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Article Summary

Holston, James and Arjun Appadurai (1999). Introduction in Cities and Citizenship ed. by James Holston.

Citizenship is more than the right to participate in politics. It includes cultural, civil and socioeconomic rights. Since the 18th century citizenship and nationality have been linked to establish full membership in society. What it means to be a member in society has been a historical development that has been conservative, exclusionary, democratic and revolutionary. Nations established citizenship as an identity which coordinates all other identities. Cities are the main arena for the development of citizenship and signify the enormity of citizen rights and all of its liberties. Today transformations have created many uncertainties about aspects of citizenship that in the past seemed secure. These transformations are a result of an increasing dichotomy between the global and national arenas.

One of the problems with citizenship is that in theory, full access to rights depends on citizenship but in practice, formal membership is not a sufficient condition for citizenship. An example is that poor citizens may have formal rights but are excluded from participation and the rights of citizenship. Similarly, legally resident non-citizens often have the same civil and socioeconomic rights as citizens.

Some people believe that citizenship should be made more exclusive by denying social services to non-citizens or by enacting zoning regulations that keep the undesired out. Others argue for a more inclusive citizenship by addressing it in non-local and supranational terms. Holston believes that both forms of citizenship can have negative outcomes. Localism can result in violence and racism and the elimination of local community prevents active participation.

The Liberal Compact claims that individuals must pursue their own ends with a similar liberty for all. Critics argue that people do not have the moral depth that liberalism requires and that it produces passive citizens. The most vocal critics affirm the right of difference as an important part of citizenship. There is a growing rejection of citizenship as a homogenizing force that impoverishes and reduces. The politics of difference indicates a basic change in the historical role of citizenship. There are arguments that all people have a right to a minimum standard of living, because of their right as citizens. Social movements of the urban poor have expanded citizenship rights.

Trans-nationalization creates new forms of inequality, reduces loyalty and commitments to place and generates a new global network of cities. Nations must change their structure to attract global resources and accept legal authority of transnational regulatory bodies. This gives power to managers of social capital and takes away privileges from labor. The international market has its own laws that de-legitimatize national laws and citizenship. With the break down of nationality, until trans-nations become stronger, cities are important sites for rethinking citizenship.