Describe the major theories of citizenship Essay

There are several theories of citizenship which have been developing for a long time. One main theorist is Thomas H Marshall.

Marshall is said to be a social pluralist and his work has become a key concept of citizenship throughout the 20th century. Here, I will be addressing the work of Marshall within its many dimensions, as well as looking at the different theories of citizenship. To begin with, it is essential to understand the concept of citizenship and the welfare state, and the different meanings the terms possess before being able to comprehend the many contradictory theories.When investigating the concept of citizenship I found one main general explanation; citizenship is having a membership within a community/society, and participating within it.

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Marshall takes this one step further. Marshall examines how being a citizen defines a person as a member of a common society and that it is a manifested concept. “those who possess this status [of citizenship] are equal with respect to the rights and duties associated with it. ” Professor T H Marshall was originally an economic historian but moved to the sociology field around the 1950’s.From here on, he wrote many essays and literature including ‘citizenship and social class’ as well as creating the three strands of civil, political and social rights.

This will be addressed in more detail. The first of these three distinct parts of citizenship that will be looked at is the civil elements. This refers to an individuals’ right to freedom as well as applying to justice within the law and within the court system. It also applies to the right of freedom of speech and thought. All of the above is needed in order to develop a classic definition of citizenship according to Marshall.But, a criticism that can be made of this is that Marshall has based this upon the rights of the market rather than on civil rights, which protected to Bourgeois and upper classes. The second element to describe Marshall’s definition of citizenship is the political rights. This includes the rights within politics and parliamentary institutions, for example to have the right to vote.

So, everybody has a right to be part of the implementation of political power. The final point is that of social rights to citizenship.This means that everyone has the right to have a certain standard of living according to the prevailing standards of the society to gain citizenship.

Also, everybody has access to social services and be included within the educational system, as well as the right to share in the social heritage of the society. But, one criticism to this is that it does not address the individual. This social right only sees citizenship based on how a society operates rather than how individual citizens function. From this, Marshall makes his main points of his theory.Marshall looks closely at the welfare state. The welfare state was originally a term to describe the social and political order, post-world war 2. Since then, the meaning of the term has changed and now refers to the social service state, according to Marshall, and tries to help citizens at the time when they are in financial trouble, rather than to help people to not need to rely upon the welfare state, as it initially set out to do.

Marshall talks of the social liberalism as an important element to his theory and to citizenship.Marshall says that since the late 19th century there have been factors in society that have affected the practices of citizenship and socio-economics. For example, according to Marshall there is an increasing equality of income, in that there is becoming a more even distribution of earnings within society.

Another example of this is that social solidarity and widespread common cultural experiences is increasing. Marshall says that this is because people are having similar experiences and so this creates togetherness and a sense of community within society.There are many criticisms that can be made about Marshall’s theory. One of the main critiques of Marshall is Barry Hindess. Hindess says that Marshall’s concepts are conceptual as it ignores many important aspects of society, such as inequality, race and class divisions, religion, age etc. In other words, Marshall assumes full citizenship is available to all assuming that exclusion does not exist which causes a major flaw in his work. Other critiques’ agrees with Hindess’ criticism.

Giddens (1985) and Mann (1987) say that whilst Marshall’s theory is very logical it does not take into account the struggle of the lower classes and that perhaps the gap between income is not becoming smaller. But, Giddens and Mann also stress that Marshall does not explain why the three rights; civil, political and social are the basis of the definition of citizenship and how they developed to be so. This emphasises another flaw in Marshall’s thesis. It is also essential to recognize that Marshall’s theory is not the only central theory.

In my opinion Marshall is the most evolutionary theory in its complexity, especially as many other theories came before Marshall. The Marxist theory of the 1840’s studied modern citizenship during the French and American Revolution. Marxists say that the limitations to citizenship can only be overcome through a “social revolution in which the class basis of inequalities in social conditions and power is overthrown. ” Class inequality would have to be defeated by the lower classes overthrowing the upper classes and taking over the power.Marshall was influenced by the Marxist theory, but still did not take into account class inequality within his own thesis. In conclusion, Marshall’s theory has many various dimensions of citizenship.

Whilst his theory is extremely complex and detailed, it does contain many defects and can be worthy of much evaluation and criticism. Marshall excludes essential facts of society, such as inequality, and has a clear-cut idea of how everyone can have full citizenship, when in reality this is not true. On the other hand, Marshall’s work can be used as a basis of definition and his work has become a huge influence on the studies of citizenship.


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