1. The European citizenship in general typology
The attribute of the citizen, citizenship, the existence of which quietly emerged in western-European societies at a transitional stage of the despotic state, only just in the 19th century, and eventually with time became generalised with the prevailing of the state-nation, is today at the epicentre of interest. This interest in citizenship centres mainly on the issue of political expression of identities, which are released from the stifling ring of the politically sovereign state – in its interior, but also in the wider cosmosystemic happenings -, with the most crucial part being the political activities that are developing within the environment of the European Union.
This indicates, essentially, that in reality the content of citizenship is re-inspected in relation to its primary lining up behind the meaning of nationality, not however in relation to its clearly political characteristic, the meaning of the subject citizen, that takes on the citizen as an appendage of the bodiless – sovereign of politics – state.
The speculation that develops within the European Union is indicative of this. Indeed, the Treaty of Maastricht, by introducing the concept of European citizenship, essentially moved towards the direction of a relative transformation of the Union, from being subject to International Law to becoming a political system with an internal logic and cohesion akin to what suits the national state. By this, it may be considered that it reflects an interesting internal development, which is in fact heading towards changing, in a perceptible way, the ‘identity’, institutional and real function of the citizen-members of the Union, in the context of not only the state and its peripheries, but also that of Europe.
The European citizenship does not suit only the quality of the subject citizenpolitical system (politeia) relatively dominant to them. So that, the quality of European subject citizenship, even though indirect, can be considered that it contravenes, in a sense, the prevailing ethnocentric perception, by virtue of which the acquirement of citizenship presupposes the incorporation of its agent in the particular nation and through it the state. Indeed, in modernity, the nation constitutes the ‘identity’ vehicle of the state, not the political system (politeia) nor the social body.
The European Union comes, on the contrary, to connect the quality of the citizen directly with its political system (politeia). The “belonging” in the European Union reveals the existence of a cultural interrelation of its people with the European impetus, but not of a “European” national identity. That is why the policies of the Union do not refer to a national purpose, nor does its history assert that it “narrates” the proceedings of a particular nation. At the same time however they do not maintain that they are referring to the will of the citizens of the Union. The political system of the Union, indeed typically sympoliteian, is constituted by its member-states and is summoned to gather their will. The political system of Europe is representative of the members of the Union, the national states, however not of their respective societies.
This fact largely explains its logic: In antithesis to the political system of the state-nation, which is indeed pre-representative, the political personnel becomes legitimised in a direct manner by the social body, in the political system of the Union however what is essentially absent is the political category of society. Without a doubt, the recognition of the citizen of the member-state as the Union citizen, is consistent with the explicit reservation of the political personnel, which embodies the power of the state, to constitute itself, ultimately, the political system of the Union. A Union which, at the same time, consists basically of its states, however does not constitute itself a state.
This acknowledgement, combined with the adoption of the idea of indirect subject citizenship, denotes a crucial reservation that reminds that the state preserves for its own benefit the principle of political sovereignty or that, consequently, it does not recognise to the members of its society neither the trait of the citizen of the political system (politeia) nor the right for them to be self-determined politically, as far as their identity is concerned, but merely in direct reference to it.
Nevertheless, it should not be overlooked that in the recognition of the European citizenship, consistent with the formation of the Union as a sympolity, smoulders the dynamics of doubt, if not the refutation of the fundamental pylon that supported the system of political sovereignty of the state-nation: of the principle of the one, unified politically and culturally homogenous state, which recognises one and only citizenship, it’s own. This principle that prefixes the idea of incorporation rather than autonomy, produced two levels of minority: the cultural minority and the political minority. The concept of cultural minority acknowledges that the ethnicity that managed to be defined politically, that is, to conquer and embody the state (i.a. the nation), denies to other cultural entities (ethnicities and others) that potentiality and, subsequently, its members to be endowed with an additional, be it so, citizenship attribute.
The political minority is assembled from the nature of the political system of modernity, that recognises in the momentary or coincidental electoral “majority” a timely dimension, which places, completely out of the way of the political system not only the (electoral) minority, but also the right of the social body to return to its decision and, potentially change its opinion. It is no coincidence that, at least, the major European languages do not distinguish between cultural minority and political minority. Accordingly comes the indication that the citizen of modernity is a subject citizen of the state, and not a partner citizen of the political system (politeia).
The dynamics of the Union and, further, the modifications of the state in an environment of “globalisation” indeed create a new frame for approaching the concept of citizenship, especially on what concerns its relationship to “nationality”. It is not however equally evident that, in the present phase, these developments are capable of leading to a reassessment of the political context of citizenship, that is, the relationship between citizens’ society and politics. Undoubtedly, however, the development of a multicultural emission of the quality of the citizen would on its own be appropriate to bring about a total re-examination of the concept of the public space and especially a relative detachment of it from the state. A re-examination which would aim at, at a first phase, certainly not in the political system incorporation of the citizen and, subsequently, in the transition from a citizen-subject (the citizen of the State) to a citizen of the political system (politeia), but in the formulation of the claim on behalf of the state sub-wholes and the European Union, to organically participate in the synthesis and administration of the public space. In this case, the question: who is authorised to express the “general” or “national” interest, would acquire new dimensions with unforeseen consequences for the character of the political system itself and further the state-nation. It is apparent that in place of the one and one-track national patriotism enters an array of “patriotisms”, which will seek shelter either within the member-state or, more generally, within the European political structure.
This speculation about citizenship shows the direction of the evolution of societies of modernity, that is adjoined from the foundational changes that are elevated from the alteration of the anthropocentric cosmosystem: from the phase of the endo-statecentric building to its relative growth, having regard to its foundational parameters. We find ourselves witnesses, indeed, to a process of changes that shake the foundations of societies of modernity and, by extension, their identity base, the nature of employment and, without fail, of citizenship.
More specifically, the unified state citizenship, which gave an anthropocentric identity to the societies of modernity, is already challenged to its core, having regard to its one-track co-existence with the political system. The search for an attribute of the citizen more familiar to social realities, such as the “politeian” citizenship -which sets, among others, as a meeting point the “self” with the co-habitant “other” the politeia/political system and not the nation-, it will continue, having regard to all indications, to face significant difficulties in order to function as an alternative to the national impetus. Not because it threatens the culturally sovereign nation, but because the state that embodies the nation is not ready to discuss a new approach to its political position. And this is because in the invocation of the pluralistic argument, which refers to the ability of individuals to invest their identities with a political content, slips in, in the final analysis, the proclamation of the multi-state re-composition of the political system of the state.
From another point of view, the organic connection of the state societies with the wider cosmosystemic happenings and its consequences bring about chain modifications, which in the countries of modernity become, also, visible through the breakdown of the working system and the exercised pressure to the “citizenship” work by the “trade” work that is provisioned by the gradual disintegration of the “periphery”. This process, which in the medium-term cannot but lead to a discontinuation of the essence of citizenship from paid work, so long as, as all indications show, it shifts to long-term stability, it will cause, no doubt, catalytic consequences to the relationship between society and politics.
The direct visible consequence of this development could be the elevation of the representative deficit of the modern political system and, especially, the negative consequences of the persistence of modernity to raise a new intermediary barrier between society and politics: that of the groups of “initiative” or, more accurately, of “interests” (the “civil society”), that distribute the same, partial or, as asserted frequently, general objectives. The misgivings about the representative deficit of modernity, which already takes on shape through the refusal of citizens’ society to agree to forms of gregarious legitimation and, in fact “salutary” or, so be it, “protective” character, reveals exactly that the conditions are, so to say, ripe for the elaboration of new hypothesis cases in relation to an alternative political project. At the same time, the dynamics of politics, beyond the state, in the international scene and the push given to them by the advances in communication technology, act in a liberating way for societies, announcing essentially the incubation of a new form of citizenship that surpasses the state; a form of unofficial cosmosystemic citizenship or cosmocitizenship.
Certainly, the transition from the incomplete citizenship (the quality of belonging) to the simple, be it so, citizenship (partnership with the politeia) and, especially, to the full citizenship and cosmocitizenship, is registered in a more general cosmosystemic type change, from which it is apparent that the societies of our time are miles apart. As such, the opening of a prolific dialogue, within that perspective, acquires a without precedent opportuneness.
Yet, the opening of this chapter, inevitably meets with the gnosiological and methodological impasse of modernity, that is, with its persistence to approach the phenomena of our times with synchrony as its compass. From our viewpoint, we appreciate that any reflective baptism of ours in these issues presupposes by definition the scrutinising of its acknowledgements with the measure of the already tested environment of diachrony and, in fact, with a starting point the cosmosystemic reconstruction of the total anthropocentric happenings. This step will lead us obligatorily to a new meeting between the modern and the Hellenic anthropocentrism, having as a rule their true nature as components of a unified and organically compact cosmosystem.
2. The political commitment of the citizen. Forms of action and political systems
The question of political commitment in the framework of modern societies arises on the basis of the dilemma of knowing whether the citizen is interested or not in participating actively in political life. The aporia concerning this question is summed up in the phenomenon of political demobilisation of the citizens, of the drop of electoral participation, of the crisis of society’s trust towards the political world. Rightly so, the problem for discussion remains the disengagement of the citizens, the withdrawal from politics and, from a more general perspective, the withdrawal of individuals from a political militant life.
This assertion is part of a hypothesis of an indisputable basis: that citizenship and, beyond, the forms of political commitment of the citizen is not likely to change typologically, except in its particular variant. The citizen is destined to participate in the election of the agents of the power/State, to assure his attachment to intermediate forces (parties and groups) and drastic mobilisation, as occasion may arise, in the streets or by means of the process of the strike. Behind this thought resides the certitude that the modern political system will not change either.
This approach of the commitment of the citizen appears clearly in the definition of affiliated concepts such as politicisation, participation and, of course, political action. Politicisation for example, is conceived from the angle of partisan commitment in terms of statistics. It is viewed as the equal of massive mobilisation/participation of the citizens in a procedure of offering, almost without conditions, confidence/ consensus and support to intermediate forces, which are destined to manage the power or exercise a pressure on it.
Between politics (and its system), which is identified with the State, and citizens’ society, a clear dichotomy is established whose articulation is assured by the political forces. This signifies that politics do not constitute a value in itself, it does not enter as such in the project of society, it is defined in terms of the means destined to serve a non-political cause (work, economy in general, freedom, rights, etc.). It is therefore the (public) policies that are of interest; politics, namely the political system in itself, does not enter in the plan of society.
It is about, in this context, influencing the policies of power – in this case the State – sometimes by exerting pressure on it, sometimes by encouraging the accession to power of friendly forces.
Politicisation is thus measured on the basis of the degree of commitment, of the attachment to the action of the political party, of the syndicate, etc. The real time that the citizen devotes to politics does not count. Because it is considered as having no implication in political life.
Nevertheless, it is to signal a notable evolution in this approach: up to the 1980s, politicisation, participation and commitment had as an impetus the harmonisation or rather the meeting of the social and political through class ideology. It was about engaging in a political party that was close to its ideology or its social situation. Every differentiation in relation to this doctrine and the option for the behaviours that were not matching the massive commitment of the citizens to the ideologically close forces were considered as a diversion, as a sort of social illness. The diversion par excellence was the individualistic behaviour of the citizen (the principle of political individuality), but also the thematic grouping (the groups of interests). We still continue to treat patronage as an illness of the social and not of the political system.
In the 1980s, we are already witnessing notable changes. The ideology or the belonging of class does not constitute anymore the fundamental incentive of political participation. Additionally to the changes in the political purpose, the citizen starts to no longer be recognised in the traditional models of participation destined to support the intermediate forces and to legitimise the agents of power.
Some have spoken of the crisis in politics, of social de-politicisation, of the disinterest of the citizen in the politicians, etc. In fact, it is about a challenge to the political system in its essence (of its alleged representative nature) and more exactly of traditional forms of participation. From now on, we are in the presence of a “paradox”: the citizen is increasingly interested in politics however he accepts less and less being committed to political life. We can already talk of a transition from massive politicisation to political individuality. This change already clearly appears in the political discourse that evokes more and more often the deficit of representation without taking into account that posing the question in terms of moral, is as if we were asking politicians to oppose a modern political system, which is simply pre-representative.
Before examining the political context and the forms of commitment to which corresponds the concept of political individuality -because it returns to a new type of citizenship-, I would like to stop for a moment and question myself on the causes of this change.
The first remark is that we do not realise that this behaviour (of the mass) together with the socialist and liberal ideologies which have as terrain of application the space of the State correspond at the stage of the passage from feudalism to anthropocentrism. From one point, the State is viewed as the opponent of the ancient regime, through which society will be freed. It is enough that the State is controlled by the friendly forces. Socialism and liberalism were projects that have shown the road of transition. From now on, both, as ideologies of anthropocentric proto-construction within the society of the State, are exceeded.
The second remark is that a free life leads to the study of roles which necessitate the responsibility of the experts and a relative emancipation of society.
The third remark evokes the creation of the communicational conditions (in this case via technology) capable of transporting the new behaviours. I take the example of television, or even the Internet. The place of encounter between the citizens and the agent of power is necessarily different. Before, the single dialectic power was prevailing; from now on, a more or less dialectic relation is established. In the one case, it is power, in the other case it is the argument that establishes the link, that communicates the one and the other.
The fourth remark refers to a relation of forces and, in the final analysis, to political purpose, namely the social project. Previously, it was the establishment of individual freedom and of socio-economic rights passing either by property, either by guarantee and the protection of work. From now on, after having considered that this project was an acquisition, we find ourselves in front of new phenomena: dependent work, if it is not disputed or transformed, falls to the economic migrant, tends to be seen in terms of labor commodity, at a time that capital is denationalised. In these conditions, work can no longer be supported politically in an efficient way. Being a citizen does not constitute an advantage for the guarantee of work, including the conditions, at least in the same way as in the past.
What is the political behaviour that is proper in this new socio-economic environment as much as political individuality? How can the broken relationship between the social and the political be restabilised?
The solution which was put forward as early as the 1980s and whose project prevails beyond doubt today is defined by the concept of governance.
What projects this idea? Firstly, it teaches that the State is a system of management of society and, as such, it must be considered from the perspective of its operational capability, that is to say in terms of effectiveness. This effectiveness is inspired by the laws of private market, the so called open market. Moreover, it proposes to follow the purpose of the market, which consists of maximizing the profit of the agents of the private economy. Since in fact, the prosperity of capital is consistent with the good of society. The State is invited to imitate the open market in its working – in this case the private enterprise – and to promote as an objective the progress of the market.
This new approach of the State, of its working and its purpose, inevitably returns to a new conception of the citizen and the citizen’s political behaviour. To clarify this new conception of citizenship, we had recourse to an old idea, invented by Hegel, of civil society. But civil society is not merely a citizen’s society. The latter does not form a political category. In fact it is about pressure groups or interests that stem from society (including the economy) that get organised and act at the level of power.
In fact, the project of governance/civil society invites the individual/citizen to develop his political action not as a collective entity, that is to say in terms of a politically constituted society or of a solidary class, but as a member of one or of many groups with which he shares a certain number of ideas or common interests. And yet, the project of governance/civil society conceives the citizen in virtue of his attachment to the group, and not under the angle of his individuality. Indeed, society continues, without constituting a political category, the citizen is only the molecule of the social body and not of the political system.
The enhancement of the dynamic of intermediate groups – which until a certain point were considered as a sort of deviance in relation to ideological behaviour or of class – is based on the argument that in order for the State to be operational, the political class in power is surrounded by the intermediate groups that know the “dossier”. So the encounter between the social and the political – which arises by means of the ideology, etc. – is no longer necessary. Public policy would be the component of the articulation of the will of groups and of power. If this system, which stems from the concept of governance/ civil society, is linked to the general idea which claims that the modern system is representative, we can deduce that the encounter of the social and the political is not realised by the ideology of class, but by the means of obtained consensus or of a relation of forces between the intermediate groups and the agents of the State.
I attract the attention on the fact that the concept of governance/civil society, which was originally a “construction” the said neo-liberalism, has been adopted without objection by the advocates of the intermediate groups and of the left. We consider it actually as being at the origin of the deepening of democracy. It is even touted as being the unique susceptible cure to face an alternative globalisation.
Nevertheless, this project raises a certain number of reservations.
First, in the project of governance, the society of citizens is completely absent. One remembers the remark that society simply does not constitute a political category: it does not have a political status. One might even say that the place reserved for a citizens’s society by the project of governance constitutes a decline in comparison to what was granted to it by the ideologies of the past. The society of the citizens is replaced by the civil society.
Secondly, in the project of the governance, the purpose of the State/political system is not of course the society – as before – but this time, it is not even the nation. It is simply the market. The difference is crucial: the fundamental freedoms are the freedoms that will promote the market, not society. The social project – for example, the welfare State – the work, the social life are all considered under the angle of laws of an open market. The question, in this case, is of knowing if the interests of society are identical to those of the market or if they are better achieved through the market. The dilemma does not consist of a choice or the removal of the market; it is of knowing whether politics will act for the public or the private in the case that they would oppose each other.
Thirdly, neither does the citizen constitute a political category. That is why he is only recognised by virtue of his membership to the State, and at no point as partner of a political system. Not having his own political status, his encounter with the economy comes true by virtue of his quality as a consumer or as a worker, and not at the political level. Moreover as it was noted, the relationship between the social and the political is turned into a media event. That means that the connection between the State and the economy does not necessarily have reference to the social.
It is evident that in this context of the political dynamic, the connection of forces is completely overthrown in aid of the players of the market, namely capital. The result is already before us: the growing inequalities, in the State, in the European Union as in globally. I will add another dimension which relegates the citizen on the fringe of events. Quite a long time was needed so that politics could be redefined, from a concept of powerful force to a concept of regulatory power (authority). This evolution ended up in the inclusion of politics –connections with powerful force– in a regulating frame which protects the minimum autonomy of citizens. It is trying to achieve this aim, the said “State subject to the rule of law”. The project of governance/civil society re-introduces in the political process the connection of the force as a fundamental component not only of the political dynamic but this time of the political process and strictly speaking of the political system.
These remarks show that we are moving away from the citizen-partisan who is destined to offer his consensus to the State and to its political agents, in aid of a citizen status that urges him to function as a spectator. In this production, the protagonists are the intermediate groups, the political forces and the holders of the State. The media play in this respect the role of the director of the field of politics. From here on, the citizen is recognised in his “status” of political individuality; but he is the individual spectator, he is not part of the media system. So he is in front of a new paradox: as a member of society, he shares his status of consumer of politics (as spectator); in order to be recognised as a political actor, he has to leave the private society and to carry out the role of the mediator. But even in that capacity, the citizen continues to be placed outside of the political system. What’s more, the intermediate citizen is not a representative of society: he expresses particular interests. A single institutional function is acknowledged about him: the vote for the election/designation of the principal agents of the State. But this vote does not guarantee the citizen in the function of the principal. The fundamental laws are clear on this: the function of the principal as well as that of the representative are held by the agents of the State/system.
In short, the answer to the question: “what citizenship for what commitment?” leads us to conclude that modern citizenship reserves for the individual an extra-systemic participation and, by consequence, commitments aimed at supporting by consensus or at exerting pressure on the power holder.
Political individuality refers to another form of citizenship, that simply transforms society in a body politic (demos), namely what is partly constitutive of the political system. We can recognise two types of this citizenship: the citizen-principal (the representative system) and the citizen-system, which embodies the whole political system (the democratic system). The citizen engaged in the political dynamics (outside the system) is opposed to the citizen employed as a constituent part of the political system.
The opening of a debate on this typology of citizenship and of the commitment of the citizen that corresponds presupposes that one is ready to recognise the difference between the political system and the State, and that, further, one admits that the political system is not by nature identified with the State. This is not at all evident today.
At the moment, the question on the forms of citizenship that recommend the commitments of the citizens within the political system of the State or the European Union presents a certain scientific interest, in so far as we ask ourselves about the causes of the growing gap that separates the society of the citizens from the intermediate forces and essentially from power. Yet, we recognise reality: that the citizen feels powerless, or even humiliated, and does not recognise himself in the traditional forms of commitment, where there is a deficit of representation. But at the same time, we do not think about the prospect of the establishment of a representative system, which would have led to the return of the citizen as principal and to his integration in the political system, so that he can direct it. Besides, we can be justified by the fact that society does not manifest for representation but for social conditions.
That is why I have the feeling that the modern world – and essentially Europe – will continue for a long time to address the relationship between the social and the political from the perspective of the moral commitment of the agents of power towards society, and not in terms of the change of the political system.
This system is more exactly pre-representative, because, since it breaks out representative, it concentrates in fact between the hands of the State both the quality – and the responsibilities – of the mandatary rather than the mandate. See on this subject, G. Contogeorgis, Democracy as freedom. Democracy and representation, Athens, 2007; See also, G. Contogeorgis, “Democracy and representation. The question of freedom and the typology of politics”, in E. Venizelos, A. Pantelis (eds.), Civilization and Public Law, London, 2005, pp. 79 –92.
On this subject see my studies, Citizen and the State. Concept and typology of citizenship, Athens, 2003; and “Le citoyen dans la cité. Concept et typologie de la citoyenneté”, in B. Badie, P. Perrineau (éds), Le citoyen. Mélanges offerts à Alain Lancelot, Paris, Presses des sc. po., Paris, 2000.
- Διατηρείται το δικαίωμα αναδημοσιεύσης του παρόντος άρθρου σε οποιοδήποτε μέσο, με απαραίτητη προϋπόθεση να αναγράφεται η παρούσα ιστοσελίδα και ο συγγραφέας ως πηγή. -