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What Is Citizenship?

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At the same historical time where globalisation has become a key word both in social sciences, and gradually in the everyday life of many people, and in political discourses in general, the interest in citizenship has met with a Renaissance. It has to be stated that it is difficult to specify the concise meaning of the phenomenon. One problem is that the concept can be used as regards the development and dynamics in very different spheres of social life, as for instance economy, politics, culture, environment, international relations etc. Another problem has to do with the history of globalisation, such as: Are the ongoing processes of globalisation an expansion, a radical break with or perhaps a slowing down compared to earlier phases of globalisation. A third problem concerns the normative implication of globalisation: Is globalisation something to be celebrated, controlled and reduced or even combated? Therefore, as a starting point in pinpointing some of the general features of globalisation, it is good idea extensively to quote the British political scientist, David Held, on this,

”(…) globalisation can be taken to denote the stretching and deepening of social relations and institutions across space and time such that, on the one hand, day-to-day activities are increasingly influenced by events happening on the other side of the globe and, on the other, the practices and decisions of local groups and communities can have significant global reverberations. Accordingly, globalisation can be conceived as ”action at distance”. The particular form of action at distance that is of concern here is engendered by the stretching and deepening of relations across the borders of nation-states and at increasing intensity. Globalisation thus interpreted implies at least two distinct phenomena. First, it suggests that many chains of political, economic and social activity are becoming world-wide in scope. And, secondly, it suggests there has been an intensification of levels of interaction and interconnectedness within and between states and societies. What is new about the modern global system is the stretching of social relations in and through new dimensions of activity – technological, organisational, administrative and legal, among other – and the chronic intensifications of patterns of interconnectedness mediated by such phenomena as modern communication networks and new information technology. Politics unfolds today, with all its customary uncertainty and in-determinateness, against the background of a world shaped and permeated by the movement of goods and capital, the flow of communication, the interchange of cultures and the passage of people” (ibid: 20-21).

In the study of globalisation Held´s definition can be characterised as a transformational position in the study of globalisation. According to this position globalisation is not characterising a condition, but a process or set of processes. These processes are not bound together by a simple or linear developmental logic. The interaction and interchange of networks, communities, states, international institutions, NGOs, multinational companies etc. create a complex “global order” that is not coherent in any simple sense. The constant creations and breakdowns of the global networks of relations expand the possibilities for individual and collective action, at the same time restricting them. Because globalisation consists of uneven developmental processes, and has different consequences in different parts of the world, because globalisation

”(…) both reflects existing patterns of inequality and hierarchy while also generating new patterns of inclusion and exclusion, new winners and losers” (Goldblatt et al, 1999: 27).
Globalisation is not creating a new world order of universal equality. It is rather reproducing power-relations at a distance. So, according to the transformative view, globalisation is marked by a set of processes that are partly simultaneous and complementary, and partly opposed to and in conflict with each other. On the one hand, the extension and speed of economic, political and cultural activities are reducing the relevance of territorial boundaries. On the other, hand globalisation is reproducing or even intensifying the search for and need for the very same boundaries. Simultaneously globalisation is about de-territorialization and re-territorialization. Territorial boundaries seem less important in the global network of relations, however, at the same time attempts are made to strengthen them. For instance political activities and decisions are extended and intensified beyond the national level, in the NATO, the EU, the NAFTA, the WTO etc. On the other hand, conflicts all over the world are concerning the struggle for the fortification of ethnic and national politics. So, in Roland Robertson´s words (1995) globalisation is connected to localisation. Or rather, these two processes are intertwined to such an extent that Robertson suggest that the neologism “glocalisation” should be used. It is difficult to predict, whether this global-local nexus is a source of conflict or not.
Globalisation implies that power, knowledge, wealth, and decisions are centralised in international organisations and transnational companies. At the same time a diffusion and decentralisation are going on, for instance in the form of the activities and involvement of ethno-national movements and NGOs on the political arenas. Globalisation means that global capitalism is de-regulated or liberalised, but at the same time institutions and networks are established with the purpose of re-regulating it. The EU and the WTO are examples of the latter phenomenon.
The historical perspective of the transformative position means that globalisation is not considered to be a new phenomenon. Globalisation in its actual form marks a continuity with earlier phases of globalisation. But the assertion is that the ongoing processes of globalisation are unique, both quantitatively and qualitatively, as regards speed, extensity, and intensity. Processes of globalisation are now effecting all areas of social activity, on both local, national, regional, and trans-regional levels.
Globalisation is changing the established world order of states, “the Westphalian Order”, that until the end of the Second World War regulated the political and military relations between and inside states. The Westphalian Order is a codex of normative principles that after the peacemaking at the end of The Thirty Years´ War in 1648 decided that the highest political authority was centred around sovereign and territorially well-defined states that acted as autonomous political agents. These principles changed the feudal political “order” in which power was fragmented into many local units with vague boundaries, often anchored in and personalised by the power of local lords. The Westphalian order gained its present meaning with the consolidation of modern nation-states with fixed boundaries, according to which there should be no authority above the nation-state. The nation-state introduced three innovations compared with earlier forms of state-making. In the first place, territorial borders between states were fixed. Secondly, modern nation-states succeeded in monopolising the means of violence. And the nation-states shaped the frame for the innovation of a modern principle of legitimacy.
”It was only when claims to devine right or state right were challenged and eroded that it became possible for human beings as ”individuals” and ”peoples” to win a place as ”active citizens” in the political order. The loyalty of citizens became something that had to be won by modern states: invariably this involved a claim by the state to be legitimate because it reflected and/or represented the views and interests of its citizens” (ibid:49).
The development of democracy and the modern western understanding of citizenship takes place within the Westphalian Order of nation-states. We might make a distinction between the institutionalisation of centralised territorial states, the building of national communities, and liberal democracies since these processes never overlap in any simple way. And it must be emphasised that we see these processes be simultaneous processes only in a limited part of the Westphalian Order. Anyway, the modern nation-state claim a symmetry between sovereignty, legitimacy and territory during the 19th and 20th centuries. The effect of this is the construction of
a national community of fate”, whereby membership of the political community is defined in terms of peoples within the territorial borders of the nation-state; this community becomes the proper locus and home of democratic politics” (Goldblatt et al., 1999:29).
But what does this very brief outlining of globalisation mean in relation to active citizenship? Seen from a transformative perspective the most important question is whether the territorial nation-states can maintain their status as sovereign political entities in the future.
Again some contradictory tendencies can be discovered. On the one hand, the speed and extensity by which global networks of bureaucracies, institutions, and multilateral agreements are established indicate that “global governance has become a reality”. The global interconnectedness has meant that the nation-states are lacking political instruments to be effective actors on the global political arena. The power of the nation-state is gradually eroding. If this is the case, the link between citizenship and nation-state that historically has been closely connected is under severe pressure or even in a process of erosion.
On the other hand, there is no such thing as a coherent “world society” that constitutes a clear and unified alternative. This means that we are all connected to several political communities of fate, so far without a central locus from which citizenship can be understood.
”questions are raised both about the fate and the appropriate locus for the articulation of the democratic political good. If the agent at the heart of modern political discourse, be it a person, a group or a collectivity, is locked into a variety of overlapping communities – ”domestic” and ”international” – then the proper ”home” of politics and democracy becomes a puzzling matter” (ibid:225).
In other words, questions are raised which communities ought to be the central loci for active citizenship? According to the transformative position this is an open question.

  • Is active citizenship to be imagined within the political and cultural frames of the nation-state?

  • Who are the people or the central democratic “we” in a possible post-Westphalian Order?

  • What constitutes the central “demos” of democracy, and how is it to be put together?

If these questions are not somehow integrated into the education of active citizenship it is hard to figure out the meaning of the term.

If active citizenship is imagined in the perspective of the autonomy of the members of community, it cannot be ignored that it is still more problematic to determine which community ensures this autonomy. From the transformative point of view the challenge is to understand that the connection between the Westphalian Order of nation-states as political communities of fate and citizenship is changing radically these years. However, at the same time it is a good idea to make clear, that the transformative way of thinking is far from being the only one in the study of globalisation, and particularly its consequences for considering active citizenship. So, in the following I would like to briefly outline two positions within the social sciences which disagree with the transformative views.

Hyperglobalists and Sceptics
Generally the hyper-globalists argue that the era of the nation-state is over. The present state of globalisation is marking out an epochal break with the political order of the nation-states. Thanks to economic globalisation, the nation-states have lost control over the national economies As a result of the “disorganised capitalism”, national economies are becoming a fiction. Capitalism has become a global electronic casino beyond the political control of the nation-states. If the economic resources are out of control, the national governments are no longer able to guarantee the citizens a secure life and future. For the possibility of imagining active citizenship this has far reaching consequences. This has been formulated by Zygmount Bauman, the famous sociologist, in his book “In Search of Politics” (1999),
”Globalization of capital, finances and information means first and foremost their exemption from local, and above all nation-state control and administration. In the space in which they operate there are no institutions reminiscent of the vehicles which the republican state has developed for citizen participation and effective political action. And where there are no republican institutions, there is no ”citizenship” either (Bauman, 1999:170).
Social security and justice that have been in the hands of the national welfare-states are undermined, and Bauman does not at all trust the possibility of trying to revitalise the power of the nation-state when it comes to thinking active citizenship. In Bauman’s somehow pessimistic tone globalisation is resulting in an increasing social polarisation between the new economic elite who has turned away from citizenship obligations and community loyalties, and the majority of citizens whose fate is in the hands of political institutions without power. The result of globalisation is a new form of global socio-economic stratification, a redefined global “class”-structure with new losers and winners.
The sceptics are in opposition to this view. According to the sceptics the present state of globalisation is not marking a radical break with former processes of globalisation. The transformative people and the hyperglobalistst are making too hasty conclusions regarding the power and influence of the nation-states as political agents. A sceptic like the sociologist Michael Mann (1997) does not deny a globalised economy as a fact. But this does not mean that the power of the nation-states is being eroded, since the nation-states are not the victims of globalisation, but its architects. To a great extent capitalism and globalisation are under the control of three clusters of nation-states, in Europe, North-America and Southeast Asia. In these three regions of nation-states, 85 pct of the world-trade is controlled, and 90 pct of the production in the advanced sectors and almost all multinational companies are situated there. With this in mind, Mann does not foresee a situation in the near future beyond the political power of the global system of the nation-state because
“[…] it is almost inconceivable that the bulk of the privileges of national citizens in northern countries could be removed. That would cause such social disorder as to be incommensurate with the stable and profitable capitalism. The nation-state provides some of the structure, and some of the stratification structure, of the global networks of capitalism. If the commodity rules, it only does so entwined with the rules of – especially northern – citizenship” (ibid:480).
Therefore, in the light of what might be called the macro-perspective of globalisation we have to conclude: It is essentially contested which community sets the frame for active citizenship in the future. So it is an open and contested issue whether the close link between national community of fate and active citizenship can or should be maintained. This contested issue turns up again if we look at the ways in which the term “politics of identity” has been a central feature of political thinking in the last decade in Western democracies. A feature that has gained new importance as a result of the global processes of migration.

Migration and Politics of Identity
Migration in its simple form refers to the “the movement of people and their temporary or permanent geographical relocation” (Goldblatt et al: 1999: 283-326). Movements of migration as a global phenomenon are not new, but must be considered as being social processes related to the history of mankind as such. In this context I shall concentrate on the movements of migration that have occurred since the Second World War, and particularly their political and cultural impact upon Western democracies.
Movements of migration have had three important impacts. In the first place, European nation-states have had to include an increasing number of individuals and groups from former colonies and non-European cultures. Secondly, European nation-states are becoming multicultural and multi­ethnic in a way and to an extent unknown in modern history. And thirdly, the effect has been as follows,
”The autonomy of nation-states is being redefined by the impact of past legal migrations and the continuing impact of illegal migration (…) notions of citizenship and national identity are being renegotiated in response to contemporary patterns of global migration and cultural globalisation. But in many cases the trajectory of these negotiations is far from clear (ibid:326)

The renegotiations of citizenship and national identity have had many turning points. A central issue is whether the community framing active citizenship in the future is to be found on the national, the supra-national, or the sub-national level.

Rogers Brubaker (1992) agrees with the fact that citizenship as a pratice of inclusion and exclusion has been put under serious pressure as a result of immigration to western democracies. In that respect it still seems very important to nation-states to control the immigration. He also agrees that the nation-state is committed to bilateral and multilateral agreements on an international and global level that restrict the sovereignty of the nation-states in deciding who should be given the rights of citizenship. For instance, the non-citizens that have gained a status as immigrants, and who have permanent residence in the new country do possess most of the same citizenship rights as the ones who have the status of full citizenship. In that perspective the dimension of formal status as citizens has become less important, both for the nation-states and for the immigrants. However, this does not mean that citizenship has become a less important and contested issue. But a change has taken place in the political relevance as a result of the immigration and expanding cultural diversity,
”Proposals to redefine the legal criteria of citizenship raise large and ideologically charged questions of nationhood and of belonging to a state. Debates about citizenship (…) are debates about what it means to belong to the nation-state. The politics of citizenship today is first and foremost a politics of nationhood. As such, it is politics of identity, not a politics of interest (in the restricted, materialistic sense). It pivots more on self-understanding than on self-interest. The ”interests” informing the politics of citizenship are ideal rather than material. The central question is not ”who gets what”? But rather ”who is what?” (ibid:182).
The meaning and importance of citizenship has shifted from the material to the moral-symbolic level of politics of identity and feeling of belonging. It might be stated that the nation-states are losing sovereignty in the formal and institutional sense of the term. But when the issue is the politics of identity and the feeling of belonging the nation-states are still very much in power, and according to Brubaker there seems to be no indication that alternative political or cultural communities can take over this position. Those who foresee the end or the erosion of the nation-states underestimate the power of national identities. Proponents of post-national scenarios do not realise that national communities are not only ethno-demographic phenomena or a set of institutions, but also “crucially a way of thinking about and appraising political and social membership”.
In her article “Changing Citizenship in Europe” (1996) and in her book “Limits of Citizenship” Yasemin Soysal argues that the post-national scenario that Brubaker refuses so far, is in fact in the process of becoming a reality. The connection between the two central elements of citizenship, rights and identities, are in the process of being decoupled. Soysal points to several events that give grounds to her assumptions. The post- Second World War internationalised labour market has resulted in intensive movements of migration to Europe. Decolonialisation has resulted in the fact that new independent nation-states have claimed their status as legitimate actors on the global political arena according to universal rights of international law, for instance through their participation in the UN and UNESCO. Political entities, for instance the EU, have been established that de-connect the link between citizenship and nation-state boundaries. Finally, and important for Soysals line of arguments, she states as follows:
”As legitimised and celebrated by various international codes and laws, the discourse of human rights ascribes universal rights to the person, independent of membership status in a particular nation state. Even though they are frequently violated as a political practice, human rights increasingly constitute a world-level index of legitimate action and provide a hegemonic language for formulating claims to rights above and beyond national belonging” (ibid:19).
”Thus, universal personhood replaces nationhood (…) The rights and claims of individuals are legitimated by ideologies grounded in a trans-national community, through international codes, conventions and laws of human rights, independent of their citizenship in a nation state. Hence, the individual transcends the citizen. This is the most elemental way that post-national model differs from the national model” (ibid:23)

According to a hyperglobalist such as Soysal, globalisation and movements of migration mean that universal and human rights standards of post-national citizenship have replaced national ones. Citizenship is not anchored in one privileged community membership. Citizenship is related to a multiplicity of memberships, not limited to the territorial boundaries of the nation-state. A new model for thinking citizenship in non-territorial identities, feelings of belonging, and universal rights is a reality. Although Soysal states that this way of thinking citizenship is encountered with resistance the tendency is clear.

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