Different Senses of Citizenship
Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities. In this sense, citizenship was described as "a bundle of rights -- primarily, political participation in the life of the community, the right to vote, and the right to receive certain protection from the community, as well as obligations." Citizenship is seen by most scholars as culture-specific, in the sense that the meaning of the term varies considerably from culture to culture, and over time. How citizenship is understood depends on the person making the determination. The relation of citizenship has never been fixed or static, but constantly changes within each society. While citizenship has varied considerably throughout history, and within societies over time, there are some common elements but they vary considerably as well. As a bond, citizenship extends beyond basic kinship ties to unite people of different genetic backgrounds. It usually signifies membership in a political body. It is often based on, or was a result of, some form of military service or expectation of future service. It usually involves some form of political participation, but this can vary from token acts to active service in government. Citizenship is a status in society. It is an ideal state as well. It generally describes a person with legal rights within a given political order. It almost always has an element of exclusion, meaning that some people are not citizens, and that this distinction can sometimes be very important, or not important, depending on a particular society. Citizenship as a concept is generally hard to isolate intellectually and compare with related political notions, since it relates to many other aspects of society such as the family, military service, the individual, freedom, religion, ideas of right and wrong, ethnicity, and patterns for how a person should behave in society. When there are many different groups within a nation, citizenship may be the only real bond which unites everybody as equals without discrimination—it is a "broad bond" linking "a person with the state" and gives people a universal identity as a legal member of a specific nation.
Modern citizenship has often been looked at as two competing underlying ideas:
- The liberal-individualist or sometimes liberal conception of citizenship suggests that citizens should have entitlements necessary for human dignity. It assumes people act for the purpose of enlightened self-interest. According to this viewpoint, citizens are sovereign, morally autonomous beings with duties to pay taxes, obey the law, engage in business transactions, and defend the nation if it comes under attack, but are essentially passive politically, and their primary focus is on economic betterment. This idea began to appear around the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and became stronger over time, according to one view. According to this formulation, the state exists for the benefit of citizens and has an obligation to respect and protect the rights of citizens, including civil rights and political rights. It was later that so-called social rights became part of the obligation for the state.
- The civic-republican or sometimes classical or civic humanist conception of citizenship emphasizes man's political nature, and sees citizenship as an active process, not a passive state or legal marker. It is relatively more concerned that government will interfere with popular places to practice citizenship in the public sphere. Citizenship means being active in government affairs. According to one view, most people today live as citizens according to the liberal-individualist conception but wished they lived more according to the civic-republican ideal. An ideal citizen is one who exhibits "good civic behavior". Free citizens and a republic government are "mutually interrelated." Citizenship suggested a commitment to "duty and civic virtue".
Scholars suggest that the concept of citizenship contains many unresolved issues, sometimes called tensions, existing within the relation, that continue to reflect uncertainty about what citizenship is supposed to mean. Some unresolved issues regarding citizenship include questions about what is the proper balance between duties and rights. Some see these two aspects of citizenship as incompatible, such that social rights have gone too far with not enough emphasis on duties citizens owe to the state. Another is a question about what is the proper balance between political citizenship versus social citizenship. Some thinkers see benefits with people being absent from public affairs, since too much participation such as revolution can be destructive, yet too little participation such as total apathy can be problematic as well. Citizenship can be seen as a special elite status, and it can also be seen as a democratizing force and something that everybody has; the concept can include both senses. According to political scientist Arthur Stinchcombe, citizenship is based on the extent that a person can control one's own destiny within the group in the sense of being able to influence the government of the group. One last distinction within citizenship is the so-called consent descent distinction, and this issue addresses whether citizenship is a fundamental matter determined by a person choosing to belong to a particular nation––by his or her consent––or is citizenship a matter of where a person was born––that is, by his or her descent.
Read more about this topic: Citizenship
Famous quotes containing the words citizenship and/or senses:
“Bohemia is nothing more than the little country in which you do not live. If you try to obtain citizenship in it, at once the court and retinue pack the royal archives and treasure and move away beyond the hills.”
—O. Henry [William Sydney Porter] (18621910)
“Let me obtain forgiveness of thee, Samson,
Afford me place to shew what recompence
Towards thee I intend for what I have misdone,
Misguided; only what remains past cure
Bear not too sensibly, nor still insist
To afflict thy self in vain: though sight be lost,
Life yet hath many solaces, enjoyd
Where other senses want not their delights
At home in leisure and domestic ease,”
—John Milton (16081674)