This book offers a conception of citizenship that is independent of any specific form of political organisation, while being compatible with multiple levels of political institutionalisation. Its de-contextualised account of citizenship differs from both cosmopolitan and nation-statist accounts. Using that conception, the book addresses topical and normative debates in one particular transnational political association: the European Union. Bringing political theory together with debates in international relations and in citizenship studies, the author argues that citizenship should be understood as an institutional role through which persons might exercise their political agency: their capacities to shape the contexts of their lives and promote the freedom and well-being of themselves and, importantly, fulfil their duties to others within and outside of the polity. The work draws on the rights-based philosophy of Alan Gewirth.
This chapter introduces the real-world problem forming the context of application for the theoretical work: whether there could be such a thing as ‘European citizens’, as distinct from citizens of this or that European state; and if so, whether European citizenship would be merely a kind of nation-state citizenship writ large, or could instead open up a new type of citizenship not bound by, but neither eschewing, the particularities of geographical, cultural, and institutional context. The Introduction indicates that the conception of citizenship needed in the EU is one focused on the formative possibilities of political rights and the potentials for persons’ political agency in a context of multiple and multi-levelled affiliations and distributed governance. After background-establishing discussions of the development of the EU, the significance of citizenship, and the book’s method - normative political theory – a brief overview of the book’s contents is supplied.
Chapter 1 provides a working definition of the concept of citizenship, prior to its contested conceptions, and a selective critical overview of some current approaches to its theory. Citizenship denotes the relationship between an individual and a political locus, a relationship specifiable in three domains: reciprocal obligation, inter-subjective belonging, and action on matters of common concern. Our standard thinking about citizenship has assumed a nation-state, and has difficulties in conceptualising a non-national citizenship. Furthermore, many understandings of citizenship see it as privilege-conferring, a view to be rejected here. The chapter discusses the enduring influence of Marshall within this tradition of thinking about citizenship, and claims that the two assumptions on which his conception was predicated – that citizenship is the qualifying condition for entry into systems of rights, and that the only political community guaranteeing rights is the state – no longer hold. Conceptions of citizenship now need to notice the development of international human rights regimes, including the extension of rights to non-citizens.
Chapter 2 briefly examines some influential accounts of global or cosmopolitan citizenship (Nussbaum, Linklater, and Dobson). Like nation-statist approaches, theories of global citizenship construe citizenship as a zone of privilege, differing only in seeking to extend such membership and its goods beyond the state; also, cosmopolitan accounts typically lack attention to the international institutions and mechanisms needed if global citizens’ intentions are to be realized in the form of decisions made, implemented, and enforced. Moreover, we need clearer understandings of the distinctions, and connections, between morality, ethics, and politics than are supplied in this literature. In preparing the development of a response to these challenges the analytical categories of ‘identity’, ‘status’, and ‘role’, are discussed, and it is argued that we should disaggregate social identities (roles and statuses) from political identities (roles and statuses). Then, we can begin to see citizenship as an institutional role needed for the fulfilment of universal moral duties, and no longer as the token of status or indicator of social membership to which privileges properly attach.
This chapter gives an analytic account of the legal development of EU citizenship from the 1970s onwards and its formal incorporation as a status, with attached ‘citizens’ rights’, in the Maastricht Treaty (TEU, 1992), and provides a selective critical review of the theoretical debates its codification provoked. The principal problem is to provide a coherent account of citizenship in which EU identity can co-exist alongside, rather than supplanting, national identity, and in which EU citizens can own their common political output while maintaining the conditions of pluralism and diversity. The book’s approach to these debates in relation to those of other commentators including Bellamy and Castiglione, Habermas, Kostakopolou, Shaw, and Wiener is outlined. The chapter indicates we need to move the idea of citizenship away from both belonging and privilege and toward the political capacity to define and reformulate the capacity of lives lived, in a community of agents: citizenship is about political organisation rather than social organisation, about agency rather than identity or club goods. Given that, the important issues for the EU are whether its institutional arrangements support citizenship as political agency, and whether underlying social contexts can support the exercise of such a citizenship.
Chapter 4 presents an analytical introductory overview of the universalistic rights-based theory of action of Alan Gewirth’s Reason and Morality, drawing out its focus on action and agency, its basic claim that moral agents have rights to freedom and well-being, and the institutional implications that are claimed to follow. This idea of the person as an agent with rights to freedom and well-being, and, correlatively, duties in respect of others’ rights to freedom and well-being, underlies the conception of de-contextualised citizenship developed throughout Supranational Citizenship. The discussion is organised under the following headings: rights, interaction and interdependence, roles and institutions, the argument against anarchy, political freedom and democracy, welfare and social equality. It establishes that social and political institutions are inextricable elements in Gewirth’s moral philosophy.
Chapter 5 shows how and where citizenship fits into an account of the relationship between morality and politics. It claims that citizenship is the essential institutional link between individual human agency and collective political action. It deduces from Gewirth’s notion of rational agency a purely political conception of agency that, it contends, flows from his theory of action and interaction. Citizenship is better understood as an institutional role than as a status, and less about passive rights-holding than it is about effective powers to shape existential conditions. The argument presented here is that citizenship is instrumental to persons’ being able to carry out their mutual obligations as moral agents; its task is to render agency operative, by transmuting political agency into capacity for collective action. Thus, citizenship is not a desirable contingency but a moral necessity, and a third primary good, the powers of citizenship, should be added to Gewirth’s two primary goods of freedom and well-being.
This chapter posits citizenship as necessary to the polity’s democratic authority. Authority depends not on the form in which political power is embedded but rather on how it is constituted and exercised, so our thinking should not be driven by nation-state assumptions. In principle a wide array of forms of political organisation, including international, transnational, or supranational institutions, can be morally justified. What matters is how the political institutions conduce to the freedom and well-being of individuals. Further, it is argued that citizenship is not contingent upon but instead is intrinsic to the possibility and the constitution of legitimate democratic political authority. Citizens are the authors as well as the addressees of political rules. They exercise this agency through authorising representatives who are then accountable to citizens for their performance in discharging citizens’ responsibilities. Moreover, citizens’ political responsibilities extend beyond the territory over which the political bodies they authorise have jurisdiction; morality and thus duties are extra-territorial and inter-temporal.
Chapter 7 considers agency within a large supranational polity. In engaging with well-known debates about the EU’s supposed lack of a demos, its democratic and legitimacy deficits, and the suggested remedies, it calls for a rethink of the way notions such as democracy and representation, consent and dissent, are understood in the EU. Technocrats and interest groups are not citizens’ political representatives; unless citizens are acknowledged as the source of authorisation, the chapter contends, both citizenship and democracy are unrealizable in the EU. On the other hand, the mode of authorisation matters too: in rejecting Abromeit’s proposal for direct group vetoes, the chapter claims the EU needs a justly-ordered and well-functioning system of representation to enable stable and dependable mutualism between citizens.
This chapter provides an analytical discussion of some major themes in Gewirth’s Community of Rights and Self-Fulfillment. The focus of the chapter is on how rights- and duty-bearing agents interact to create political community, and how the rights to freedom and well-being posited by his moral theory include the right to develop a conception of the good life to be pursued through political community. Such a community will enable capacity-fulfilment, self-respect, and self-esteem. The chapter draws out of Gewirth’s work the notion of a reasonable, situated, mutualist self, able to cooperate with other such selves to enact both the just and the good.