Stephen Andrew Kovach
Publication year: 2004

The relationship between nation, state, and citizenship is often difficult to define; a nation is a social entity comprised of a group of people that share a common past and assumes a shared future, whereas a state is a legal entity that declares control over a particular territory, however, citizenship contains features of both.  As a result, the multicultural demands of domestic, immigrant, and prospective immigrant citizens that desire distinguishable, improved inclusive laws and rights place increasing pressure on the nation-state.  Consequently, the contemporary nation-state-based citizenship model requires reconstruction because its exclusionary laws and policies are inconsistent with the universalistic concepts of citizenship put forth by liberal democratic philosophy, particularly those pertaining to religious freedom and tolerance, and gender and immigrant discrimination.  Notwithstanding the fact that the nation-state is at risk, however, that risk does not come from the above-mentioned demands of domestic, immigrant, and prospective immigrant citizens, but rather, from the increasing integration of national economies, technologies, and cultures, and the declining meaningfulness of state boundaries otherwise known as globalization.  This paper will demonstrate that the forces of globalization are far more powerful than either the demands of citizens, or the laws that attempt to control them; consequently, political policies pertaining to citizenship should be positioned accordingly because those forces will naturally reconstruct the landscape of international citizenship.

As long as some permanent population lives within its boundaries, a state exists de facto, regardless of who those people are, and when members of a group share a common identity, that group is held together by a feeling of nationalism.  However, political success as it pertains to citizenship requires more than nationalism and permanent population because in order to be politically effective, citizenship also requires a sufficient level of loyalty that typically occurs only after individuals feel like they are part of the community; only then can a nation truly be said to exist.  When those conditions of nationalism, population, and loyalty exist, they typically lead to the desire for national self-determination; hence, self-proclaimed nations believe that they should also have their own exclusive states.  Nonetheless, if every national group were to have its own independent state, the mutually exclusive claims over land and other assets would likely lead to intense, protracted conflict.  Consequently, not every national group will have its own state even though that is the implication of the term nation-state.[1]

Since 1945, improved economic, communication, and transportation conditions that typify globalization have also contributed to a sharp increase in international immigration by making it easier for oppressed individuals appreciate an improved economy, and communicate with and travel back and forth to their homeland, thereby indicating that immigration, citizenship, and globalization are linked.[2]  Additionally, because many countries permit dual citizenship, the idea of migration is more appealing to some individuals because it enables them to maintain their native traditions and cultures while establishing a new life with improved economic conditions in a different country.  However, immigrants that seek economic stability in foreign nations often encounter “increased racial violence” (Castles and Davidson, 2000, p.57) when they refuse to assimilate, or, “learn the national language and…cultural and social practices” (Castles and Davidson, 2000, p.60) of the host nation, thereby leaving them to wonder if citizenship, “is worth aspiring to?”  (Bosniak, p. 245)  For example, although it was, “crucial for both industrialization and nation building”  (Castles and Davidson, 2000, p. 60) to Americanize Europeans in the nineteenth century, their citizenship status was limited; they were accepted as workers and individuals, but not as settlers or members of the community because they were unable or unwilling to adopt the informal Western-style social, cultural, and linguistic standards.  (Castles and Davidson, 2000, p.61)  Consequently, many immigrants felt excluded from society and in order to feel welcome they decorated their homes with items from their native land, lived in communities that were populated by individuals from their mother country, opened small businesses that catered to their native foods, continued to speak their native language, and adopted various other home-building strategies.[3]  The fact that immigrants found it necessary to adopt the previously mentioned home-building strategies, rather than assimilate the characteristics of their host nation represents not only a desire shared by all people to maintain their identity, it is also consistent with the cultural characteristics of globalization, which in this case is represented by the declining meaningfulness of state boundaries, which in the past dictated a persons language and culture.  In other words, globalization supports identity preservation by enabling immigrants to maintain certain aspects of their culture from which they get their identity, regardless of the host nations desire to force immigrants to accept a strange culture, society, or language simply to benefit from its economic strength.  Therefore, it can be argued that the cultural affects of globalization are far more powerful than the laws, or in this case the informal requirements, that attempt to control citizenship; consequently, policies pertaining to citizenship should be positioned accordingly.

In addition to the above-mentioned cultural challenges to citizenship, liberal democratic philosophies have attempted to develop and maintain an environment that supports religious freedom and tolerance by, “divorcing the state from its sacred foundations,” (McConnell, 91) thereby suggesting that no religious group should receive special privileges, particularly majority religions.  However, both politics and, “religion is connected to conscience, character and loyalty,” (McConnell, 91) therefore, policies that force a separation of church and state are illogical because they violate human nature, as evidenced by the natural existences of, “citizenship ambiguity” (McConnell, 91) or dual citizenship, a condition that results when people face, “two sets of loyalties and two sets of obligations.”  (McConnell, 91)  Instead, policies that determine the fate of democratic citizenship must recognize that, “religion is relevant to citizenship,” (McConnell, 97) particularly because domestic, immigrant and prospective immigrant citizens tend to resist belief systems that contradict their own, albeit the fact they might be informally required to adopt certain traits simply to live in an economically superior democratic society.  In fact, because the economic, cultural and technological blending effects of globalization are so overwhelming, it is likely that they will collectively create the type of international citizenship that supports the above-mentioned religious environment by itself, with or without, legal assistance.  Globalization will naturally create an environment that will encourage immigrant communities to preserve their, “distinctive way of life” (McConnell, 105) and perhaps most importantly, a sense of nationalism, one that will secure the future loyalty of citizens by passing those religious customs onto future generations.  Therefore, rather than promote a strict secular state, it is wise to endorse a, “religious pluralistic state,” (McConnell, 103) one that possess the least amount of risk for violence against all members of all religions while maintaining their citizenship status.  Of course, it could be argued that pluralism is undemocratic because it dilutes the concept of citizenship, thus making it difficult to, “identify what being ‘American’ is all about.”  (McConnell, 105)  However, that argument also insinuates that immigrants must assimilate not only toward a, “national language and…social and cultural practices of the receiving community,” (Castles and Davidson, 2000, p.60) but also toward a common religion, which would in fact violate the Establishment Clause, thus rendering it unconstitutional.  The fact that immigrants identify themselves through their religion, combined with the fact that man-made laws are simply unable to prevent individuals from embracing their own religious beliefs, indicates that as immigration continues, the effects of globalization will enable them to maintain their religious beliefs no matter where they choose to live.

In addition to the above-mentioned cultural and religious challenges facing citizenship, gender discrimination is a specific problem that begins with the question: does citizenship pertain to men and women equally, or should policies recognize the obvious gender differences?  Ironically, liberal democratic philosophies, which have historically done more to promote international human rights than any other citizenship-based philosophy, have in fact caused more damage to women’s citizenship rights because it literally neutralizes all individuals, and in so doing, refuses to acknowledge gender, race, or any other distinguishable factor.  As a result, liberal democratic philosophy fails to recognize the obvious: men and women are indeed different and therefore may require different citizenship rights, provided that those rights do not intensify discrimination, or violate federal, state, or local laws.[4]

The contemporary citizenship model vis-à-vis gender, “excludes women from the female” (Jones, 221) thereby creating an environment that forces women to fit into the, “existing paradigms that privileged elite men’s behavior and norms” (Jones, 221) in order to be fully accepted.  Consequently, women’s rights advocates claim that they are forced to conform to the preconceived notion that women are weak, simply because they do not possess veto power over certain laws that are created by, “white, male elites” (Jones, 221) vis-à-vis a woman’s, “sexuality, reproduction and the physical self.”  (Jones, 221)  On the one hand, it is both logical and just for women to have the final word vis-à-vis their sexuality and physical self; on the other hand, however, the personal nature of reproduction goes hand in hand with the societal issues surrounding abortion.  Therefore, it is not in the communities best interest to leave the decision of abortion to one individual; doing so sends a signal to prospective immigrants, many of whom come from cultures that forbid abortion, that our society cares little for unborn children.  It might be argued, for example, by an Epicurean, (a person that condones the ancient teachings of Epicurus, the Greek philosopher that connected happiness to the avoidance of pain and emotional disturbance, and advocated the pursuit of pleasure) that women ought to possess veto power against anti-abortion laws because it they are forced to give birth against their will it would result in the type of pain and emotional distress they try to avoid.[5] In fact, that argument is, in some respect, consistent with certain liberal democratic philosophies that all individuals possess the right to make decisions that best supports their own self-interests.  Nevertheless, that sort of self-interest is counter-productive to the requirements of a healthy community because it fails to consider how certain acts, such as having an abortion, affects all of society.  Therefore, it can be argued that Epicurean philosophies, or at least those that pertain to abortion rights, are inconsistent with the characteristics of a society of good citizens: one that is comprised of individuals that agree not to harm to others, and promote acts that contribute to the common good.  The notion that the effects of globalization are more powerful than the demands placed on society by citizens is sustained by the fact that the change in citizenship status sought by women’s rights advocates are based on self-interest and are therefore counter-productive to a healthy community, whereas the naturally occurring cultural and social effects of globalization are consistent with societal needs.

If providing women with special rights regarding abortion is counter-productive to society, what, if any, special rights should women possess?  It might be argued that women require special rights in order to be successful in business and, “earn equal pay for work of comparable worth…if they involve similar degrees of skill, difficulty, stress, and so on,” (Young, 285) thereby suggesting that the, “equal treatment approach” (Young, 283) to citizenship is unacceptable because it implies that women risk job security if they become pregnant.  However, that argument is weak because it fails to address key issues, such as the fact that citizenship is a public designation, one that is supported by the federal government, whereas monetary compensation (or equal pay) is a privilege of working in the private scale, and is therefore not necessarily related to citizenship.  Therefore, it is illogical to suggest that simply because women may deserve certain rights as public citizens, that they also deserve those privileges from the private sector.  For example, certain high profile male-dominated careers, such as a Wall Street broker, often require eighty hours per week in order to perform at an acceptable level; accordingly, the associated compensation for that amount of work should naturally go to the individual that is willing and able to make that sort of commitment, albeit gender, race, or ethnicity.  Typically, the success or failure of any firm heavily depends on whether its employees are willing and able to work those hours, and contrary to the law put forth by the Constitution, which represents all individuals, an investment firms primary responsibility is to its clients, not its employees.  Therefore, if women were to receive special privileges that would endow them with, “job security when they are having babies,” (Young, 283) yet they still received equal pay if they left the firm for an extended period of time during or after their pregnancy; and, if those privileges were supported by the same rights bestowed upon them by the federal government, it would in fact be inconsistent with basic liberal democratic philosophies to keep separate the public from the private.  In fact, as mentioned above, liberal democratic philosophy suggests that there ought to be a separation of a church and state.  However, because there is no foreseeable monetary gain from separating church from state, yet there is clearly a potential for monetary gain from joining the above-mentioned public business privileges with private citizenship rights, it can therefore be argued that liberal self-interest, rather than the interest of the community is the ultimate goal of women’s rights advocates.  Consequently, it can be noted that the effects of globalization, as they pertain to the creation of a blended, multicultural society, will also aid in the development of an environment that is fair and balanced for all faiths, cultures, and genders, provided that those groups do not violate the requirements of maintaining a good society.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned cultural, religious, and gender problems of citizenship, the key issue is not whether those groups deserve special rights, but rather, if policy makers will recognize the fact that the effects of globalization will naturally create situations that will ultimately produce those rights, with or without legal intervention.  For example, the manner in which contemporary immigrant citizens in democratic societies are able to communicate with and travel to their homeland is an unprecedented luxury that characterizes globalization.  However, another advantage of globalization is its ability to open the line of communication between Middle Eastern women, for example, who are subjected to Shari a, the code of law derived from the Koran, and from the teachings of Mohammed, whereby under Islamic law there is no separation of church and state, and Western Women.  Women living under the rules of Shari’ a are subordinate to men, and their international human rights are not highly regarded.   Indeed, when those women are exposed to the liberating concepts of democracy through contemporary communication means, such as the media, or when they meet Western women traveling to their countries, and they learn more about their rights as citizens, it is like that they will desire the same unencumbered environment.  It could be argued, for example, that Middle Eastern women generally, “oppose the culture of the modern world and wish to lead their common life apart from its foreign influences,”  (Rawls, 229) thereby indicating that Western-style citizenship will not find favor in the Muslim world.  However, it is unlikely that the number of women that truly desire to remain oppressed will be significant because, simply put, the desire to be free is embedded within all individuals.  The aforementioned facts regarding women’s rights in the Middle East represents only one of countless possible effects that the increasing integration of national economies, technologies, and cultures, and the declining meaningfulness of state boundaries of globalization will have on citizenship.  Consequently, policy makers must recognize that fact and work towards creating laws that do not limit an domestic, immigrant, or prospective immigrants ability to thrive in democratic society.

Based on the above-mentioned facts regarding cultural, gender and immigrant issues as they pertain to citizenship, it is inevitable that the landscape of liberal democratic citizenship must change.  One possible solution would see fair representation of all citizens through a system of proportional representation, one characterized by the percentage of representatives that exists in the public realm that is equal to the number of minority groups.  For example, a local population that is comprised of fifty percent women would have a fifty percent representation in local issues.  However, proportional representation also has its limits; it assumes that all people will be represented correctly, and that the system will be continually balanced as the population changes.  From a different perspective, Iris Marion Young believes that society should be self organized into a series of groups that must come together voluntarily, after which, policy proposals are suggested and if appropriate, veto power ought to be granted to special groups.  However, as mentioned above, veto power serves the self-interest, rather than the interests of the community, hence, it had no place in a community that works towards promoting the good for all citizens.  Fortunately, contemporary citizens will find it much easier than their predecessors had when vying for citizenship rights because, quite literally, globalization will do much of the work for them.  For example, technological advances enable people to communicate not only over longer distances, but also in more mediums than ever before.  Internet web site, cable televisions, satellite radio, and countless other advances assist in spreading the word throughout the world quickly if and when human rights violations are occurring.  As a result, policy makers are also aware of international events as they occur, thus enabling them to simply follow the trend that globalization is setting.

Globalization, rather than man-made policies or citizens demands, will reconstruct the entire framework of citizenship, thereby reducing the countless obstacles facing immigrants.  Therefore, it makes sense for nations to recognize the effects of globalization and work with minorities, otherwise, they are simply delaying the inevitable: a multicultural world where all groups will be entitled to specific rights and laws that will assist their integration into society.  Simply put, the increasing integration of national economies, technologies, and cultures, and the declining meaningfulness of state boundaries otherwise known as globalization will sooner-than-later bring those civil, political, and social aspects of citizenship together to form one international culture.  Although it is impossible to predict the result, it seems obvious that globalization is a minority’s best friend.


Allman, D. D., & Beatty, M. D. (2002). Cultivating Citizens. P.O. Box 317 Oxford OX2 9RU, UK: Lexington Books.

Castles, S., & Davidson, A. (2000). The Citizenship Debates. Citizenship and Migration – Globalization and the politics of Belonging.

Ford, R. T. (2000). D. Klusmeyer & T. Aleinikoff (Eds.), Citizenship Today – Global Perspectives and Practices. 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036: Brookings Institute Press.

McConnell, M.. Obligations of Citizenship and Demands of Faith.

Young, Iris, & Shafir, G. (1998). G. Shafir (Ed.), The Citizenship Debates. 111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520: University of Minnesota Press.

[1] See Ford, R. T. (2000). D. Klusmeyer & T. Aleinikoff (Eds.), Citizenship Today – Global Perspectives and Practices. 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036: Brookings Institute Press. p. 210-215

[2] Castles, S., & Davidson, A. (2000). The Citizenship Debates. Citizenship and Migration – Globalization and the politics of Belonging. P. 55

[3] see Castles, S., & Davidson, A. (2000). The Citizenship Debates. Citizenship and Migration – Globalization and the politics of Belonging. Chapter 3

[4] Castles, S., & Davidson, A. (2000). The Citizenship Debates. Citizenship and Migration – Globalization and the politics of Belonging. p. 221

[5] see Allman, D. D., & Beatty, M. D. (2002). Cultivating Citizens. P.O. Box 317 Oxford OX2 9RU, UK: Lexington Books. P. 3-16