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A primer on citizenship CHARLES TILLY Columbia University Since they properly concern duties, obligations, privileges, and rights, discussions of citizenship necessarily proceed in a normative shadow. Even when they focus on descriptions and explanations rather than prescriptions, scholars who deal with citizenship ordinarily draw on a nostalgia for missing relations, a comparison of actual performances with connections between citizens and their polities that — regardless of whether they have ever actually existed anywhere - could and should exist. Ideas of citizenship vindicate visions of the good civic life. Instead of laying out alternative visions of citizenship, tracing its history in detail, reviewing the rich contributions to its analysis offered by the articles in this symposium, or situating the symposium with respect to relevant literatures, this brief comment simply sketches a way of thinking about descriptive, explanatory, and prescriptive ap- proaches to citizenship. A little definitional work clarifies the essential connections. Let us take government to designate any organization that controls the chief coercive means within some substantial territory, reserving the name state for those governments that a) do not fall under the jurisdiction of any other government, b) receive recognition from other governments in the same situation. Citizenship then refers to a relation between 1) governmental agents acting uniquely as such and 2) whole categories of persons identified uniquely by their connection with the government in question. The relation includes transactions among the parties, of course, but those transactions cluster around mutual rights and obli- gations. What are rights and obligations? Imagine X and Y as social actors, including organizations and whole categories of persons. X’s rights with respect to Y include all enforceable claims that X can make on Y, Theory and Society 26: 599-602, 1997. © 1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands. 600 with the crucial feature of enforcement being that authoritative third parties will intervene to promote Y’s compliance with the claims in question. Obligations are nothing but the same enforceable claims seen from Y’s perspective. Citizenship designates a set of mutually enforceable claims relating categories of persons to agents of governments. Like relations between spouses, between co-authors, between workers and employers, citizen- ship has the character of a contract: variable in range, never com- pletely specifiable, always depending on unstated assumptions about context, modified by practice, constrained by collective memory, yet ineluctably involving rights and obligations sufficiently defined that either party is likely to express indignation and take corrective action when the other fails to meet expectations built into the relationship. As observers, we actually witness transactions between governmental agents and members of broadly-defined categories, but we abstract from those transactions a cultural bundle: a set of mutual rights and obligations. Citizenship resembles the run of contracts in drawing visible lines between insiders and outsiders, yet engaging third parties to respect and even enforce its provisions. It differs from most other contracts in 1) binding whole categories of persons rather than single individuals to each other, 2) involving differentiation among levels and degrees of members, 3) directly engaging a government’s coercive power. To the extent that governments control substantial resources, including coer- cive means, these three differentials single out citizenship as a potent form of contract liable to fierce contestation. Military service, eligibil- ity for public office, voting rights, payment of taxes, public education, access to public services, and protection of rent-producing advantages — all frequent items in contracts of citizenship — have engaged serious struggle for centuries. As contributors to this symposium demonstrate abundantly, contracts of citizenship have a history at least as tortuous as that of other major contracts — marital, commercial, or intellectual. For centuries, as Maarten Prak points out most forcefully, citizenship bound most West- ern European people not to organizations like the large, centralized, consolidated states of recent experience but to smaller units such as municipalities. Despite emulation and mutual influence from one local polity to another, the small scale produced great variability in condi- tions of citizenship from place to place. As Prak also establishes, 601 between 1750 and 1850 Europe’s consolidating states did not so much absorb these earlier forms of citizenship as subordinate or even smash them in favor of relatively uniform categorization and obligation at a national scale. Not that any state ever established a single contract of citizenship or an impermeable boundary between citizens and non-citizens. All states differentiate within their citizenries, at a minimum distinguishing be- tween minors and adults, prisoners and free persons, naturalized and native-born. Many make finer gradations, for example by restricting suffrage or military service to adult males, imposing property qualifi- cations for certain rights, or installing a range from temporary resi- dents to probationary applicants for citizenship to full-fledged partici- pants in citizenship’s rights and obligations. The European Union (as Antje Wiener documents) is further compli- cating categories of citizenship by establishing rights that transfer from state to state and by creating some sets of rights connecting whole categories of Europeans not to agents of the states within which they reside but to agents of the Union itself. Just as large capitalist firms establish not one uniform contract with all their workers but numerous contracts connecting managers with different categories of workers, states and citizens maintain multiple categories of relationship. More visibly than in the case of capitalist firms (where a new firm typically borrows a great deal of its organizational structure, including contracts, from existing firms in the same industry), rights and obliga- tions linking citizens to states have formed through struggle. State demands for resources and compliance generate bargaining, resist- ance, and settlements encapsulating both rights and obligations, as when popularly-elected parliaments gain power through their role in raising taxes for warfare. But segments of the subject population also acquire rights and obligations by mobilizing to demand state agents’ intervention, reorganization, or reallocation of state-controlled re- sources. In our own time, we commonly use names like taxation, conscription, and regulation — all of them regularly generating bar- gaining, resistance, and settlements — for activities falling clearly into the first category, reserving names like parties, pressure groups, and social movements for unambiguous members of the second category, while placing governmental expenditure, bureaucratic operation, and public services in an intermediate location.