Who Needs Citizenship?
Thanks to Ken for injecting the Ignatieff observation, with which I emphatically disagree! Nation-states are useful handmaidens to the superclass, but the real elites could do just fine without them, thank you very much. It’s nice to have safe streets in places New York and London, but that’s the business of local governments, not national ones. In locales where things are dicier, there’s always private security. As for the other forms of order that elites depend on, like financial order, again states are useful, but an increasing number of transnational institutions are just fine running on their own non-governmental steam. In any case citizenship in a particular country isn’t an issue for elites: the SEC, for example, works for Singaporean, British and Mexican elites, too.
The tougher (and more typical) challenge is whether non-elites need citizenship. As Alex notes, “the transnational trends that Peter identifies may be working on behalf of but a small—and privileged—slice of humankind.” For her part Cristina asserts that “[e]veryone needs a citizenship, whether because citizenship is, in Arendt’s formulation, the ‘right to have rights,’ or the primary security we have that we cannot be banished from at least one place on earth, or the mechanism for ensuring that everyone belongs somewhere such that every person is the ultimate responsibility of some government.”
At some level that is obviously still true. If you’re not a transnational elite, citizenship is a very nice thing to have, and it’s nicer to have US citizenship than, say, Mexican citizenship. But it’s not what it used to be. We’ve left behind the Arendtian world in which the lack of citizenship left you completely exposed to the sovereign elements. That’s what the human rights revolution is all about.
As for US citizenship, it gets you absolute locational security and the right to vote, and not much else. Wherever the overall naturalization rate is going, there are lots of permanent residents who don’t bother to naturalize, even after decades of territorial presence (more than 25% of those in the country for more than 20 years have yet to acquire citizenship). Why not? Must not be worth that much to them.