Practice Question – Discuss T H Marshall`s views on Citizenship(UPSC 2014) 

Approach – Introduction, Define Citizenship, Give T H Marshall`s theory, Criticism, Conclusion



The concept of citizenship as we understand today has not always been the same, considering it existed even in the times of the Greeks and the Romans. Aristotle in his book ‘Politics’, said that man is a social animal and for the development of his personality he needs to participate in affairs of the polis. By this he hinted at the need for a citizenship of man and various discourses have been made since on the concept of citizenship. The Greeks saw citizenship as the enjoyment of the right. The Greeks saw citizenship as the enjoyment of the right of sharing in the deliberative or judicial office. The Romans citizenship guaranteed the right to vote, eligibility for public office, right to intermarriage, etc. Bodin saw citizenship as the mutual obligation between subject and sovereign to obey and to protect.

With the moving to later periods, citizenship was discussed by thinkers like Mill, Bentham, who focussed mainly on individual liberty, political participation and property rights and Green, who focussed on the criterion of having a good life and social welfare. T H Marshall viewed citizenship as different parts and how they were all intertwined. In his famous book ‘Citizenship and Social class’ he brings out this points and views citizenship as a dynamic idea.



The word citizen was made popular by the French Revolution in 1789. Later on, this word was used whenever democratic governments were constituted. At present it is common usage to treat people in democratic societies as citizens. It means, above all, that in relation to his government, the individual is active, not simply passive. He does not only obey and listen to what the government says. The government must also listen to him in turn. He has the right to express his views freely, to be consulted and to be involved in the politics of his country. The citizen does not only enjoy rights. He also has some duties towards his country, society and fellow citizens. A citizen is a person who enjoys rights that the constitution provides; and enjoyment of rights also imposes some duties upon him. A good citizen is one who is conscious of his rights and duties.



The idea of citizenship means that not only the government has some claims on the citizen, the citizen too has some claims on the government. A government is an association like many others in society. But it is an association of a special kind, an association that one simply cannot escape or be indifferent about. Democrats rightly feel that since the government
control the people, it is good that people must have some kind of control over the government. The best government is one in which the largest number of people participate in making decisions for the whole society. This participation of ordinary people is precisely what is called citizenship.



Citizenship is an obsolete concept since its cause, the nation state, itself has become obsolete. In a globalised world where technology and trade are creating transnational communities, global citizenship is the beginning of a process that will obliterate boxed identities defined by blood and soil. Nation states have the tendency to influence the course of history by imposing it on feuds and rivalries from the past. These impulses of history have been responsible for large-scale bloodshed. The holocaust was a result of the Nazi quest for a racially pure national identity. Similar state-sponsored mass murders have occurred in the Balkans and Africa in the twentieth century. The long standing wars and border disputes all over the world— Palestine, Kashmir, Rwanda, Chechnya— are all a result of our inability to traverse the fault lines of regionalism, religion and ethnicity. Citizenship has been the passport to partake in this dance macabre of violence. It does not offer one the choice of identity but imposes an identity that brings with it a history of prejudice and violence. Any measure that attempts to dilute the influence of a narrow, national identity is welcome.



Civil society refers to the space for collective action around shared interests, purposes and values, generally distinct from government and commercial for-profit actors. Civil society includes charities, development NGOs, community groups, women’s organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, social movements, coalitions and advocacy groups. However civil society is not homogeneous and the boundaries between civil society and government or civil society and commercial actors can be blurred. There is certainly no one ‘civil society’ view, and civil society actors need to contend with similar issues of representativeness and legitimacy as those of other representatives and advocates.

The term ‘civil society’ was used by writers such as Locke and Rousseau to describe civil government as differentiated from natural society or the state of nature. The Marxist concept derives from Hegel. In Hegel, civil or bourgeois society, as the realm of individuals who have left the unity of the family to enter into economic competition, is contrasted with the state, or political society. For Hegel it is only through the state that the universal interest can prevail, since he disagrees with Locke, Rousseau or Adam Smith that there is any innate rationality in civil society, which will lead to the general good. The modern state is made necessary and at the same time limited by the characteristics of civil society. The fragmentation and misery of civil society escape the control of the state, which is limited to formal, negative activities and is rendered impotent by the conflict, which is the essence of economic life. The political identity of individuals as citizens in modern society is severed from their State Society civil identity and from their function in the productive sphere as tradesman, day-labourer, or landowner.



Citizenship for Marshall is a status bestowed on those who are full members of a community. Those who possess this status are equal with respect to the rights and duties that come with it. However, there is no universal principle that determines what those rights and duties shall be. Marshall divides citizenship into three parts

• Civil
• Political
• Social

The civil element is composed of the rights necessary for individual freedom, like personal liberty, freedom of speech, right to own property, freedom of thought etc. The institutions most directly associated with civil rights are the courts of justice. It also includes the right to work, that is to follow the occupation of one’s choice, something that was denied by both statutes and customs.

The political element mainly means 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, where the corresponding institutions are parliament and councils of local government. The political element made its appearance in the nineteenth century when the civil rights attached to the status of freedom was already at the core of a general idea of citizenship. Political citizenship was meant to grant the old rights to new sections of society. Universal suffrage marked the beginning of political citizenship to individuals.

The social element means to be able to live in a society as a civilized being, according to the prevailing standards in society with economic welfare and security to the right to share to the full in the social heritage. The institutions of the educational system and the social services most closely connected with it. The social element of citizenship made entry much later and was originally sourced in the membership of local communities and functional associations.

Thus Marshall entered into the realm of viewing citizenship from the social class perspective. With the changing nature of capitalism, the nature of citizenship also changed, to a more complicated version. The changing economy brought newer sections to power- the industrialists were now more powerful than the landlords that enjoyed privilege in the feudal system. The new classes that rose to power now demanded more rights, and thus they moved towards democratization to protect their interest, especially that of accumulation of property and so-called equality. The newly grown idea of citizenship was now supposed to protect the people in power, the bourgeois class whose aim was to extend the capitalist market economy and the citizenship rights were supposed to advance the process. However, the feudal class that previously enjoyed power were now left abandoned. Some rights were granted to the working class, like that of political franchise, through various socialist movements.

But the varying interests of different classes gradually led to a greater conflict. While the industrialists aimed for more profits and no taxation, the welfare state of social citizenship needed to increase taxation. Social citizenship ensured the provision of basic necessities like health and education along with the minimum wages rules, rules for minimum hours of work, minimum working conditions, occupational safety and compensation in case of accidents at the workplace etc. The capitalist ideology is based on inequality and exploitation of workers and thus the concept of social rights hurt the capitalist ideology. The state dealt with these two opposing interests by granting some rights to the working class, preventing them from proceeding to a greater conflict that could overthrow the system. The introduction of citizenship rights thus did not end inequalities, but only gave an illusion of equality, further pushing back the working class into the exploitative system while consoling them with external improvements. Thus, Marshall set in motion a questioning of the righteousness of democracy, that only carries on the capitalist expansionism with the veil of equality.



While the notion of citizenship may go along with a great deal of economic and social inequalities, the level playing field it suggests on the basis of equal rights may make such inequalities an issue of target of concerned citizens. Many social movements of modern times have striven not merely for the inclusion of excluded social groups into the body of citizens, but also for extending and expanding the zone of equal rights. Inspite of such strivings, the notion of citizenship remains deeply ambivalent. Liberals tend to stress on the equality and freedom of citizens. Marxists, however, are not very enthusiastic regarding citizenship as they feel that it is a device employed by the capitalist state to restate social relations of classes as relations of citizens. They, however, feel that citizenship as a political device can be of immense use in activating social agents to subject public institutions to a critique and search for alternatives. Inspite of the ambiguities in which this concept is caught, there is a widespread agreement that the zone of citizenship be enlarged. This concern for the expansion of the zone of rights has brought within its fold, cultural communities and political minorities who have sought a range of rights, specific to their predicament. They have argued that along with equal rights, their specific differences be taken into account in ordering political communities and their institutions.


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