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Politics, Power and resistance Week 9: Citizenship and Inequality I
Politics, Power and resistance Week 9: Citizenship and Inequality I
Politics, Power and resistance Week 9: Citizenship and Inequality I
Politics, Power and resistance Week 9: Citizenship and Inequality I
Politics, Power and resistance Week 9: Citizenship and Inequality I
Politics, Power and resistance Week 9: Citizenship and Inequality I
Politics, Power and resistance Week 9: Citizenship and Inequality I
Politics, Power and resistance Week 9: Citizenship and Inequality I
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Politics, Power and resistance Week 9: Citizenship and Inequality I


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The concept of citizenship tends to be seen as inclusive. Today, more and more emphasis is placed on education for citizenship and is a major part of the curriculum. However, different theories of …

The concept of citizenship tends to be seen as inclusive. Today, more and more emphasis is placed on education for citizenship and is a major part of the curriculum. However, different theories of citizenship conceive it in different ways. Different tiers of citizenship are created according to the extent to which a person is said to belong. In some states, citizenship is conferred according to birth (jus soli) whereas in others it is a question of inheritance (jus sanguinus). However, even if someone is nominally a full citizen, they can be excluded in different ways, for example, due to their sex, ethnicity, or class status. This week we will examine the concept of citizenship and look at who is included, and who is excluded by it. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which class and socioeconomic deprivation have an effect on the ability to be a full citizen by examining the role of education, the Welfare State, and political participation.

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  • 1. Politics, Power & Resistance Week 9: Citizenship & Inequality I A/Prof Alana Lentin
  • 2. Overview Classical ideas of citizenship Critiquing citizenship The myth of the classless society Capital and Inequality: Wilkinson and Piketty Redressing inequality
  • 3. Classical views of citizenship T.H. Marshall: Civil rights Political rights Social rights T.H. Marshall develops his theory of citizenship in 1940s Britain. The model has been heavily criticised by feminists, antiracist, gay rights activists, etc. who saw it as too narrowly based on a male view of who is a citizen. !We will look at the critiques of Marshall be feminists in Week 11 on gender. !How does Marshall view citizenship? !For Marshall, citizenship is based on the relationship between states and individuals (citizens). This relationship is based upon the rights given to us by the state. !There are 3 types of rights: civil, social and political. !Civil rights: !Civil rights involve the protection of individual freedoms, including “liberty of the person, freedom of speech, thought, and faith, the right to own property and to conclude valid contracts, and the right to justice” !Civil rights develop in the 18thC in England as a consequence of the civil and criminal court system. !Political rights: !Political rights involve the right to “ participate in the exercise of political power as a member of a body invested with political authority or as an elector of the members of such a body ” !Some people already had political rights, but they only become rights of citizenship in the 20th C. when everyone is given the right to vote (not just men who owned property). !Social rights !Only begins in the second half of the 20th C with the establishment of the welfare state. !
  • 4. Critiquing citizenship “We may all be human, but humanity has always excluded, despised and degraded some of its parts. Humanity is not one... Human rights... do not belong to humans; they help us construct who and how one becomes human” Costas Douzinas (2009) The problem with basing citizenship on a rights-based approach becomes clear when we start to consider who gets left out when we try to apply Marshall’s three groups of rights in practice. There is always going to be someone who cannot be covered by these rights, either because they are not citizens of a state, because they have lost their rights in some way (e.g. by going to prison, being committed to a mental health institution...), or their rights can be curtailed in some way by not having the ability to gain equal access to the institutions that govern those rights. ! !So, arguably, if someone has had a poor education or is homeless, or is a member of a marginalised minority they will simply not be able to exercise their rights in the same way as someone who has not suffered these disadvantages.! !This leads us to the subject of human rights - covered to some extent by Marshall’s concept of civil rights. Human rights have gained in global appeal as the structure to which those denied their rights can try to gain them, or regain them. The signing of international conventions of human rights and the establishment of institutions such as the International Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights, goes towards enshrining these rights in law. However, as some critics have noted it is not always an easy or straightforward answer to redressing inequality.! !There are several problems with a human rights approach, some of which are foundational - that is they relate to the philosophy behind human rights ideas, and some of which are practical, relating to how to implement human rights.! !1. Foundational problems:! !As Costas Douzinas has noted in his two books on Human Rights, a crucial problem with the idea of human rights is that they are cast as natural. So, Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’! !However, we know this not to be true. There are huge disparities between the conditions in which different people around the world are born. The material dignity of someone born to middle-class, dual-income parents living in Sydney, New York or Paris will invariably differ extensively to that of someone born in a slum in Mumbai, or even in government housing in their own countries. ! !According to Douzinas, contrary to the words of the declaration, equality is actually unnatural and is therefore something that has to be fought for. People are not free and equal but must fight to become so, and often that is a losing battle. ! !The people who are arguably the ones in most need of human rights protection are often the ones who cannot fight for them. For example, a refugee is often unable to fight because she finds herself in a strange country where she doesn’t speak the language, may have lost everything including loved ones, a home, etc.! !So, as Douzinas points out, bare humanity doesn’t provide us with any protection. ‘Human rights... do not belong to humans; they help us construct who and how one becomes human.”!
  • 5. Australia:The Great Classless Society Citizenship based on displacement & dispossession The ‘fair go’ Challenging the egalitarian myth Inequality and federation As we have seen, T.H. Marshall’s view of citizenship rights is bound up with his idea that a just society is an equal society. The theme of equality has been central to AU ideas of citizenship. !1. Citizenship based on displacement and dispossession !Australian citizenship, like that of other immigrant countries and settler colonies, such as the US and Canada, is based on a history of displacement and dispossession. !The first people to arrive here from Britain to colonise the country (dated as 1788) could only take possession of the country by displacing Aboriginal people from their land, killing them, or disciplining them in other ways (imprisonment, confinement on missions, reserves, etc.). The destruction of Aboriginal people’s culture was also fundamental to establishing Anglo dominance. !Paradoxically, many of the people who came to AU were themselves poor and dispossessed people. For example (Grieg et al.), the displacement of the Highland people of Scotland led to many of them emigrating to Australia (esp. Gippsland) where they then went on to apply the same racism and discrimination they faced at the hands of the Scottish Lords and English intellectuals who took away their land, against the local Aboriginal people. !AU as an immigration country has had to adapt to the arrival of many people across the globe. However, the main way in which the AU nation could be built was by making a break with the past. Aboriginals had to forget their culture and assimilate with the colonisers. Later, new immigrants had to leave their cultures behind in order to gain acceptance. !Grieg et al.: AU nation is built on rupture from the past for immigrants and indigenous people. !Despite multicultural ideals, British culture still dominates in AU and most of the people in positions of authority come from an Anglo background to this day. !2. The ‘Fair go’ !Despite AU’s origins as a strictly regimented penal colony, a language of egalitarianism quickly came to dominate. !Difference between equity and equality - equity means fairness (the far go) while equality if about people having the same wealth and status in reality. The two are not the same. !However, historians such as McNichol (2001) claim that because convicts hated authority, once freed the strict social divide between ex convicts and free settlers disappeared. The rhetoric was that anyone could gain wealth and be catapulted into fame.
  • 6. Capital & Inequality “[W]hen people in the same social class, at the same level of income or education, are compared across countries, those in more equal societies do better. So, at any given level of personal income or education, someone's quality of life will be higher if he or she has the same level of income or education but lives in a more equal society. The conclusion is that greater equality usually makes most difference to the least well off, but still produces some benefits for the well off.” Wilkinson and Pickett (2011) Thomas Piketty (2014) ! 1. The rich get richer faster than the economy can grow 2. Income inequality is likely to get worse 3. Inequality will not self- correct 4. Top managers: No evidence that higher wages lead to more productivity 5. Balancing the books makes matters worse According to Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in The Spirit Level, there is a direct correlation between how unequal a society is and the well-being of its population. Many social problems including unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, low educational attainment, etc. are due to the disparities between rich and poor.! !In societies where equality is not valued, those without are judged according to the standards of those who are wealthy and successful. But all kinds of barriers stand in the way of doing well. You may have as much ambition as you like but if you are impeded by your social class, race, gender, or sexuality, it may be more difficult for you to succeed.! !Societies in which there is a greater gap between rich and poor are also unhappier societies. ! !Wage disparities:! !AU figures for wage disparity: The top 20 CEOs earn more than 100 times the average wage, with a significant number earning eight-figure salaries.! ![Show video about the US and point to global disparities video on vUWS]! !Life in poverty! !In the US, 37 million people live in poverty (12.7% of the population). ! Many among them are categorised as ‘working poor’. That is people who, despite the fact that they earn a wage, do not earn enough to take them and their families out of poverty. ! !1.7 million of the children living in poverty in the UK in 2010 live in working households. ! !In AU, many part-time workers want to work extra hrs but cannot get the work. Women are especially affected. There is a danger that this will lead to the creation of a working poor class. They are not unemployed, want to work but can’t get enough work to live, yet also don’t qualify for benefits.! !Piketty:! !A new book by a French economist, Thomas Piketty, examines the links between capital and inequality.! !Capital, for Piketty, refers to wealth and income. He conducted a 15 year study to show that disparities in wealth between the rich and the poor are back to 19th C levels and are unlikely to be reversed.!
  • 7. Redressing inequality Who does poverty and inequality benefit? Is inequality a matter of personal responsibility? What role, if any, should be played by the state? What measures should be taken to alleviate poverty and inequality?
  • 8. Limits of rights-based citizenship? Which groups/ individuals gets left out? Is this always obvious? What about non- citizens?