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Article Summary

Marshall, T.H.(1950). Citizenship and Social Class in Citizenship Debates: A Reader ed. by Gershon Shafir, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.

In this essay on citizenship, T.H. Marshall asks how our modern idea of citizenship, built on equality, can coexist with the competitive market, based on inequality.

He first outlines the history of citizenship over the past 250 years by dividing it into three threads: 1)civil: rights necessary for freedom; 2) political: equal rights under the law and the right to participate politically and 3) social: the right to a measure of economic welfare and security.

The civil rights aspect of citizenship developed in Britain in the 18th century, with the rise of individual liberty, the right to work in the occupation of one''s choice, and the end of servile status for peasants. The political rights aspect developed in the early 19th century, with the disconnection of the right to vote from economic status. Social rights of citizenship formed in the 20th century, starting with the introduction of free and compulsory elementary education.

Our egalitarian society has been able to reconcile itself to the inequalities of capitalism by holding out a supposed equality of opportunity. All are capable of enjoying certain rights (such as property ownership) in that all are allowed to strive for them without hindrance or special protection. At the end of 19th century, this conception of citizenship created a sense of common membership in and loyalty to the nation.