Claus Leggewie: Transnational citizenship

It is time for social science and political actors to acknowledge this "paradigm shift" from international to transnational relations, which is also to recognize that a new form of world politics is emerging: citizenship (and governance) beyond the nation-state...

We can now define more precisely as transnational a social field, transcending national affiliation, in which a growing number of people lead a kind of double life. The expropriation of farmers, which tore the agrarian population from the "soil" and drove them into the industrial cities, now finds its counterpart in a kind of "expropriation of borders"

Citizenship can mean a lot of things:
1. a formal legal status that links individuals to a state or another established polity (such as the European Union or a federal province); 2. abundle of legal rights and duties associated with this status, including civil liberties, rights to democratic representation, and social rights to education, health care, and protection from poverty risks; 3. a set of responsibilities, virtues, and practices that support democratic self-government; 4. acollective identity that can be shared across distinctions of class, race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or way of life (Bauböck: 2008: 3).
Bauböck connects legal and political aspects of status and participation with cultural and identitarian phenomena that have always intermingled within the framework of modern nation-states (Bader 1997, Fox 2005). Indeed, various efforts were made to resolve the constant tension between the legal and the political features of citizenship and their identitarian and cultural underpinnings via nation-building: some states were based on linking political status to ethnic descent, whereas most republics pretended to be "culture-blind". However, immigration and transnational cultural interconnections have relativized these typologies; and economic and cultural globalization has definitely transcended the legal and political boundaries of sovereign nation-states.

Even before the formation of the modern nation-state, cosmopolitan aspirations were already emerging: Me velle civis totius mundi non civis oppidi was the answer of Erasmus of Rotterdam in the sixteenth century, when Swiss Reformation leader Ulrich Zwingli offered him citizenship in Zurich. The humanist philosopher is said to have replied that he did not want to become a citizen of a single city, but of the "entire world". World citizenship in this sense was always one of humanity's dreams, one considered as honourable as it was unfulfillable. Now globalization has not only razed the fortress of the nation-state (as progress in ballistics did the fortified walls of medieval city-states), it has also created the opportunity for what is called transnational citizenship. Historically, nations provided the framework of modern community and society; they defined (and limited) the space of communication within which political parties and interest groups of all kinds operated, thus creating the prerequisites for equal representation and civic participation. In the welfare state, too, who should be included in and who excluded from the system of mutual support was defined within this national framework. But the universalistic principle of inclusion itself helped migrants gain a highly valued status as residents, without being formal citizens. A person's national citizenship was thus uncoupled from his or her right to have rights, insofar as international laws, for example to protect migrant labour, and human rights conventions became plausible as independent sources of individual and collective rights. The question at hand is: Between local patriotism and global markets, where is homo politicus located?

World citizenship: Facets and drivers of transnationalisation

The Oxford Dictionary dates the emergence of the term "transnational" to about 1920, as documented by a quotation from an economic text that described Europe after World War I as being characterized by its "international or more correctly transnational economy". Interestingly, the dictionary provided another source identifying the Christian Church as the sole power that could create the conditions for a "transnational, non-racial democratic polity". One author, who had "transnational America" in view as early as 1916, is not mentioned: Randolph S. Bourne. While the nations of Europe fought a savage war, this literary critic and pacifist from New York emphasized the special potential of the USA, something he thought could provide the bases for a future world society. The USA, as the "first new nation" of immigrants, clearly did not have recourse to the European bases – either ethnic-cultural or state-bureaucratic – for nation-building and collective identity. On the other hand, Bourne rejected the then-current idea of a "melting pot": "We are all foreign-born abroad or the descendants of foreign-born, and if distinctions are to be made between us they should rightly be on some other ground than indigenousness." One should not seek the foundations of American collective identity in a mystified past, as was the case with European nationalism, instead "we must perpetrate the paradox that our American cultural tradition lies in the future." Bourne drew the conclusion that "America is coming to be, not a nationality but a trans-nationality, a weaving back and forth with other lands, of many threads of all sizes and colors" (Bourne 1916: 87, 92, 96).

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, "transnational" has become a technical, but also a fashionable term. It is used especially in connection with international organizations and the "multis" (transnational corporations, or TNCs). In accordance with the original meaning of the Latin prefix "trans", it points beyond the usual diplomatic dealings among sovereign nation-states and the customary division of labour among "national economies"; the unit of analysis, not only in international relations, has become Weltgesellschaft(world society, see Luhmann 2000). This did not imply the "end of nation-states"; however, state sovereignty as we knew it has become "anachronistic" (Czempiel 1969). From the macroperspective or bird's-eye view of the world economy, the glance drifts to the microlevel of Lebenswelt (life world), where we can trace the cross-boundary paths via which people and objects, metaphors and symbols, individual life histories and collective biographies are transferred. It is time for social science and political actors to acknowledge this "paradigm shift" from international to transnational relations, which is also to recognize that a new form of world politics is emerging: citizenship (and governance) beyond the nation-state...

We can now define more precisely as transnational a social field, transcending national affiliation, in which a growing number of people lead a kind of double life. The expropriation of farmers, which tore the agrarian population from the "soil" and drove them into the industrial cities, now finds its counterpart in a kind of "expropriation of borders". This casts doubt on sociology's "container vision"; its spatial metaphors referring to closed national societies now seem outmoded. For transmigrants live long term in two or more places, constantly speak two or more languages, possess en masse two or more passports, and pass continually in both directions through makeshift households, networks of relationships and spaces of communication. From this perspective, migration "routes" count more for cultural studies than the "roots" of a migrant's personal identity in national collectivities (Clifford 1997, Hannertz 1996). All of which, perhaps combined with and crowned by the World Wide Web, a medium of transnationalization par excellence, leads to a despatialization that, unlike classic emigration, permits "virtual proximity". This allows communities to maintain themselves even without constant face-to-face encounters, as the poles – "at home" and "abroad" – of such transitory existence finally become almost interchangeable...

Read more: http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-02-19-leggewie-en.html

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