Discussions about citizenship usually have, as their point of reference, one of two models: the republican or the liberal. The republican model's sources can be found in the writings of authors like Aristotle, Tacitus, Cicero, Machiavelli, Harrington and Rousseau, and in distinct historical experiences: from Athenian democracy and Republican Rometo the Italian city-states and workers' councils.
The key principle of the republican model is civic self-rule, embodied in classical institutions and practices like the rotation of offices, underpinning Aristotle's characterization of the citizen as one capable of ruling and being ruled in turn. Citizens are, first and foremost, “those who share in the holding of office” (Aristotle 1958,1275a8). Civic self-rule is also at the heart of Rousseau's project in the Contrat Social: it is their co-authoring of the laws via the general will that makes citizens free and laws legitimate. Active participation in processes of deliberation and decision-making ensures that individuals are citizens, not subjects. In essence, the republican model emphasizes the second dimension of citizenship,that of political agency.
The liberal model's origins are traceable to the Roman Empire and early-modern reflections on Roman law (Walzer 1989, 211). The Empire's expansion resulted in citizenship rights being extended to conquered peoples, profoundly transforming the concept's meaning. Citizenship meant being protected by the law rather than participating in its formulation or execution. Itbecame an “important but occasional identity, a legal status rather than a fact of everyday life” (Walzer 1989, 215). The focus here is obviously the first dimension: citizenship is primarily understood as a legal status rather than as a political office. It now “denotes membership in a community of shared or common law, which may or may not be identical with a territorial community” (Pocock 1995, 37).The Roman experience shows that the legal dimension of citizenship is potentially inclusive and indefinitely extensible.
The liberal tradition, which developed from the 17th century onwards, understands citizenship primarily as a legal status: political liberty is important as a means to protecting individual freedoms from interference by other individuals or the authorities themselves. Butcitizens exercise these freedoms primarily in the world of private associations and attachments, rather than in the political domain.
At first glance, the two models present us with a clear set of alternatives: citizenship as a political office or a legal status; central to an individual's sense of self or as an “occasional identity”. The citizen appears either as the primary political agent or as anindividual whose private activities leave little time or inclination to engage actively in politics, entrusting the business of law-making to representatives. If the liberal model of citizenship dominates contemporary constitutional democracies, the republican critique of the private citizen's passivity and insignificance is still alive and well.
Republicans have problems of their own. First andforemost is a concern, often repeated since Benjamin Constant, that their ideal has become largely obsolete in the changed circumstances of the “grands États modernes” (Constant 1988). Aiming to realize the original republican ideal in the present context would be a disaster, as was the Jacobins' attempt during the French revolution (Walzer 1989, 211). Today's citizens will not be Romans: first,the scale and complexity of modern states seem to preclude the kind of civic engagement required by the republican model. If an individual's chances of having an impact as an active citizen are close to nil, then it makes more sense for him to commit himself to non-political activities, be they economic, social or familial. His identity as citizen is not central to his sense of self and...