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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S088-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Within political philosophy, citizenship refers not only to a legal status, but also to a normative ideal – the governed should be full and equal participants in the political process. As such, it is a distinctively democratic ideal. People who are governed by monarchs or military dictators are subjects, not citizens. Most philosophers therefore view citizenship theory as an extension of democratic theory. Democratic theory focuses on political institutions and procedures; citizenship theory focuses on the attributes of individual participants.

One important topic in citizenship theory concerns the need for citizens to actively participate in political life. In most countries participation in politics is not obligatory, and people are free to place private commitments ahead of political involvement. Yet if too many citizens are apathetic, democratic institutions will collapse. Another topic concerns the identity of citizens. Citizenship is intended to provide a common status and identity which helps integrate members of society. However, some theorists question whether common citizenship can accommodate the increasing social and cultural pluralism of modern societies.

Citing this article:
Kymlicka, Will. Citizenship, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S088-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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