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Citizenship: the Compromise of Equality and Freedom

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Citizenship: The Compromise of Equality and Freedom
The post modern-state citizenship regime was intended to be inclusive and promote social equality but from this regime stems ideas and practices that are exclusionary in nature. The idea that people in a state had the right to thrive in their communities as well as participate politically was revolutionary. Despite this positive intent, the idea of citizenship brought up the question of exactly who was entitled to this freedom and led to binary distinctions and new exclusions. The modern-state citizenship regime is an impediment to the full achievement of human freedom and equality because the hierarchies that dictate the duties and rights of citizens marginalize and deny rights to people of different genders, race, and class. The exclusionary principles of citizenship are apparent in the post modern-state citizenship regime and are exemplified through the disenfranchisement of women, people of color, and the working class. Wallerstein sheds light on the effect of the adoption of citizenship when he writes of how “the inclusiveness of citizenship was exclusion. Those who were not citizens of the state had become by definition aliens—citizens, perhaps, of some other state, but not of this state.” (Wallerstein pg. 2). This quotation shows how the idea of citizenship allowed many to have these rights to freedom and voting but also marginalized those who were not considered citizens. He also says that “all do not have the right to play an active role in the formation of public authorities; all are not active citizens. Women (at least at the present time), children, foreigners, and those others who contribute nothing to sustaining the public establishment should not be allowed to influence public life actively” (Wallerstein pg.3). Through this quote Wallerstein specifies which people citizenship excludes by nature and includes women, children, and foreigners. “Those others” could serve as a blanket statement to denote the exclusion of African-Americans, non-whites, and lower class laborers who were thought incapable and undeserving of contributing to the governance of their society. According to Jacques Ranciere, the institution of democracy shifts citizens’ focus to the workings and needs of public life vs. private, in a way decreasing their freedom to adhere to their personal rights and needs. He writes “Democracy, then, far from being the form of life of individuals dedicated to their private happiness, is the process of struggle against this privatization, the process of enlarging the public sphere” (Ranciere pg.3). Citizens become engaged in a fight for their rights and have to struggle against this privatization and a government that is oppressive and focused on order and complacence. This struggle comes from the conflict between “the natural government of social competence and the government of anyone”(Ranciere pg.3). Essentially, the contradiction between the orderly distributions of people enforced through laws, institutions, and power relations and the people that are left unaccounted for. He also emphasizes the issue of inequality in relation to police vs. the political because of the enlargement of the public sphere and how this has signified “gaining recognition of those whom state law has consigned to the private life of inferior beings as equals and political subjects; and gaining recognition of the public character of types of spaces and relations that have been left to the discretion of the power of wealth” (Ranciere pg.3). This quotation showcases the issue of people not being treated equally as some people are designated inferior based on their race, gender, and class. He goes on to describe how police logic has “naturally excluded from the number of the electors and eligibles: all those who were not entitled to participate in public life because they did not belong to “society” but only to domestic and reproductive life” (Ranciere, pg. 3). The people who he refers to as only belonging to domestic and reproductive life are people of color and working and slave classes and women, these people in society who are marginalized and represented by people who are not like them and have different interests. The boundaries in politics that are constituted by values such as “noble birth, wealth, military prowess, and certain forms of arcane knowledge, the possession of which forms the basis of a claim to power, i.e., to office.”(Wolin, pg.8). perpetuate the inequality in our society and politics. Sheldon Wolin puts this idea into perspective by detailing the effects of these boundaries on equality and the exclusionary nature of citizenship. He says the “excluded farmers, artisans, mechanics, resident foreigners, women, slaves - represent values and virtues that are, at best, minimally valued even though…Their activities were “necessary” to the being if not the excellence of a society” Wolin, pg. 8). Because of their status as working class, women, and race these people are not regarded as a valued part of society and this system of citizenship and democracy further excludes them from society because not only are they not respected nor considered, they have no rights to represent themselves in the public sphere. Wolin goes on to talk about how “Nationalism absorbs the political into the pursuit of an homogenous identity that is sometimes quickened through such purgatives as ethnic cleansing or the imposition of religious orthodoxy” (Wolin pg.12). This quotation denotes the nature of politics and citizenship to be exclusionary. Nationalism is an essential part of politics but the aiming to create a homogenous society showcases the idea that many races and religions are not included or wanted in this society. The post modern-state citizenship regime created a society in which citizens had the right to participate in their government. This created a sense of equality and instilled freedom in participants because they had the opportunity to represent themselves and a chance to dictate government policies and actions. Despite this progress, this regime promoted the limitation and disenfranchisement of people of color, women, and the working class through citizenship’s exclusionary nature. The exclusionary nature of citizenship towards these groups of people coupled with the inherent boundaries that are fueled by the government’s intent to homogenize society and the effect of the police vs. the political on society showcase the impediment this regime puts on freedom and inequality.

Ranciere, Jacques. Democracy, Republic, Representation. PhD diss., 2006.
Wallerstein , Immanuel . Citizens All? Citizens Some! . PhD diss., Yale University , 2003.
Wolin , S. Sheldon. Fugitive Democracy . PhD diss., Constellations, 1994.

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