Responsible patriotism

Citizenship and Civil Society
October 2, 1998

An age of pervasive dislocation in the midst of globalisation offers a premium on membership in communities - with citizenship enjoying the highest dividend. Couple this with the emergence of civil society as a bastion of democratic culture and the result is fertile terrain for clashes of rights and obligations on a grand scale.

Thomas Janoski, though, is more interested in a synthesis of rights and obligations to undergird his wide-ranging theory of citizenship. To begin with there is the asymmetry between expansive rights and narrow obligations. Typically, 90 per cent of the public favours the right to trial by peers, yet only 14 per cent would willingly serve on a jury.

There is also the challenge of all-embracing market forces that reduce individual-society relations to restrictive contracts. Not surprisingly, liberal societies with their more robust laissez faire attitudes have an attenuated civic ethos - shrinking welfarism aside - when compared with social democratic and "traditional" states.

Janoski shows how varying modes of citizenship have come to pass through war, medieval constitutionalism, colonial ventures and financial entanglements at home and abroad. This interplay of state coercion and economics is cast as "the movement of capital from bees (the early cities) to locomotives (the advanced industrialised economies), and the state from wasps (the kings and nobles' sporadic war-making) to juggernauts (the mass mobilising and technological advancement of war machines)."

Back in 1964, T. H. Marshall theorised that legal and political rights developed first over time, followed by social and participation rights, a reading premised chiefly on the British experience. Janoski finds Marshall's thesis to be empirically sound - by and large - in liberal as well as social democratic societies.

Since effective citizenship has at least as much to do with social and participation rights as legal and political ones, it turns out that social democratic regimes with their emphasis on labour-government coalitions and union membership and a smaller market sector perform best overall. On the other hand, they are less open than liberal regimes to migrants.

The strengths of Janoski's analysis are manifold; this is above all an empirical work. Detailed assessments are offered of the performance of major industrialised states on rights engaged in citizenship.

The nexus between citizenship and civil society is also illuminating. Due attention is accorded to institution-building in the context of state, public, private and market spheres - and the ensuing advance in civic participation. Again, focusing on the universal nature of citizenship rights underscores the need for countervailing obligations. The latter are not a luxury tacked on by neo-conservatives, but an integral part of a framework of individual-society relations.

Janoski is less convincing in positing ineluctable conflict between group rights and common citizenship. Aboriginal land and self-government rights in Australia, Canada and the United States are group entitlements that the courts recognise as a matter of fundamental justice. Surely this enhances aboriginal participation in society by enlarging democratic space? Doing otherwise would be a failure of the pluralism that supports good citizenship.

Nor does Janoski account for cultural factors in the emergence of citizenship regimes and civil societies. Is it mere coincidence that all his social democratic examples are Nordic (except Holland), and the liberal ones Anglo-Saxon? Ernest Gellner has shed light on some of the cultural dimensions at hand, but receives no mention.

That said, this book makes a powerful case for civic virtue, even a "responsible patriotism" that values allegiance rather than obedience.

Amyn B. Sajoo is an international affairs scholar and consultant based in Vancouver, Canada.

Citizenship and Civil Society

Author - Thomas Janoski
ISBN - 0 521 57198 7and 63581 0
Publisher - Cambridge University Press
Price - £40.00 and £14.95
Pages - 316

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