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The Good Society 12.2 (2003) 33-39

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Negotiating the Boundaries of Equality in Europe

In 1999 the European Commission asserted that "the right to equality before the law and the protection of all persons against discrimination (. . .) is essential to the proper functioning of democratic societies. (. . .) It has never been more important to underline these principles" (Commission of the European Communities, 1999. Emphasis added). There is much to be learnt from this passage. This "forward-looking" assessment seems to dismiss the relevance of past policy experiences regarding citizenship in Europe (Flew, 1989: 166). Why is that so?

My argument is that this line on equality-cum-discrimination is part of a shift from formal and state-orientated citizenship to substantial citizenship. This shift is nurtured by debates on the modern framework of the nation-state, limits of the national for embodying equality, and the liberal dilemma of diversity.

In other words, European policies are now recognizing the existence of a "European Dilemma," in the same way Myrdal spoke about An American Dilemma (Myrdal, 1944), and Jim Rose applied it to late 1960s Britain (Rose, 1969). Does it mean, as Rose claimed in his time, that we are subsequently witnessing a "liberal hour" for citizenship and immigration in Europe? In short, to what extent may the development of European policies contribute to the formation of a new paradigm of citizenship? If it exists, can the latter incorporate non-EU foreigners into active citizenship? Do European national policies of citizenship converge on a mainstreamed framework?

To provide some analytical elements addressing those questions, I start with a critical approach of the republican arguments that shape the formal understanding of equality and citizenship, both in public policy and scientific literature. Then I turn to the nexus of transformation regarding citizenship, namely the challenge of European integration and the emergence of the anti-discriminatory agenda. I conclude questioning whether this process can get rid of the republican paradigm characterised by a paradoxical reactive obsolescence.

Republican Limits

Jürgen Habermas distinguishes between two main streams of political thought. The first is liberal. It embodies citizenship in the relationship between the State of right and the capitalist market. The second is republican. It adds solidarity and collective identity as a sine qua non of the polity; cohesion is seen as the third source of citizenship (Habermas, 1996: 21).

What is striking is the way by which this second paradigm has dominated debates on citizenship and immigration in Europe, both in the academic literature and public policies.

Citizenship returned to this dual agenda when immigration shifted from an economical issue to a political "problem" in the mid-1980s. The promotion of national citizenship among European immigration countries entered center-stage of the political agenda when the modern nation-states started to face critical limits in terms of sovereignty and membership, the latter being challenged by increasing migratory flows, the parallel process of migrants' durable settlement and the European integration.

It is clear that the concomitance between the renewal of citizenship (rights and membership) and the "problem of immigration" (Balibar and Wallerstein, 1991) has enhanced republican positions. For Christian Joppke, for example, "citizenship is both a legal status and an identity, fusing the divergent legacies of territorial stateness and republicanism" (Joppke 1998: 23). In this view historical, sociological, political and normative conditions of citizenship would be necessarily embodied in the congruence between the individualist ethos and national modernity (Aron, 1991; Leca, 1990; Stinchcombe, 1975).

Subsequently, the very recognition of ethno-cultural and religious diversity has been set in terms of a challenge to the congruence that exists in the Rousseauist tradition between membership, allegiance and equality of rights.

Therefore, citizenship has been profoundly affected by a never-ending "war of gods" (Weber, 1978) crystallizing the opposition between identity and equality, but also homogeneity and plurality, essentialism and constructivism, structures and agency, liberalism and communitarianism, republicanism and multiculturalism (Isin and Wood, 1999). This discussion has been an end-state issue. It has also well developed as a core instrument of public policies. Adrian Favell interestingly outlines that politicians "depend...


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