Citizenship: A relic of European legal culture?


Dieter Gosewinkel in Eurozine:

A state is “the corporate body of a settled people equipped with sovereign authority”, wrote the influential Austrian constitutional lawyer Georg Jellinek in 1900. The defining characteristics of statehood are accordingly sovereign state power, a titular state people and a delineated state territory. This model of clear demarcations was formulated at the highpoint of the emergence of nation states, when they were at the peak of their legitimacy, and continues to shape international law to this day. National borders and national citizenship define an interior and exterior through legal means and thereby determine inclusion and exclusion. However, the theoretical and ethical bases of this legal construction are beginning to seem increasingly flawed.

Two waves of globalisation have undermined – and continue to undermine – the spatial concept of an economically and politically self-contained state. Worldwide flows of information, economic activity, communication and above all migration contradict conventional understanding of national statehood based on static models, in which the population is tied to one location, cultures are nationally delimited, and borders are only crossed as an exception. Political practice drives these developments forwards. The freedom of movement within the united Europe – the dissolution of borders for communication, goods and travel – has shaped the continent’s de facto existence to such an extent that it determines how leading European politicians imagine Europe ought to be: border checks should no longer be possible because they can no longer be conducted in practice. Praxis creates a theory that, in turn, confirms praxis. The advance of universalist global ethics and the humanitarianism of human rights legitimise a global politics of morality. Against this, the boundaries of traditional nation states seem at best anachronistic and at worst theoretically simplistic and ethically illegitimate.

More here.