Is citizenship a right

What does (citizenship) mean?


"Citizenship is the right to have rights" Hannah Arendt

Attempt at definition

The concept of citizenship is complex, it contains political as well as social and legal aspects. The concept of the stateaffiliation already refers to a sub-area of ​​citizenship: the formal affiliation of a person to (and thus also identification with) a state structure (Thürer 2000: 178). Citizens are a constituent element of a nation state: a state needs a population in order to be able to exist as such (Bauböck / Vink 2013: 622). Citizenship also means membership in a political community. Through this membership, legal equality of all members, i.e. all citizens, is established. All members of this political community have the same rights and obligations towards the state and towards other community members. Citizenship is on the one hand a legal status (relationship between the individual and the state), on the other hand it is also a social relationship between citizens (Gosewinkel 2008: 31). The granting of citizenship to the residents of a state creates a political and symbolic community of all people who live in a state; it becomes a great abstract we created. Conversely, this creates a you, a group of people who do not belong to this community and therefore do not have the same rights and obligations. The distinction between citizens and non-citizens serves, among other things, to exclude certain population groups (Bloemraad / Korteweg / Yurdakul 2008: 155; Osler / Starkey 2005: 11; Thürer 2000: 179).

Four aspects of citizenship

The concept of citizenship, which has evolved over time, comprises four important aspects (Stack 2012: 873-875):

a) Right to political participation: The legal status of citizenship is strongly linked to the right to political participation (Benhabib 2007: 167). Citizens of a certain age have the right to vote and stand as a candidate, can take part in direct democratic mechanisms (e.g. referendums, referendums) and have various other options for exercising their political participation rights (e.g. signature campaigns, petitions, citizens' initiatives, etc.).

b) Granting of social rights:
In democratic states there are also social rights, for example the right to welfare state benefits, access to education and health care, etc. Certain benefits can be reserved for citizens of a state. In Austria, for example, access to subsidized municipal housing in Vienna was only legally made possible for non-EU citizens in 2006 (Wien Konkret 2013). In the course of the last few decades many social rights have been extended to all people living in Austria. For example, the right to unemployment benefits depends on previous work in Austria, not just on citizenship. The education system is also largely free of charge for non-citizens as it is for citizens.

c) Civil rights: In the course of the democratization of the European nation states, various civil rights and freedoms were fought for, such as personal freedom and integrity, freedom of assembly, freedom of opinion and religion, the right to free information and the media, etc. Originally, these rights applied to citizens and non-citizens However, the protection of these civil rights and freedoms was only provided to a limited extent. Today these rights and freedoms are largely detached from citizenship by the general protection of human rights.

d) Sense of belonging and national identity: People live together in a society, from which certain duties, tasks and rights arise. This daily active togetherness and the shared realities, values ​​and institutions create identity; people identify with “their” state and feel that they belong to “their” national community (Bloemraad / Korteweg / Yurdakul 2008: 154). Citizenship is thus also a relational conceptwhich defines the individual in relation to other individuals and to the state.

Two of the aspects addressed here, namely the granting of social and civil rights, have largely been extended to non-citizens who live in European democratic states in recent years. The aspect of political participation remains the most important formal distinction between citizens and non-citizens.

Civic Nationalism and Ethnic Nationalism

In the literature, two models of national communities are distinguished: ethnic and civil. These are considered to be so-called ideal types (theoretical models) and differ in terms of how they mainly define themselves as a community. The object of their self-definition, in turn, has a strong influence on how someone can become a member of this community: What criteria must a person meet in order to be accepted as a full member of a national political community?
The ethnic nationalism is also as Cultural nation known (Reeskens / Hooghe 2010: 579-581). This form of nationalism is mainly defined by descent, common culture, language, tradition and religion and is strongly associated with an assumed feeling of loyalty (Bloemraad / Korteweg / Yurdakul 2008: 158). This form of community formation is also under the term ius sanguinis (Latin for "right of blood" or Descent principle) known: It depends on the ancestry of a person and the nationality of the parents, to which national community he or she belongs. Typical examples of states with an ethnic understanding of the nation are Austria and Germany as well as Switzerland. Since a person's ancestry is unchangeable, it is also difficult in the conception of ethnic nationalism to change or change one's national affiliation. The granting of citizenship to “new” citizens is usually linked to long deadlines and other conditions such as naturalization tests or proof of language skills. This is also called a in the scientific literature ethnos Community-building approach: The concept of the people is defined ethnically (Brochmann / Seland 2010: 435).
The citizenship understanding of the nation (civic nationalism), on the other hand, defines itself more through a common understanding of values ​​and rights, through active political and social participation, through loyalty to the constitutional foundations of the democratic political community as well as through a "social contract" that serves as the basis for understanding social Values ​​and norms applies. In this conception, compliance with rules and laws as well as active political participation is a central constitutive element of a community. This is also called the demos Approach denotes: The popular term is defined through political participation (Brochmann / Seland 2010: 435). In principle, a political community established in this way is more open and accessible to new members. A typical example of this form of understanding citizenship is France (Reeskens / Hooghe 2010: 580f).
Similar to the civic nationalism that also applies Territorial principle as more easily accessible for new members: In contrast to the principle of descent, this is not about the nationality of the parents, but about the place of birth of the person concerned. Classic immigration countries like the USA mainly grant their citizenship according to this principle (ius soli). So it depends more on where someone was born and where they live - and thus also on where someone is politically socialized. Towards the end of the 20th century, and increasingly so in the 21st century, a gradual reform of the various national citizenship regimes can be observed. Today in most states there is a hybrid form ius soli and ius sanguinis or off civic and ethnic nationalismwhereby one aspect remains dominant, which is enriched with elements of the other principle. In Europe, mainly due to the advancing political integration within the framework of the EU and the increasing physical mobility of European citizens, there is a slow convergence with the national ones CitizenshipRegulations to be observed (Reeskens / Hooghe 2010: 580).

The respective understanding of nation and belonging has grown historically in every state. The legal and institutional design of access to citizenship strongly reflects these historical structures (Brochmann / Seland 2010: 430). It is therefore usually a lengthy reform process, accompanied by many social, political and legal debates, when states want to change this practice. Historically determined structures and views are more difficult to change than more recent or purely “rationally based” regulations. Nevertheless, in recent years there has been an intensified discourse on the topics of citizenship, citizenship, political participation and belonging in many democratic countries around the world. These debates and new approaches to citizenship are to be traced in this module.

Further in the module:

Importance of citizenship for democracy