Citizenship Today: Global Perspectives and Practices

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The forms, policies, and practices of citizenship are changing rapidly around the globe, and the meaning of these changes is the subject of deep dispute.

Global Citizens, Local Worlds

Citizenship Today brings together leading experts in their field to define the core issues at stake in the citizenship debates. The first section investigates central trends in national citizenship policy that govern access to citizenship, the rights of aliens, and plural nationality.

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The following section explores how forms of citizenship and their practice are, can, and should be located within broader institutional structures. The third section examines different conceptions of citizenship as developed in the official policies of governments, the scholarly literature, and the practice of immigrants and the final part looks at the future for citizenship policy. The first section investigates Secondly, for many commentators the dominant nation-state based model of citizenship is in the process of disintegrating as a focus of political identity and power, and as a conduit for egalitarian politics.

The state, we are told, is simply no longer the only meaningful player on the world stage, and although this may not imply the death of the state, it does suggest a changing role for the state, and a change in the nature of citizenship. One increasingly common answer suggests that the same forces that have led to an unbundling of the project of national citizenship have opened up possibilities for imagining forms of solidarity and belonging less marked by the exclusionist histories of the modern nation-state Purcell, On this version of events whilst globalisation is both a blessing and a curse, global citizenship offers an antidote to the inegalitarian and undemocratic tendencies of global integration.

Global citizenship and democracy: If a global regime of citizenship is in the process of emerging, at what sites does the political participation of citizens take place?


For most cosmopolitan theorists, the role of the nation-state as the locus of real power is fast eroding if not altogether terminated, and the real focal points of power in the contemporary world lie with international organisations and powerful economic actors see Held, If this is the case, national citizenship can no longer operate as the site of a viable form of democracy or equality, and other possibilities, which are closer to the seats of real power, must be found.

One possibility lies with democratic reform of existing institutions such as the United Nations UN , taking the form perhaps of a directly globally-elected UN Parliament Linklater Such a project is worthwhile, but could be expected to have radical implications only if we assume that bodies such as the UN are crucial sites of transnational power. For a growing number of commentators, the democratic participation of citizens is and should therefore be expressed through the intermediaries of international non-governmental organisations INGOs , which are able to interact with, and hopefully influence, such international governmental institutions.

Whereas the executives who attend global summits represent the real princes of global power, the colourful eruptions of popular democratic will that picket them represent their consciences, and sometimes at least succeed in making their voices heard.

T. Alexander Aleinikoff

This GCS forms an essential counterbalance to the exclusionary, inegalitarian and undemocratic nature of global power. Indeed civil society at the global level is ethically superior to its seedbeds at the national level, for GCS overcomes the exclusionary tendencies of nation-state-based citizenship Linklater, Such is the potential legitimising role of GCS within global politics that, for Daniele Archibugi it is the existence of GCS alone that provides the authority for global institutions to interfere in the domestic affairs of nation-states.

If a global citizenry is emerging, then, GCS is said to represent one of its primary manifestations. Naidoo and Tandon GCS is the place where human rights connect with human responsibilities, as individuals and groups seek to mediate the terms of global integration and interdependence.

This much is also proclaimed by many of the component organisations of GCS which explicitly use the language of citizenship to frame their concerns and mode of operation. There is an odd slippage in the literature, however, on the question of whether global civil society expresses the emergence of global citizenship, or in fact engineers that emergence. Here prominent accounts of global civil society become somewhat circular, for many defenders of global civil society do see it as playing a role in creating global citizens. As Anheier, Glasius and Kaldor This implies a critical and very liberal distancing from national traditions and identities: Although GCS begins to look like a tremendously powerful and progressive force on this dominant narrative, its supporters do feel the need to address three tricky issues.

The first is the Western bias of the nascent global civil society. As Gideon Baker However, for supporters of GCS this is generally identified as a transitional problem: Do we include right-wing organisations such as transnational fundamentalist and even terrorist organisations, or organisations that challenge the basic principles of human rights, for instance? However, a commitment to existing ideals of human rights does seem to be hardwired into the definitions of theorists such as Kaldor and Linklater.

Finally, just how independent from the powers-that-be does GCS have to be to represent a corrective to their undemocratic tendencies? Held and McGrew For defenders of GCS these are difficult questions, but their claim remains that GCS - however constituted - represents the best hope for achieving some form of democratic politics in the contemporary global order.

If a commitment to equal citizenship is to provide a framework for struggles against global inequalities, such a project in fact appears highly precarious. The claim that a meaningful global regime of citizenship is emerging - and that it represents the seedbed for a new global democratic egalitarianism - should be treated with caution, for two reasons.

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By the same token globalisation appears to have transformed the terms of national citizenship, rather than rendering it obsolete as a category of political and economic life. To be sure the social rights of the Western welfare state are becoming more and more conditional and incentivised, and social solidarity is increasingly secured instead by emphasising the common threats posed by insecurity, lawlessness, immigration and the competitive global economy.

There are differing degrees of mobility between these citizenship regimes, and such mobility may be stratified according to class, gender and ethnicity.


All of this suggests that recourse to the ideal of equal citizenship will not be a straightforward affair at the global level, but this is not to reject the idea, as some theorists have done.