what is citizenship?

Generally speaking “citizenship defines to what or whom we give our loyalty, how we relate to other citizens, and our vision of the ideal society” (SOURCE?).  Citizenship is the relationship between an individual citizen and a state in to whom the individual owes allegiance; the citizen in turn is entitled to protection by the state.  Citizenship implies that status of freedom with accompanying responsibilities.  Also, citizenship is about who we are and how we live together.


Citizenship brings to mind other concepts:  patriotism, loyalty, love, acceptance of rights, responsibilities and laws of society and a willingness to contribute to the common good. Above all citizenship implies an individual has both rights and responsibilities.  It is the fabric that knits together countries, as well as tying together all people as citizens of the world.  Citizenship is not limited to countries; world citizenship encompasses universal human rights and international law while still recognize national patriotism and autonomy.  Its hallmark “is university in diversity.”


The notion of citizenship first arose in towns and city-states of ancient Greece.  In exchange for a say in how the city was run – in the form of a vote – and the protections afforded to the city’s residents, citizens agreed to pay taxes and to perform military service on behalf of the city-state.


The Romans first used citizenship as a device to distinguish the residents of the city of Rome from those peoples whose territories Rome had conquered.  Citizenship in ancient Rome was usually acquired by birth although it could also be granted by generals and emperors. As Rome expanded its control in Italy, more people who fell under the Roman Empire also wanted citizenship.  After a revolt over status, citizenship was finally conferred on all people in Italy and eventually citizenship was extended to all free inhabitants of the empire.


Over hundreds of years, the term citizenship was adopted elsewhere in the world.  In England, citizenship originally referred to membership of a borough or local municipal corporation.  Citizenship also came to have special meaning during the American and French Revolutions in the 1770s, when the term citizen referred to someone standing up to the power of the King and Crown.  The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted in 1789, is one of the fundamental documents of the French Revolution that defined the individual and collective rights of the people and modernized the concept of citizenship.


In recent years, the concept of citizenship has become more inclusive, and there are many ways of becoming a citizen. Most people become a citizen of a country by being born there.   Other people immigrate to another country and, after a period of time and upon request, are recognized as citizens.  Marriage also confers citizenship in many countries. In Europe, a person might be a citizen of France and of the European Union.  In Canada, a person might be a citizen of a First Nation or a citizen of Quebec and also a citizen of Canada. There are many people who hold multicultural citizenship, meaning they are a citizen of more than one nation. 


Citizenship broadly affects four areas of a person’s life.  The civil domain of citizenship refers to commonly held goals and values in a society.  It covers community values, the role and limits of government, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association, access to information and equality before the law.  The political domain of citizenship involves the right to vote and to political participation. Free elections are key to this dimension of citizenship, as is the right to freely seek political office.  In other words, political citizenship refers to political rights and duties with respect to the political system.


The socio-economic domain of citizenship includes the rights to economic well-being, for example the rights to social security, to work, to minimum means of subsistence and to a safe environment.  The cultural or collective domain of citizenship refers to the way societies consider the increasing cultural diversity of societies, diversity due to a greater openness to other cultures, to global migration and to increased mobility.  Cultural citizenship refers to awareness of a common cultural heritage.  This component includes the quest for recognition of collective rights of minorities.