By: Allan Colbern
Ph.D. candidate in political science, UCR
Introduction Citizenship is a historically contested and continually evolving concept. In its basic conception, it refers to a type of membership to a group of people. The following provides an overview of philosophical traditions of citizenship, current trends and debates surrounding citizenship and immigration, and a review of empirical studies that explore the contemporary practice and meaning of citizenship.
Western Philosophy and Citizenship Three conceptual relationships between individuals and the polity lay the grounds for many contemporary debates on citizenship: (1) citizenship defined by the republican tradition, (2) citizenship defined by the liberal tradition, and (3) citizenship defined by ascribed characteristics such as race, gender, and religion.
The Republican Citizen: Aristotle’s Politics (1984) conceives of citizenship as a status belonging to men (patriarchs) who participate in a political sphere with the goal of creating order in society (see J.G.A. Pocock 1995; Ulrich Preuss 1995; Christian Joppke 2010). For Aristotle, the act of politicking is considered a good in itself, i.e., to be a citizen meant that you are capable of escaping material possessions and free to engage in a political life outside of the private realm. Further, Aristotle’s conception implies that citizens display civic virtues by actively partaking in a governing role as well as passively obeying established laws (Michael Ignatieff, 2005). In general, the republican tradition stresses civic life, the act of politicking, and governance by citizens.
The Liberal Citizen: Citizenship became a legal rather than political identity beginning with Roman jurist Gaius, who defined the relationship between citizens as being one between material possessions such as property (J.G.A. Pocock 1995). Laws were set up in Roman communities to protect the possessions of its citizens, establishing a different form of citizenship via legal status. The liberal tradition departs from the republican traditions by stressing citizen’s rights, as opposed to civic virtues. John Locke’s (1998, 2003) notion of consent and contracts highlights the existence of an inter-relationship between the individual citizen and state. The state provides citizen’s access to certain privileges and protections, meanwhile the citizen is obligated to follow laws, pay taxes, or serve in the military if called on by their state. For the republican tradition, civic virtue highlights a concern for social order and the obligation to actively participate in political life. In contrast, the liberal tradition views citizens as atomized individuals who are self-interested. The protection of individual rights by institutions like the constitution explains why citizens engage in political life, not civic virtue as in the republican tradition. These two diverging views of who is considered a citizen, vis-à-vis a political being or person with legal rights, stem from the liberal tradition’s replacement of Aristotle’s public-private division with other criteria that are written into a legal framework and institutionalized.
Ascribed Citizenship: Citizenship is also conceived of as being a natural or pre-political condition that distinguishes in- and out-groups. Rather than viewing the status of citizenship by focusing on civic virtues or rights, ascribed characteristics such as an individual’s race or gender predetermine their status as a citizenship, second-class citizen, or alien (see Rogers Smith 1997). Issues of equality are a focal point for theories of citizenship that account for ascribed identity. Moreover, the national narrative of a developing citizenship becomes a story of various socio-political struggles for inclusion and rights.
Contested Views of Citizenship within the Nation-State Border T.H. Marshall (1965) is known for establishing the postwar conception of citizenship, arguing for a linear-progressive model of citizenship whereby the path to full citizenship requires civil, political, and social rights. Without all three, according to Marshall, citizens are not fully included as members of the state, and therefore, form a type of second-class citizenship. Since Marshall, citizenship has been disaggregated into multiple dimensions (civil, social, and political) and various bridges have been built between the legal and civic models of citizenship, providing more robust conceptions of citizenship. For instance, the concept of a “good citizen” demarcates two competing schools of thought: “the left” and the “New Right” (Kymlicka and Norman 1994). According to scholars of “the left,” social rights provide the foundation for citizens’ inclusion and participation; therefore, rights must be given before the establishment of responsibilities (see Phillips 1991, Okin 1992). A primary concern of this school of thought is often expressed in terms of minority rights, welfare systems, or power structures (see Leonard and Tronto 2007). This group of scholars has also laid important groundwork to the view of a nation-state as constructed by multiple groups with distinct identities and positions of power. Under this light, multiculturalism, diversity, and pluralism take on new and important meaning for understanding citizenship (see Taylor 1991, 1994; Connolly 1995; Markell 2003). The “New Right,” in contrast, views social rights as counterproductive to establishing good/responsible citizens because they provide conditions that allow citizens to become passive participators, rather than active (see Mead 1986, Barry 1990). The different conceptions for how responsibility and rights interact are an important area of contestation between scholars.
Foreigners and Citizens T.H. Marshall laid important theoretical grounds for recognizing the importance of political, civil, and social rights when defining citizenship statuses. However, his work focuses on the internal landscape of citizenship, which ignores issues of immigration or the role of state borders/institutions. Rogers Brubaker’s (1992) concepts of “internally inclusive” and “externally exclusive” highlight the important mediating role that the state has on the process of citizenship. According to Brubaker, citizenship is a mechanism of social closure that distinguishes citizens from foreigners. This “externally exclusive” element of citizenship is important for understanding the impact of immigration on citizenship. Moreover, it opens up the internally focused theories of citizenship as found in T.H. Marshall’s work, which ignore the crossing of state borders and naturalization processes, to include issues of migration, integration, and assimilation of new residents into citizens.
Cultural Dimensions to Citizenship Cultural studies of citizenship often focus on the integration and assimilation processes of diverse cultures into more unified cultures. Therefore, the struggles of diverse groups residing in a state and struggles associated with immigration across state border provide two important sources for analyzing issues of integration and assimilation.
Early scholarship on assimilation argues for a type of Americanization process, whereby immigrants are stripped of their previous cultural identity in order to become (assimilate into) American citizens. Nationalism scholarship reflects this view of a one-way assimilation process (see Gellner 1983; Anderson 1991), viewing citizenship in homogenizing terms through which affective and legalistic qualities of citizenship categorically merge into one. Recently, however, this homogenous and one-sided view of how citizenship alters individual and group identities has been replaced by a view that stresses the reciprocal nature of assimilation and integration processes (see Joppke and Morawska 2003). The cultural impact that citizenship requirements have on minority groups and incoming immigrants has stirred numerous debates about the best ways to integrate diverse groups into states. Cultural pluralists argue for the protection of cultural differences, leading to a process of assimilation and integration that balances individual/group identity markers with those of national identity markers (both ascriptive and legalistic). Young’s (1989) “differentiated citizenship” offers a concept of citizenship that strives to protect oppressed groups from damaging effects of incorporation through special representation and accommodations that do not exist for other sub-groups that belong to the state. The argument for self-government rights of a particular group within the national borders of a state presents an extreme form of protection under Young’s model of citizenship that separates, rather than integrates or assimilates, specific groups from the state.
Postnational and Transnational Citizenship Brubaker departs from Marhsall’s internal focus to studying citizenship by stressing the important enclosing role of legal institutions of the state, opening up citizenship studies to include an international (foreign) space. In Postnational conceptions of membership, a new form of membership and rights transcend national boundaries. Yasemin Soysal (1994) makes this argument by highlighting the similarity between civil/social rights given to guest workers by countries in Northwest Europe and those rights possessed by their citizens. In other words, “personhood” is beginning to replace citizenship status and the territorial borders that Brubaker stresses to be important are becoming less important (Soysal 1994: 3). Similarly, transnational studies of citizenship explore issues of dual citizenship that tends to re-conceptualize the role of rights and civic life within state borders. Both postnational and transnational conceptions of citizenship help capture the meaning of citizenship by highlighting ways in which people belong to more than one state or find membership outside of state boundaries.
Empirical Research on Citizenship Empirical scholarship on citizenship often compares naturalization processes and legal codes with the hopes of understanding variations in the regulation of citizenship requirements. For instance, Rogers Brubaker (1992) compares historical ideas of citizenship in France and Germany, linking France’s inclusive policies to its practice of providing citizenship based on birth and Germany’s exclusive policies to its legal traditions used to demarcate citizenship. Marc Howard (2009) compares fifteen countries belonging to the European Union by constructing a Citizenship Policy Index (CPI) that places naturalization laws for each country onto a scale, which shows changes over time. Important variable for Howed’s CPI include measures of jus soli (citizenship given to children of noncitizens), residency requirements for immigrants, and dual citizenship allowances. Howard’s primary concern is to explain why certain historically restrictive countries in Europe have recently liberalized their citizenship policies, whereas others have resisted change. According to Howard, change in the direction of liberal citizenship requirements are explained by demographic changes, international norms, interest groups, and liberal courts, whereas the persistence of conservative requirements are explained by anti-immigration public opinions. Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal have all liberalized since the 1980s because public opinion that is anti-immigrant was not activated, allowing the liberal pressures to move each state’s naturalization/citizenship laws to the left. In contrast, Austria, Denmark and Italy have not liberalized due to an activated anti-immigrant public.
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