Peter Spiro is Charles Weiner Professor of Law at Temple University. A former State Department lawyer, National Security Council staff member, and U.S. Supreme Court law clerk, he has written on international, immigration, and constitutional law for may of the nation’s top law reviews as well as such publications as Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic. In his book Beyond Citizenship: American Identity After Globalization Spiro examines how technology has forced many people to spend at least part of their careers overseas and the effect this has had on the concept of “citizenship.” Be sure to check out the round table discussion of Beyond Citizenship here. In the post below Spiro looks at how this is playing out currently.
Citizenship practice is an area of profound contemporary instability. Our conceptions of citizenship are being transformed, with the result that membership in the state no longer enjoys the primacy it once did. This will have pervasive implications for the nature of the state as a location of governance.
Citizenship policy isn’t often above the fold in the newspapers, but there is a lot going on. Here are three items from last week which give some taste of the new ways citizenship is being contested.
1. In Jamaica and several other smaller states, there are heated controversies surrounding the holding of political office by dual citizens (see this story, for example). Many dual citizens are voting in political elections. Why not take it to the next level? Some countries have constitutional bans on office-holding by dual citizens. Many others don’t, and there is pressure in countries such as Jamaica to shelve theirs. In a world in which old-fashioned notions of allegiance don’t stand for much, why disqualify individuals who would otherwise be chosen to serve.
2. The world soccer federation wants to clamp down on players who change their citizenship, with a special concern that Brazilians will otherwise come to dominate the World Cup, not just playing for Brazil (see the story here). The fact that there is a perception of a problem here shows that countries themselves don’t care if their teams actually consist of fellow national. They’re more interested in winning than in sticking to national solidarities.
3. In Australia there is pushback against a new test for naturalization applicants (see here). The test is incurring a 10% failure rate. How to justify depriving individuals of equal status because they can’t pass a test? That’s the dilemma of citizenship in the age of rights. Citizenship is inherently exclusionary, and that doesn’t sit well with contemporary rights sensibilities.
In my book Beyond Citizenship, I look at how globalization is overwhelming the institution of citizenship. There is a powerful nostalgia to defend and restore the state and its liberal virtues, but that won’t be enough.