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Edited by Hein-Anton van der Heijden
Chapter 2: Political citizenship: mapping the terrain
Citizenship has emerged as a central concept in the discourse about the politics of contemporary democracies for several reasons. In theoretical terms, there is a long and rich debate on what makes for a good citizen, with as many possible answers (or more) as the number of authors who have addressed this topic. The concept of citizenship dates from the first democratic polity and before, and theorists – republicans, liberals, neoliberals, communitarians, social-democrats, and others – differ substantially in their definitions of the concept. The exact meaning of citizenship is open to multiple interpretations as displayed in this book. The concept has such special relevance today because it is intertwined with debates on the vitality of democracy – and this chapter focuses on the content of democratic citizenship. As contemporary publics have become more critical of their governments and politicians, and the policy-making process has become more conflictual in some nations, experts have turned to concepts of citizenship to diagnose the current situation and offer potential remedies. On the one hand, some analysts claim that an erosion of ‘good citizenship’ has produced the current challenges to democracy, and hark back to an era when these norms were apparently in greater supply (Etzioni, 1995; Putnam, 2000; Stoker, 2006). A typical example is an observation on the decline of civility in public discourse, attributed at least in part to changing norms of citizenship (Elgar, 2012).
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