This essay aims to discuss the relationship between nation-formation and citizenship development in a descriptive way. The main points regarding these concepts will be covered both historically and theoretically.
Literature on ‘nation-building’ tended to explore the self-conscious production and dissemination of national consciousness from the state, denoting the cultural and psychological dimensions of the transition to modernity (Foster, 1997: 3). For Anthony Giddens, the process of nation-building has a cultural dimension, regarding nationalism as “the cultural sensibility of sovereignty, the concomitant of the coordination of administrative power within the bounded nation-state” (Giddens, 1985: 219).
On the other hand, citizenship is essential for the rise of nation-states. It emerges either as a societal impetus led from below or as a result of initiatives imposed by the elites from above. The Turkish case is an example of elite-led citizenship formation carried out in a top-down fashion.
The concept of citizenship is said to carry legal status, while national identity is thought of as a relational concept, presupposing a dialogical recognition of the ‘other’. The ‘other’ does not necessarily have to be morally evil; it can be recognized as resembling ‘us’ yet exterior to us. Although such active ‘othering’ identify actors in a polity yet it tends to simultaneously include and exclude some communities from the nationhood project (Neuman, 1999: 12, 16).
It is also important to note that nationality and citizenship are analytically separate too. David McCrone and Richard Kiely define the difference as follows: “nationality and citizenship actually belong to different spheres of meaning and activity. The former is in essence a cultural concept which binds people on the basis of shared identity – in Benedict Anderson’s phrase as an ‘imagined community’ – while citizenship is a political concept deriving from people’s relationship to the state.” (McCrone and Kiely, 2000: 25).
The modern notion of citizenship is generally regarded as the offspring of the French Revolution, but several other political, social and economic developments, which marked the period of modernity in Western history from the sixteenth century onward, laid the foundations for “the transition from a monarch-subject relationship to a state-citizen relationship” (Heater, 1999: 4). Being a citizen is associated with the categorization and identification of self and others, the building of self-understanding and the construction of feelings of groupness or belonging with others. It is conventional to distinguish processes of categorizing self and others from processes of establishing a sense of common identity or belonging with others (Pearson, 2001: 16-17).
In his classic work on the development of citizenship in England, T. H. Marshall tells us about the conditions under which three different types of citizenship (civil, political and social) evolved over time. Marshall defines the concept of citizenship as follows: “citizenship is a status bestowed on those who are full members of a community. All who possess the status are equal with respect to the rights and duties with which the status is endowed.” (Marshall, 1950: 28-29). Marshall identifies three elements responsible for establishing citizenship: political, civil and social rights. Civil rights are comprised of the rights that are necessary for individual freedom. Political rights involve the right to exercise political power, hold political office, or to elect a person to office. Social rights can be described as “the whole range from the right to a modicum of economic welfare and security to the right to share to the full in the social heritage and to live the life of a civilized being according to the standards prevailing in the society.” (ibid: 10-11).
On the other hand, the type of citizenship regime in a particular nation-state can reveal the character of the nation-building process in that state. Different approaches to citizenship are significant in this regard, and are categorized as classical or civic-republican and liberal or liberal-individualist conception.
Liberal understanding of citizenship is linked to the development of capitalism and the nation-state. It regards citizenship as a concept with legal status and focuses on rights. Consequently, the rights inhere in individuals, because they logically and morally precede society and the state, and one of the primary purposes of the state is to secure and protect these natural rights. In liberal understanding the state is useful to the citizen as a ‘nightwatchman’ (Heater, 1999: 6-7) and it is expected “to render service to individual interests and purposes, to protect citizens in the exercise of their rights, and to leave them unhindered in the pursuit of whatever individual and collective interests and purposes they might have.” (Oldfield, 1998: 76).
By contrast, in the civic-republican conception of citizenship, the emphasis is on practice and activity where responsibilities and duties are at the core. This understanding has its roots in the Ancient Greek political philosophy and takes from Aristotle’s theories who defined the citizen as ‘the individual who shares in the civic life of ruling and being ruled in turn.’ Civic republicanism regards individuals different from that of liberalism: individuals are not considered as being logically prior to society (Oldfield, 1998). It is by performing their duties, by public service of fairly specific kinds, that individuals demonstrate that they are citizens. This emphasis on practice gives rise to a language of duties.
During the nation-building process, the boundaries of citizenship are drawn. Once the citizenship is considered as a means for nation-building and modernization, citizenship is formalized pragmatically according to the needs of modernization and is used as a disciplinary technique. Hence it is noteworthy to state that citizenship has a direct relationship with the nation-building process.
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- Giddens, Anthony (1985). The nation-state and violence. United States: University of California Press.
- Marshall, Thomas H. (1950). Citizenship and Social Class. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- McCrone, David & Kiely, Richard (2000). “Nationalism and citizenship”. Sociology. Vol: 34. No: 1. pp. 19-34.
- Neumann, Iver B. (1999). Use of Other: The East in European Identity Formation. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota.
- Pearson, David. (2001). The politics of ethnicity in settler societies. Basingstoke: Palgrave.