Citizenship beyond the State

Books

John Hoffman

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • Part One: Definitions and Debates

    Part Two: Barriers to Democratic Citizenship

    Part Three: The Future of Democratic Citizenship

  • Copyright

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    Dedication

    To Keith Faulks, whose idea this book was, and whose work has been a great inspiration to me

    Acknowledgements

    Chapters One, Three, Four and Eight were drafted while on study leave, and I am very grateful to the Department of Politics and the University of Leicester for this sabbatical.

    I would like to thank Keith Faulks particularly for reading the book in its entirety. His feedback and comments proved invaluable, and as the reader will see, I have drawn heavily upon his work on citizenship. I would also like to express my gratitude to Gillian Youngs and Audrey Osler for reading particular chapters. While writing this book, I have also been helped by Rose O'Toole who promised that she would read the book when it was produced!

    I am also grateful to my partner, Rowan Roenisch, who supported and encouraged me, and my son and daughter, Fred Hoffman and Frieda Roenisch, who expressed an interest in the book.

  • Conclusion

    The central theme of my argument is that the state itself is a barrier to citizenship. The state is defined by Weber as an institution that claims a monopoly of legitimate force. It is a paradoxical institution and increasingly scholars have come to recognize its problematic nature. This book stands or falls as an attempt to convincingly detach citizenship (and democracy) from the state.

    It argues that the state tackles conflicts of interest through force. But the use of force is inimical to conflict resolution: only negotiation and arbitration can resolve conflicts of interest, since force crushes agency and the agency of all the parties is essential if a dispute is to be successfully tackled. Two important points need to be added here. The first is that it may not be possible to employ negotiation and arbitration in particular circumstances, since the latter only operate as conflict-resolving mechanisms where common interests between contending parties exist. Common interests do not exclude differences, but they imply that such differences are amenable to compromise. Hence force may be necessary but my point remains: force cannot resolve conflicts – it can only suppress them. It is justified if it provides a breathing space, thereby allowing policies that do cement common interests, to be implemented.

    The second point is that negotiation, although undermined by force, is compatible with coercion and constraint. The distinction between coercion and constraint, on the one hand, and force on the other, is of the utmost importance to my argument, since it would be naive (and contrary to all we know about stateless societies, whether domestic or international) to imagine that disputes can be resolved without the kind of pressures that I have labelled coercive and constraining.

    The distinction between coercion (and constraint) and force translates into the equally vital distinction between state and government. States use force; governments employ coercion and constraint. This means that in seeking legitimacy, states increasingly rely upon negotiation and compromise to solve problems and when they do, they cease to be states, and act governmentally This is a crucial point because it is only through the advance of government that states gradually die out.

    Nationalism, Democracy and Gender

    Distinctions between coercion, constraint and force and between state and government assume a relational (as opposed to an atomistic) view of the individual. This relational stance is also crucial in defending the linkage between citizenship and democracy. Liberal objections to democracy – that it tramples on the rights of minorities, that it suppresses individual difference in the name of majoritarian uniformity – only make sense as objections to the state, and central to my definition of democracy as self-government is the argument that democracy cannot be a form of the state. Indeed, the idea that democracies suppress individuals and minorities rests upon an atomistic view of the latter, so that violence towards individuals and minorities is not related to the freedom of the majority and the well-being of society as a whole. Liberal societies can only become more democratic if a critique of the monopolistic character of the state is developed.

    This is why nationalism is inherently undemocratic. Unlike a national consciousness (which increasingly exists in plural form), nationalism privileges one particular national identity. The notion of the nation state is all revealing, for not only is the nation tied to an institution that uses national identity to provide cohesion to its claim to a monopoly of legitimacy and force, but the term nation is in the singular. When nationalism is involved, one nation in particular has pre-eminence over others. National differences, like all differences, are certainly a source of tension and conflict. But tensions and conflict can (and where possible should) be tackled governmentally through social rather than statist sanctions. A democratic policy must respect differences, not in a supinely relativist way (as multi-cultural policies are sometimes accused of doing), but in a way which strengthens democracy and therefore rejects practices that are exploitative and marginalizing.

    One of the differences crucial to citizenship is gender. Women in liberal societies are still second-class citizens even when they have formal political rights. The public/private divide serves to keep them out of leadership roles and both nationalism and the state marginalize women. Women are both different from men and differ among themselves, but as long as these differences are dealt with by the state, violence will be normalized, and women will particularly suffer. An attempt to render citizenship more inclusive must address itself to the mechanisms that favour men and degrade women.

    Capitalism, Participation and Globalization

    Capitalism divides, and therefore like the state, is a barrier to an inclusive citizenship. Marx is right, however, to stress the positive and historically necessary role of capitalism, but his notion of class is too narrow and appears to exclude national, regional, gender divisions, etc. In my view, the notion of class needs to be expanded so that class exploitation always expresses itself in a culturally specific form, whether this is national, regional, gendered, religious, etc. The critique of the market in classical Marxism is helpful in that it emphasizes the mystifying character of abstraction – a real but confusing process.

    The rise of the welfare state has seen real inroads into the market logic of capitalism and it is through the continuation and extension of these inroads that capitalism is transformed and the market itself overcome. The case is made for a citizen's income – a reform that would dramatically accelerate these inroads – and the rise of the New Right is seen as a neo-liberal reaction to these inroads. This reaction, although mostly negative, does at least have the merit of bringing the concept of individual autonomy to the fore.

    Citizenship involves participation. With the rejection of the ‘equiliberal’ model of a low-participation society, radicals have rightly sought to make the case for greater participation. But how? Macpherson's argument is persuasive in that it seeks to show how consumer-minded citizens have to take an increasingly longer-term view of their interests (just to carry on as consumers). However, Macpherson (like other radicals) ignores the anti-participatory character of the state, and a case is made for compulsory voting as a way of popularizing the responsibilities of citizenship. Communitarians are right to stress the importance of community responsibility, but even where they avoid authoritarian and relativistic arguments, they ignore the psuedo- or anti-communitarianism of the state. Like republicans, liberal-minded communitarians are strong on the need to avoid domination but weak in their critique of force.

    Globalization raises the prospect of a global citizenship. But to move in this direction, we need to defend a positive, post-capitalist version of globalization and not a ‘market fundamentalist’ one. The latter in fact strengthens inequality, nationalism and the need for the state, whereas the former must be guided by goals of social justice and the need for global institutions to work for a more equal world. The United Nations can only become a global government if it is democratized, and the concept of a European citizenship, although hugely positive, must win the argument for post-statism. A global citizenship does not involve obliterating differences, but rather celebrating them through a multi-layered form of government that involves people in governing their own lives at every level.

    Emancipation and the ‘Realization’ of an Inclusive Citizenship

    The notion of emancipation has become controversial. Many (self-styled) postmodernists regard emancipation as a modernist concept and it is certainly true that it is a concept with unambiguously modernist origins. But the concept can be reconstructed and, to this end, I propose a distinction between momentum concepts whose potential for change and development is infinite, and static concepts that are divisive and repressive. What makes emancipation a momentum concept is that it cannot be realized at any given point in time.

    The notion of emancipation reinforces the self-governing attribute of an inclusive citizenship, since only the individual can emancipate him or herself. This is why the use of force is inimical to emancipation, although a whole range of social pressures (which I label coercive and constraining) can be brought to bear on behaviour deemed harmful. Self-government involves both direct action and representation by others, and it is important, here as elsewhere, that we do not surrender to a modernist logic of either/or. The need to embrace both sameness and difference becomes particularly salient with respect to distinguishing adult citizens from children as citizens-to-be, and humans from the rest of the natural world.

    As for the problem of ‘realization’, we need to distinguish between theory and practice in a way that does not demoralize, but empowers. Although we would expect the victims rather than the beneficiaries of the market and the state to be particularly concerned with the struggle for an inclusive citizenship, all have skills they can contribute, and there is no prima facie case for excluding anyone. The classical Marxist view would narrow the question of agency down to the proletariat, while anarchists invert rather than transcend liberalism, by exalting spontaneity, and generally refusing to distinguish between coercion (and constraint) and force, or state and government.

    New social movements must be seen as vehicles for transforming an inegalitarian society as a whole, while the Crick Report weakens its laudable aim of developing citizenship education in secondary schools, by defining politics in a traditional statist manner and treating citizenship in a nationalist way.

    All members of society are potential agents for developing an inclusive citizenship. If we are moving inexorably towards a veritable Hobbesian state of nature, in which insecurity, violence and arbitrariness become all pervasive, then the relational argument is expressed in the most graphic manner. No-one benefits, and all have a vested interest in looking beyond the state to a world of democracy and inclusive citizenship.

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    Glossary

    Words as used in this book.

    • Abstraction

      A conceptual and practical process that mystifies and conceals underlying social relationships.

    • Anarchism

      A theory that seeks to abolish the state, but adopts statist tools of analysis and hence enjoys no success.

    • Atomistic

      An approach that treats individuals and entities in purely discrete terms and ignores the relationships between them.

    • Capitalism

      A system of production that divides society into those who can hire the services of others and those who are compelled to work for an employer.

    • Citizen

      A person able to govern their own life. Citizenship is an emancipatory situation towards which we move, but can never actually reach.

    • Class

      An identity that divides people based upon economic, social, regional, religious, gender, ethnic and other differences.

    • Coercion

      A concept and practice that should be rigorously distinguished from force. Coercion embraces social pressures that deliberately punish those who harm a person or collectivity's interests.

    • Communitarianism

      A theory which stresses that all people belong to communities and can only identify themselves in relations with others.

    • Conflict

      A clash of interests that can be tackled through violence, but only resolved through non-statist pressures. Conflicts of the latter kind are inevitable and arise from the fact that we are all different from one another.

    • Constraint

      A natural or social pressure ensuring that we do something which we had not intended to do. Unlike coercion, this pressure is unintentional and informal in character.

    • Deconstruction

      The act of criticizing. Deconstruction involves pulling an argument to pieces, but in a way that works from the assumptions upon which this argument rests.

    • Democracy

      A society in which people govern themselves.

    • Difference

      Identifications that separate people and inevitably cause conflict to arise.

    • Division

      Differences that undermine common interests and necessitate the use of force.

    • Emancipation

      The capacity of people to act freely and thus govern their own lives.

    • Feminism

      A theory that works toward emancipation of women.

    • Force

      A pressure that undermines the agency of individuals by physically harming them.

    • Globalization

      A linkage between peoples of the globe that enables them to understand and empathize with one another.

    • Government

      The resolution of conflicts of interest. It can occur at every level in society; it is inherent in social relationships, and needs to be contrasted with the state.

    • Hierarchy

      An assymetrical linkage inherent in relationships. It is normally assumed to be repressive, but it need not be.

    • Individual

      A person who is separate from others but who finds their identity through relating to these others.

    • Liberalism

      A theory which stipulates that individuals realize their freedom through the possession of private property and through the market mechanism.

    • Market

      A mechanism enabling exchanges to occur, but in a way that conceals the real power that people possess.

    • Marxism

      A theory whose potential for emancipation is undermined by notions of class war, revolution and dictatorship.

    • Momentum Concept

      A concept that has a potential for freedom and equality, but whose progress is infinite, and therefore can never be realized.

    • Multi-culturalism

      A respect for and a belief that we can learn from the cultural differences of others, provided these differences express themselves in a democratic manner.

    • Nationalism

      A statist attitude and movement that arises when one nationality is privileged at the expense of others.

    • Nationality

      An identity that arises from a sense of belonging to one or more nations.

    • Natural

      A developmental process. What is natural is therefore susceptible to historical change.

    • Naturalism

      A doctrine that treats the natural in a static and ahistorical way. It assumes that what exists at the present can never change.

    • Order

      A stability in the possession of things; security against violence, and a trust in others that promises will be kept.

    • Patriarchal

      A static concept and practice that enshrines male domination. Patriarchy can be pursued by women. It need not be pursued by men.

    • Politics

      A public process that involves resolving conflicts of interest. Politics is undermined by force and is inherent at every level in all societies.

    • Post-liberalism

      A theory that accepts liberalism but goes beyond it, by extending liberal values to all individuals, and thus challenging the need for a state.

    • Postmodernism

      A theory that goes beyond modernism and therefore challenges the dualisms and one-sidedness expressed in the modernist tradition.

    • Pre-modern

      A theory and practice that has yet to obtain the institutions and to support the values of liberalism (or modernism).

    • Private

      The sphere of life in which conflict is imperceptible or embryonic.

    • Public

      The sphere of life in which conflict is manifest and has to be resolved.

    • Reconstruction

      The reworking of concepts so that an alternative to the status quo is charted.

    • Relational

      An approach which stresses that individuals and collectives only find their identity in relationship with one another.

    • Relationship

      A linkage that is vitiated by force but whose mutuality is necessarily hierarchical in character and sustained by coercion and constraint.

    • State

      An institution that claims a monopoly of legitimate force for a particular territory. This claim makes it contradictory and paradoxical.

    • Static Concept

      One which is divisive in character and cannot therefore be reconstructed.

    • Statism

      An approach that creates or accepts divisions and thus the need for force to tackle them.

    • Violence

      A synonym for force.


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