect to its role as a source of integration and regulation. Whereas citizenship was once seen as a vehicle for distinguishing civic membership from other social identities, today it must accommodate itself to societal demands. This relative “depoliticization” appears to be the result of a new stability between different sources of civic communalization that clearly reduces the importance of political loyalties in favor of both transnational patterns of material consumption and self-assertion on a cultural level.
It is in this overall historical transformation that it seems necessary to locate present conditions of identification and of political participation in contemporary societies. It is also by taking into consideration these profound transformations that the concept of citizenship can remain a central notion in political science.
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