Politics Essay

721 Words Jun 22nd, 2014 3 Pages
What Does It Mean to Be a Citizen?

Most of us think of citizenship as a political ideal. To be a citizen is to be a member of a political community, namely the nation-state. With it, of course, come certain legal rights (such as the rights of habeas corpus, the rights of free speech, the right to bear arms, and so on) as well as political responsibilities (such as the duty to participate in elections, to serve as a member of a jury, and the like). On the face of it, citizenship is rather straightforward, uncomplicated, and not all that interesting. But citizenship is more than a legal designation. It is also a cultural ideal. It is infused with moral meaning, encompassed by normative principles, values, and expectations that all derive
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While some people see this as a revitalization of democratic politics, others see online activity as having the potential to become a form of virtual and vicarious political action that inhibits real public engagement. Add to this the growing frustration with the expansion of governmental bureaucracy. Such developments seem to undermine authentic connections for average citizens with their government, making many feel more like passive observers than active participants in self-government. For these, the possibility of meaningful engagement in the political process seems a good but old-fashioned idea that is simply no longer realistic. Politics has become just too complicated for the average person, so why not leave it to the experts? Globalization only complicates matters further. Certainly, the boundaries of a political community in modern times have become considerably fuzzier, and as a result, there


are pressures to reconfigure the meaning of citizenship. Nowhere is this more in play than in the European Union. How does a person’s membership in the E.U. relate to her status as a citizen of, say, Italy or France or Germany? At an extreme, these crosscurrents seem to herald a new form of political community that will likely spread to other parts of the world. Already there are clear

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