Citizenship and Identity Essay

            Citizenship and Identity are important aspects of contemporary political thought and both terms have similarities as well as competing arguments.  Citizenship is at the core of forming a political system.  It is nearly impossible to have a political system until the people being governed become citizens and form a community or society.  Identity also has a major impact on the political word, because our identities can influence many different areas of politics.

            There are many crucial factors in defining what a community is.  Some important aspects of a community are: territory, language, religion, culture, common history, etc.  All of the communities around the world exist because they share commonality in these areas and share a civic myth about their history and location.  Tradition and a sense of belonging together are passed down between generations.

            One of the big debates when discussing societies is referred to as the “thick and thin” debate.  Communities that are defined by strong cultural norms are seen as thick communities or cultures.  The Middle East is a good example of nations who form thick cultural norms.  On the other hand countries like the U.S.A are viewed as very thin cultures.  There are fewer cultural norms in America to enforce so the law is handled by writing it down rather then allowing the culture itself to police certain areas of behavior.

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            This debate also brings identity into play.  Depending which kind of culture you belong to will greatly impact your identity.  People who live in or come from thicker cultures usually have an upbringing which focuses on the whole group over the individual and willingness to follow cultural norms.  Individuals who come from more western states tend to view the world in a more individualistic way because that is the culture.  Challenging cultural norms and breaking old molds is common practice in the United States, where as in the Middle East this kind of behavior would be unacceptable.

            The similarities between citizenship and identity are everywhere and impacts people’s lives in ways they sometimes don’t even realize.  According to Jurgen Habermas the world is on its way towards a world citizenship.  States are coming together and forming new identities.  The E.U is a good example of this, but the U.N. could also be viewed in a similar context.  Throughout this process of globalization it seems that states have lost some sovereignty and soon the implementation of a new world order or world citizenship might become a reality.

            What would happen to identity then if we all became on huge community of people, all of which are citizens under the same political system.  There are positives and negatives to this scenario, but Habermas insists that the only way to accomplish a world that is not based on prejudice and biases is to form a democratic world citizenship.  How this would work would be difficult.  Getting the whole world together and listening to their voices would be a gigantic task and it seems like most governments right now who are democratic don’t fully listen to their own people.

            Carens argues for open borders in most situations and that people should be allowed to roam freely and settle in a different country if they chose to.  This argument according to Carens is best fit for the migration that is occurring between developing nations and the industrialized world.  Who has the right to deny these people access to a quality life simply because they were not born there.  Countries like America were built upon the backs of immigrants and there should be no fear of these immigrants.  Most of them are simply searching for a better life for themselves and their family.

            Carens argues that the state has absolutely no right in restricting immigration.  Not allowing people into a territory or society because they simply were not born there or ascertain citizenship is not part of any states legitimate agenda.  Nozicks theory on property rights is used to discredit this notion that people can allow or dismiss individuals because it is “ Our country”.  Individuals can do whatever they want with their own property, but this right to exclude people as individuals not as a collective whole.

            Smith discusses how civic identities and citizenship laws are maintained and connected.  Citizenship laws are created to enforce requirements to gain access into a political community and what privileges or rights come with that citizenship.  Your identity in a political sense is highly affected by citizenship laws.  These laws impact key attributes in a society with regards to politics and rights and citizenship requirements help distribute power, designate status, and political issues.

            Most of us have multiple identities some of which are very important for politics.  Whether you are considered rich, poor, patriotic, illegal, democratic, etc can impact how you are treated in the political arena.  Achieving the status of a citizen is a very difficult process for anyone who is not recognized by birth as a citizen.  One of the most heated debates in the current political atmosphere is over illegal immigration.

            Joseph Carens would argue that States do not have the right to restrict immigration.  Many people in our current government would probably beg to differ.  Nonetheless neither side of the immigration debate has come up with or implemented a successful plan for the future of illegal aliens in the United States.  Who can tell a state what it has the right to do or not do?

            The political structure of America is democratic so the power is suppose to lye in the hands of the people, but the ideas behind citizenship and states are so old and imbedded in the world it almost trumps the rights of the people.  Like the analogy by Smith about rules to a game to show how basic citizenship laws are, but at the same time creating the definition on how gets in the game or in this case state.

            It seems like the more you break down the definitions of identity and citizenship the greater the impact they both have on each other and on people’s lives in many different areas.  Smith also talked about how citizenship laws are so basic that they can be easily overlooked.  One political theory we have not discussed in class, but is relevant to these topics is called postmodernism.

 Post modernism can be explained as a set of critical and rhetorical ideas using practices such as deconstruction to challenge concepts of presence, identity, historical progress and truth.  If you break down the beliefs in truth and presence you can see many flaws from a poster modernist perspective.  Post modernist theorists would argue that there is no truth and that there is a large chain of cause and effect that determines our reality.

Depending on where you are and how you are communicating can alter your reality.  If you apply the postmodernist thought to the arguments of civic identity and citizenship laws you could argue that they are both based on non truths which have been caused by a large chain of events, possibly starting with citizenship.  Even overlooking the basics of our reality can impact the weight of a political ideology, similar to overlooking the basic rules for any game.

Nietzsche is very critical thinker and was using this perspective before the term post modernism was coined. Nietzsche would claim that logic is born from the demand to adhere to common social norms, which shape individuals into a society of knowing and acting subject.  This is at the heart of the current debate and definitions of identity and citizenship.

It is so difficult to understand all of these concepts even at there most basic level.  Who knows what will be discussed in the future of politics, but right now modern political theorists are exploring new and uncharted territories.  All of these different theories impact lives of people all around the globe.  Politics run states, which in return control the people.  This is a heavy burden to carry and has lead to all different kinds of answers to lives most interesting questions.

I think that citizenship and identity are connecting in far to many ways to comprehend and cause a huge impact on every single persons life.  Where you are born and who you are sends you down a specific road that is so unobvious most people don’t realize what is happening.  This has been happening since the beginning of States and Citizenship.  Both of these terms need to be examined and possibly redefined with the current world we live in.