Citizenship and Federations: Some Preliminary Reflections

“Citizenship and Federations: Some Preliminary Reflections” in K. Nicolaidis & R. Howse, eds., The Federal Vision: Legitimacy and Levels of Governance in the US and the EU (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) 377-402.

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In this chapter, I offer some preliminary reflections on the place of citizenship in a theory of federalism. Citizenship is one of the central concepts in political theory. Liberal political theorists working with a liberal democratic framework have stipulated that a conception of citizenship must satisfy two constraints in order to be suitable for liberal democracies. First, there is the legitimacy constraint—that is, whether a conception of citizenship can serve as the basis of political legitimacy in societies that aspire to be liberal democracies. Second there is the stability constraint—whether a conception of citizenship provides a sufficiently strong basis for social unity to ensure the survival of a political community. The civic conception of citizenship meets the legitimacy constraint but fails to satisfy the stability constraint; the ethnic conception of citizenship meets the stability constraint but fails to satisfy the legitimacy constraint. In this article, I set out a third conception of citizenship—the community of fate—in which the particular features of a political community are not valuable in themselves, but because they embody or implement general principles of a universal nature, thereby allowing them to serve as the cement of political integration because they are situated in a historically informed and concrete way so that they can count as reasons for participating in schemes of political cooperation. This conception of citizenship is particularly well-suited for federations.