What Does It Mean to Be a Citizen?   /   Fall 2008   /    Articles

Citizenship as a Comprehensive Doctrine

Ronald Beiner

Citizenship consists in sharing a political community and enjoying the benefits and shouldering the political responsibilities that give effect to this experience of shared political community. According to a tradition of long repute within the history of political thought, the “office” of being a citizen is a central part of the human vocation, and we can only fulfill the highest possibilities of our human nature by giving a privileged status to this social role among the panoply of our other social roles. It is standard practice among political theorists to refer to the family of theo- ries expressing this view as composing the civic republican tradition (which stretches roughly from Aristotle in the fourth century B.C.E. to Hannah Arendt in the twentieth century). But there are also many modern liberal theories that give the vocation of citizenship a privileged status within the normative economy of human life; I will use the term “civicism” as a catch-all for theories that accord to citizenship privileged status among human ends, whether political theorists consider these as civic republican theories or liberal theories.

To read the full article online, please login to your account or subscribe to our digital edition ($25 yearly). Prefer print? Order back issues or subscribe to our print edition ($30 yearly).