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.
Working in normative theory, the book presents a new theory of citizenship simpliciter: as an institutional role permitting moral agency within a complex and differentiated institutional space. Further, in today’s world of complex rule-making interdependence the prospects for democratically authoritative decision-making beyond the state depends on our being able to develop a new conception of citizenship, one able to accommodate national affiliation but not be bound by it, and one able to be institutionally and thus politically consequential. The Conclusion summarises the author’s response to this problem: a conception of supranational citizenship as the institutional embodiment of the active and collective agency of reasonable composite selves in a community of rights, shaping their common and separate destinies under conditions of political equality and mutual recognition and respect. Whatever its territorial scope, insofar as that citizenship consists in effective powers and constitutes a political order conducing to the well-being and freedom of individuals, it authorises and justifies the framework of political authority. Additionally the chapter suggests in what ways the book contributes to Gewirth scholarship and to international political theory more generally.
Chapter 10 moves from considering relationships between agents conceived simply as individuals toward considering agents conceived as members of bounded groups. It addresses the question: what part ought values and conceptions of the good life play in a supranational polity containing a diversity of ways of life? Should the EU be perfectionist, or adhere instead to liberal neutrality? The chapter articulates four guiding principles which together define ‘impartial perfectionism’, in which the EU framework even-handedly assures and affirms diversity of morally acceptable ways of life. Impartial perfectionism is a public philosophy that all in a pluralistic EU can subscribe to, it is argued, because it actively promotes public mutual recognition of each as culturally situated holders of universal human rights and differing ethical attachments. Moreover, impartial perfectionism at EU level, because it guarantees citizens a context of choice, requires a wide degree of latitude be left to member states to decide matters of value and ethos. It is claimed that this is the nature of the good supranational polity.
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.