Is Dual Citizenship Dilutive of Identity?

by Peter Spiro

Cristina asks this question, and she has a good point in arguing, not necessarily. I agree that community affiliation is not a zero-sum proposition and that it is possible to be a fully engaged member of more than one polity. I have argued that plural citizenship should be not merely tolerated but embraced (here, for example). Autonomy arguments are quite powerful for recognizing the right to maintain dual citizenship. One can even frame the question in First Amendment associational terms.

And yet dual citizenship may nonetheless weaken the intensity of national community. The blurring of human geography (where does the “we” end and the “us” take up) would seem almost inherently to dilute the tie. In the American case, in particular, one will also find many who acquire US citizenship as a second or third choice, that is, subordinated to other national attachments.

Now one can, Cristina suggests, have associations in which the presence of weakly affiliated members does not detract from intensity at the core. In other words, overinclusion may not be a problem. I wonder about that. It’s one thing if you’re talking about an association that is weak even at the core, where there’s nothing really at stake. It’s another matter if we’re talking about a location of redistribution. In that case, the more overinclusive the membership terms are, the more membershhip is merely for the asking, the less robust the association is likely to be. (I want to consider Cristina’s related assertion that the thinness of American identity is its virtue in a subsequent post.)

Think the Mormon Church. No weak members there. It seems pretty clearly to present a more intense form of religious affiliation than, say, the Episcopal church, in which weak affiliation is the norm. So overinclusiveness may be institutionally problematic, at least where governance is at stake.

One Response

  1. Dual citizenship is great, because it’s not like we already have a huge problem with elected officials who show divided loyalties. The author might consider looking into MartinSandoval, FabianNunez, GilCedillo, AntonioVillaraigosa, and many others who don’t seem to understand what country they’re in.

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