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How Is Globalization Impacting Citizenship? Term Paper

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Updated: Dec 15th, 2021


Globalization is the singular most irresistible force of modern times. It has overpowered the political and economic authority of nation-states and reduced their capacity policy imperatives. Thus, in this world globalization is the triumphant force over agency, citizenship, and the nation-state as the latter lose their relevance. Due to the engrossing impact of globalization, concepts like citizenship that so far were closely intertwined with the nation-state concept has become problematic. Countries have altered their policies regarding immigrant citizenships access and the notion of citizenship has gained focus in academic and political discourse (Castles & Davidson, 2000).

The concept of modern citizenship has undergone drastic changes from “individuals endowed with entitlements or rights” within the parameters of government and territorial nation-states (Falk, 2000, p. 5). Thus, citizenship arises from the concept of “entitlement” and freedom from authority and coercion. Thus, the modern concept of citizenship could be traced through the secular nation-state backdrop, which was a geographically bordered concept of political community. Thus, this concept was in contrast to the concept of ethnicity or religion. Citizenship is the modern concept that allowed the full right of membership to this political community and duty and responsibility towards this nation-state (Falk, 2000). This definition of citizenship demonstrates an exclusionary concept of citizenship related to nationalism. However, the liberal-democratic theory of citizenship is more of a concept that helps in attaining political cohesion. Thus, in this concept, citizenship is more inclusive and open to all rather than exclusive as pointed out in the geography-bound definition of citizenship (Castles & Davidson, 2000). The traditional concept of citizenship, which abides by legal status or administrative category, refutes the new concept of a global citizen, which transcends nation-states (Stokes, 2004). This article proposes the thesis that globalization has transcended the concept of citizenship from its traditional geographically bound identity of the nation-state and abides by its responsibility in a global community.


Citizenship has its basis in the empowerment of individuals (Castles & Davidson, 2000; Falk, 2000). One of the oldest political concepts of western political philosophies, citizenship has its root in the Greek tradition (Castles & Davidson, 2000; Shafir & Brysk, 2006). Historically, the concept was developed from Aristotelian philosophy that stressed on civic membership of individuals, which provided a legal and social affiliation. The main ideology of the Greek concept of citizenship was to provide individuals equality to participate in the polis and to engage in military activity. The concept of citizenship has undergone a complete makeover from what it originated as and the concept of citizenship spun around three areas: “through the transfer of citizenship from one political context of sovereignty to another, through extension to members of new groups and ultimately to all members of the nation-state and, finally, through the expansion of the content of the rights of citizenship themselves” (Shafir & Brysk, 2006, p. 276). Thus, traditionally citizenship implies the right to have a membership to political sovereignty. Citizens enjoyed rights due to their “local, particularistic, and political character” (Shafir & Brysk, 2006, p. 276). However, this concept of citizenship has been under scrutiny due to the increased globalization that has led to multiculturalism. Thus, there has been a cry for a different concept of citizenship that will allow the accommodation of distinct cultures within the geographic boundaries of a nation-state. Thus, according to this concept of citizenship, there is an increasing urge to institutionalize groups that are not under geographic territory. Thus, the concept of citizenship under the new trend of globalization has led to a change in the concept of citizenship.

Has Globalization declined Citizenship?

Globalization has led to the decline of citizenship and the authority of the nation-state. Here the decline is observed from the perspective of nationalistic feeling, allegiance to the state, and territoriality. Falk argues that globalization has led to a decline of citizenship and his thesis argues this stand from six perspectives:

  1. the changing role of the state;
  2. the rise of civilization, religion, and ethnic identities;
  3. new forms of backlash politics;
  4. the assertion of non-Western perspectives;
  5. trends toward post-heroic geopolitics;
  6. the rise of transnational social forces” (Falk, 2000, p. 9).

Globalization has led to a degradation of the feeling of nationalism and territorial identity. This is applicable in the case of the West after the Cold War era. It is argued that the loss of territorial identity due to globalization is acute in states that do not have patriarchal influence like kings and bishops to shape the citizenry (Falk, 2000). The democratic nations established citizenship through rights and duties, and one of which was to elect the public representative in the government. Nevertheless, globalization has led the idea of politics and state to a “non-territorial character” that has weakened the sense of “national identification” (Falk, 2000, p. 10). Falk argues that it is in the mentality of the ruling or the elite class who have accepted this transgression. This has reduced the role of the citizen, as there has been reduced need to elect a government due to “the influence of globalization tends to minimize political differences within states among contending political parties, thereby trivializing electoral rituals” (Falk, 2000, p. 11). Thus, there has been a “decline” of the concept of citizenship that was predominantly centered on participation in secular, territorial states.

The fall of the concept of the territorial citizenry has increased the multidimensionality between individuals in a global village on lines of ethnicity and religion and has eventually led to the rise of ethnic and religious separatist movements, a feature romanticized by Huntington (1996). Considering the examples of Malaysia and Singapore, this stress on increasing cultural and religious division is clear. Both these countries have gained economic success by participating in the global economy, however, their political leaders are constantly stressing in establishing a culture more that resists the trend of Westernization. Thus, political leaders have stressed non-secular modes of distinction (as was done in traditional citizenship) to establish a religious and ethnic identity based on regional value. While in case of the West there, has been a greater shift in the locus to accept the multiculturalism expounded thorough globalization. These simultaneously altering patters have led to an adjustment of “the normal domain of the citizen into a subordinate category of identity”, thus, giving rise to “rootlessness” associated with globalization (Falk, 2000, p. 12).

Political propaganda of decline of jobs for and wages driven by foreign workforce has been a populist political stunt used to aggravate the grassroot workers, which Falk (2000) terms as “backlash politics”. Thus, globalization has given rise to intolerance in the form of “chauvinistic and xenophobic types of nationalism”. It is inconsistent to the values of a secular nation-state and its citizenry ideas. Further, in Third World countries there has been a rise of revolutionary backlash wherein the government has failed to deliver its promise, thus leading to violence and misery of the people. This has led to the idea of Westernization as the hegemonic project of the West. Thus, modernization though viewed positively, is seen as negative whenever there is western influence. Thus, this has led to a decline in citizenship values:

Such developments constrain the space and role of the citizen, at least as conceived in the modernist sense of acting within the territorial state in dynamic interaction with the government, and as presumed in times of emergency to be loyal to the official policies of the country.” (Falk, 2000, p. 13)

Other critics like Kuisma (2008) believe that globalization has led to the commoditization of citizenship. Thus, globalization challenges the very concept of citizenship as a bound concept and mainly due to reasons like increased economic, cultural and social interdependence and growth of trans-state political entities like the European Union (Kuisma, 2008). It is believed that in a world where globalization occurs partially, the southern part of the world are victims of their own condition, and have to undergo the change. Citizenship, like it has been done in the nineteenth and twentieth century, has been used as a vehicle for democratization and state-building, still can be utilized as a vehicle to demands for “global citizens’ rights” (Kuisma, 2008, p. 625).

“Citizenship” – A Broader Concept

There exists little debate on the broadening of the concept of citizenship with the advent of globalization. Globalization in one hand has reduced the role of nation-state in defining the concept of citizenship, which has led to regionalization and localism that has strengthened the political and cultural stratum, and on the other has increased multiculturalism that has increased the need to articulate the need of social groups bearing different identity (Borja, 2000). The present concept of citizenship is found in a paradox due to reduced sovereign and economic regulation, and thus, there is a need to “consolidate and broaden ‘citizenship’”:

Without denying the need to consider these demands within the scope of the State, it also seems logical to propose to the new political spheres, both of supra-State character (such as the European Union) and sub-State character (regions and municipalities) the deregulation, protection and broadening of citizenship.” (Borja, 2000, p. 45).

So what is the plausible way to change the content and context of the concept of citizenship? Is changing the content of citizenship idea the answer to the changing world dynamics? It is difficult to answer. However, the basic thought of citizenship concept as an inclusionary ideology that provides individuals with participatory rights must not be altered. As Falk states:

The idea of citizenship as the basis for rights and duties in relation to the state continues to provide a legitimate grounding for oppositional and reform politics being pursued in a variety of national settings. The citizen is entitled, among many other things, to expect that the government and its political leaders will adhere to law, including those international obligations that pertain to the ordering of domestic society.” (Falk, 2000, p. 15)

Globalization as a concept has already started pushing for individual rights in social and economic arena. Thus, there has been a new move towards the human rights activism today, which addresses citizenship as a human right of individuals (Falk, 2000; Shafir & Brysk, 2006). Thus, citizenship has moved from civil and political right of people to become a human right. One reason for this is due to a stronger line being drawn between citizens and non-citizens in terms of denial of social protection to the latter, due to the increasing xenophobic fear over lack of job opportunity. Further, there should be a shift in the concept of citizenship from space to time. This shift reduces the territorial binding of individuals over political identity. It is believed that economic globalization has led to certain cruel aspects in the global market and there must be a motivation for the reformist aspect. Therefore, time is the essential element that can look into the “existing capacities of regional and global institutions, or any other existing institutional setting, in the search for a more compassionate politics” (Falk, 2000, p. 16).


Citizenship as a concept has undergone changes over time and space. Globalization has also le to alterations in the concept of citizenship as a nation-state bound concept. The territoriality and nationalistic ideologies of citizenship are lost in the present global sense. However, it has given rise to concept of religion, region, and ethnicity that has raised fundamental questions regarding individual identity in a multicultural world. Citizenship as a political concept must undergo change, retaining its fundamental qualities of equality and representation. The ideology of membership to a nation-state must be altered due to transgression of territorial boundaries between nation-states due to emergence of globalization. Transnational social forces have brought fort the need to broaden the concept of citizenship and make it more tolerant and inclusive in order to be able to absorb the “others” and accumulate them in a global civil society. Thus, citizenship has transformed to become human and individual right, rather than retain its political right status.


Borja, J. (2000). The citizenship question and the challenge of globalization. City Vol. 4 No. 1 , 43 – 52.

Castles, S., & Davidson, A. (2000). Citizenship and migration: globalization and the politics of belonging. New York: Routledge.

Falk, R. (2000). The Decline of Citizenship in an Era of Globalization. Citizenship Studies Vol. 4 No. 1 , 5-17.

Huntington, S. P. (1996). The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kuisma, M. (2008). Rights or privileges? The challenge of globalization to the values of citizenship. Citizenship Studies Vol. 12 No. 6 , 613–627.

Shafir, G., & Brysk, A. (2006). The Globalization of Rights: From Citizenship to Human Rights. Citizenship Studies Vol. 10 No. 3 , 275–287.

Stokes, G. (2004). Transnational Citizenship: Problems of Definition, Culture and Democracy. Cambridge Review of International Affairs Vol. 17 No. 4 , 119-135.

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