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An Analysis Of Different Views Of Citizenship Politics Essay

Should There Be No Borders? What Would That Policy Mean For Theories And Practices Of Citizenship? Citizenship can be viewed from different perspectives depending on the purpose of the argument one wishes to pursue. For the purpose of the case in question, I will want to view citizenship along the same line with Hannah Arendt who wrote that citizenship “is by definition a citizen among citizens of a country among countries. His rights and duties must be defined and limited not only by those of his fellow citizens but also by the boundaries of a territory”. The above view has triggered discontent amongst theorists who argued against “an exclusively nation based idea of citizenship”. (Lister and Pia 2008:53)

Although it is fashionable these days to view how different nations perceive what citizenship is all about. For example, while Germany views citizenship as “ethnic”, the French on the other hand sees it as “civic”. For the German, ethnic view means community based notions of belonging through particularistic identities while for the French, civic belonging on the basis of participation through rights and obligations. With these divergence of views, Soysal does not attach too much importance in the differentiation of what citizenship means amongst different nations of the world for as she puts it, “National citizenship as an ideology and as an institutional practice have always embodied both of these components”. (Cessarani and Fullbrook 1996:17).

My argument is that for now, the borders should continue to be in place and nationality should continue to be playing its roles as regarding the policies and practices of citizenship. Even at that, inclusive citizenship practices should be uphold by all nation giving every one irrespective of where they come from and what cultural background they may have, full participatory rights so that they could make their impact in the country to choose as home without hindrance. It will equally be worthy of mention for the purpose of the argument even though in brief, citizenship practices in five liberal states which I shall use as a case study. The countries are Great Britain, France, Germany, America and Australia.

Historically, it is a known fact that Great Britain has no citizenship policies and practicesfrom the onset as it then operate a “feudal systemmembership of the nation and the status of subject rested almost exclusively upon a person’s birthplace”. According to the principle of ‘Jus Soli’ they were English subjects by virtue of birth within the realm of the English crown” (Ceessarani and Fullbrook 1996:58).

According to Dummett and Nicol, “The British lack a clear-cut nationality, or citizenship with rights and duties attached to it which are easily ascertainable…”. The reason they gave for this situation was “…because there is no single-document constitution or basic law listing rights and duties like most countries do…” . French national identity however focuses on two points according to Ernest Renan. The first being that “the French nation is held together, and in fact, exists through the free will and consent of the people”. The second is the tradition of ‘jus soli’ (the law of the soil) which was established in 1889 by the French republic” (Cesarani and Fulbrook 1996:57).

The French citizenship practices were at the beginning a mixture of different policies ranging from bloodline, law of the soil, to parental birth place and that of marriage. This was before the law establishing a codified practice of citizenship created in 1791. “Lastly, the revolution led to the emergence of the modern notion of citizenship- i.e. individual participation in national sovereignty” (ibid: 76).

The German citizenship theory and practice is similar in a way and as far as the above position is, to the French earlier practice of citizenship by bloodline and that is how the similarity ends for the German system is directly opposed to those of the French. German citizenship law is based exclusively on descent allowingimmigrants and their descendants to remain indefinitely outside the community of citizens. (Brubaker1992:114). This law however allows Germans residing outside their country (emigrants) retain their citizenry indefinitely while transmitting same to their descendants, these rights of the emigrants could however be lost if such emigrant lives outside his or her country for more than ten years.

The USA dwarfed every other nation of the world in this sense as she is widely seen as the worlds most successful model of integrating a large number of immigrants as citizens in a democratic nation-state. It is often said of the US “people of any background could share the American dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyman with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” (2000:160)

It is not surprising therefore, that here in Britain, this same clamour do exist and sometimes what was seen as a state-race issue was actually the public frown at immigration policies and as Geddes puts it,“It is the government policy of managing immigration issue, a way of appeasing the public” ( Geddes, 2003:32)

The Prime Minister David Cameron in his recent address to the nation on immigration matters did say: “with us our borders will be under control and immigration will be at levels our country can manage” (Daily Express 15/04/2011: 4 & 5). The same paper equally bemused the level of immigration into the country and actually praised itself for being the only newspaper that has kept the issue of immigration in the front burner.

One of the reasons for the prime minister’s statements was that for long, immigration into the U.K has been too high and this in turn has led to too much pressure on social services and the attitude of the immigrants did not help matter, especially in the area of language barrier, integration into the lifestyle of Britons for the PM, it has left certain part of the society, “discomfited and disjointed” a fault he lay squarely on the doorstep of the labour party.

Some of the PM’s reasons can however be debunked and seen as a mere politicalrhetoric for example loads of the immigrants who are not considered to be fit for the British society are members of the commonwealth, former colonies of Great Britain, they speak English and know very well the lifestyle of the British society. It is a fact that even the EU members who have free movement into and out of the country have little or no understanding of the language at all sometimes, public funds are used for interpreters when the need arise. The PM statement could just be away of appeasing the British public.

Be that as it may, “since the beginning of the democratic revolution of the 15th Century, modern citizenship has been marked by tension between universal inclusion and particularistic exclusion.” (Joopke 2008:533). Further to this, the thrives of modern citizenship theories on the idea of shared humanity and the universal human rights, as development by the European enlightenment a way have to be found to strike a balance between universalism and particularism so that there should be a meeting point with those for and those who are against for that will be the only way any meaningful progress can be made.

Though, much have be achieved along this line of liberal theory on citizenship especially in the area of bringing into being the inclusiveness agenda, the battle for inclusiveness is not yet over for as Rubio-Maria puts, nationality has not completely lost its importance as a source of claims of rights. For though access to some political participation i.e voting rights in (national elections or public office) is still generally closed to non-nationals (and sometimes to their descendants too) One equally important point to note is the fact that no matter how consolidated their residential status, non nationals remain, to greater or lesser extent subject to deportation. (Rubio-Maria 2000:1)

It is very important not to lose sight of the fact that even in the US, the inclusiveness principle have at times come under attack for those who are against have vehemently fought against the system even as we experienced it presently in some EU countries, but those attacks were rebuffed all the times it occurred, as a matter of fact America, being an migrant country, prides itself and put above citizenship, personhood and residence and these facts are deeply rooted in its constitution.

Those countries which were formally resistant to the entrance of other culture into theirs have from the 1970s begun to adapt their policies and state structures to those new comers. Multiculturalism came to the limelight for those countries allowing the new comers to live and do things the way they know how instead of subjecting them to the culture of the majority. (Castle and Davidson 2000:150).

As a matter of interest, Australia went further in developing multicultural institutions and policies. Presently however, Australia is making a u-turn regarding multiculturalism as tension has risen from the public as a result of the influx of immigrants and this cannot be unconnected with the recent security threat from terrorists all over the world. In a recent documentary and interview accord by the BBC presenter of HARDD TALK, Stephen Sackur, in an interview with the Minister of Immigration and citizenship, Mr Chris Bowen, he states that the Australian authorities under pressure from the public to tackle the high level of immigrants into the Australian society as a result of fear that Australia that was once one united people is becoming divided and fragmented.

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In comparing the above with what at one time happened in Germany one will make bold to state, that the inclusive principle of citizenship resonate more than the exclusive principle for even while opposed to the inclusive principle, the adherents to the exclusive principle could not carry the day when they sought to mobilize the collective identity of the nation for the purposes and much more bluntly than in America case in pursuit of electoral interests, have, however failed. In contrast to the U.S the defenders of the “old citizenship” succeed. (Koopmans & Statham 2000:151)

For at unification, the Germans still held to the doctrine of exclusive citizens and the argument then was that inclusion of “foreigners might undermine the social impulse for unification through changing the texture of the citizenry: making the federal republic as a country of immigration with multiple national minorities would contradict the basic law’s conception of provisional state geared toward recovery of national unity” (R. Koopmans & P. Statham 2000:152, 153) to use same on electoral basis however did not stand.

It is of a paramount importance at this point to state that various nations’ citizenship policies were “closed linked with the collective identities of the various nations. This collective identity binds individuals through ties of affection and loyalty” and on this basis, citizenship law and politics are shaped by the various “cultural idioms” of nationhood which create the resistance seen. (Ibid: 146)

This was why Brubaker argued that the politics of citizenship is first and foremost a politics of nationhood and as such, it is a politics of identity, not a politics of interest. It revolves, more on the understanding of the self than one of interest, he further argued that it is not a question of “who gets what?” but rather “who is what?” to further buttress his argument from the above analysis, he states how those issues where made clear in the French debate about what citizenship is and what it is about and conclude that the whole issue revolves around self understanding, not on group or state interests. (Brubaker 1992:182).

Brubaker’s argument was however challenged when Joppkein Koopmans et al states this view, “R. Brubaker’s is not so much wrong as incomplete. Modern Western states are not only nation states but also liberal states and as liberal states they must adjust their citizenship law to the legitimate interest of non-citizens residents”. (Koopmans and Statham 2000:146). According to Rubio-Maria “states that prevent members of their societies from becoming citizens act wrongly for the basic idea is that membership is first, and above all, a social fact, determined by social factors such as living, working or raising a family and participating in the social fact and what it implies i.e. depending on society for the protection of rights and the development of a meaning life project, as well as subjection to the decisions collectively taken in it.” (Rubio-Maria 2000:2) This she says is the core basis for the claim of inclusion. What was not stated in the above assertion was however how the claimant to the citizenship rights came about.

What will all these mean to nation-states should there be no borders? Going by the post national citizenship theory, there are some inherent problems in getting issues resolvedand one of the stumbling blocks for theorists is in the area of literature that present a systematic theory of post-national citizenship. Oneother notable problem is in the area of bringing all the differences in the “conceptualisation of the citizenship under on organising scheme.” (Ibid: 50)

One could liken the European Union’s operation with thatof nation-states without borders. It has however been argued that the E.U at best works with existing nation-states, for “access to the status of European citizens is granted by national states, since it is open to the persons holding a nationality of a member state, it is nevertheless an institution of rights that offers new structures of representation and appeal beyond the national level.” (Lister&Pia 2008:61)

If borders were to be removed, who controls the movement of persons from nation-state to nation-state? For as it is now, the state is the only body or in conjunction with a supra body as it is in the case of the European Union, “asserting its role as protector of national identity and social cohesion and one of the ways it seeks to achieve these objectives is through demonstrating its ability to control and manage migrations and diversity.” (Koopman 2005:455) For this theory as it seems may not be an end in itself but a means to the desired end. It is imperative then for the understanding of the fact that as the struggle continues to bring laudable objectives of a citizenship without borders to reality, various regions should continue to encourage free movement as the European Union is doing at the moment until we achieve the integration and harmony needed for removal of the borders and achieving the universal personhood sort after. The events of the 9/11 have actually made nations to be wary of those who come into their borders. As there are many individuals today that not only abhors the lifestyle of the West but will go all way out to destroy it. With these hosts of questions begging for answers one will state here that there will be loads of work to be done in other to bring this prospect to reality.

The United Nation Global Commission for International Migration (2004) admits Thus: “ It was unlikely that global regime would be forthcoming in the next few years and that any advances in ensuring rights would be more realistically obtained within a framework of regional regimes such as the European Union or bilateral agreements.” (Kofman, 2005:454). This is so much so because “claims of human rights made on behalf of humanity in general need to be referenced against and guaranteed by authoritative political body” as opined by (Waters, 1996)(Ibid.) As at the moment, such independent body does not exist.

One of the core advantage of removal of borders and indeed allowing universal personhood to operate will be creating leadership effectiveness in areas where leadership is presently a night-mare. Take for instance if the whole of the North & South are to operate as citizens wherever they chose, the effect of this will mean that leaders from the developed countries could go to those of the less developed ones and put their experience to work and change the situation of those countries which naturally endowed but lack leadership. However, this universal truth has its limitations as critics will be quick to point out that the whole issue of inclusive citizenship is a ploy to re-colonise certain part s of the world. And as Kuisma puts it, “any attempt at global governance, of asserting Western liberal values, can easily be seen as civilizing missions bythe North.” (Kuisma2008:531)

In conclusion, I there say while there is no gainsaying the importance and benefit the inclusive principle bring to bear in the nations practicing it, it is however equally very important to note the roles which the borders and governments of such borders play to bring sanity into the movement of immigrants in and out of a nation and to downplay such role will simply be an invite to anarchy.

First and foremost, we should be on the know of the role the government plays in ensuring the rights and duties of the citizens and secondly,with the happenings in the world in recent times, we know that it is not all that move into another country who meant well for such countries and so such individuals must be carefully watched over otherwise they become instrument of destruction and no nation wish for such.

Having said that, nations everywhere must create room for everyone who wish to settle anywhere and full membership of such community should be granted without hindrance whatsoever so they equally live the dream of the land of their abode. “For as liberal democratic states generally offer citizens benefits and entitlements on an equal basis” so also such entitlements be extended to new countries. (Aleinikoff and Klusmeyer.2002:62). It is of equal importance for the would be citizens to learn to integrate and obey the laws of the land they have chosen for the furtherance of their existence, otherwise there will be no point moving there in the first place. (2,973 words)


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