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Anthropological Quarterly 75.2 (2002) 413-418



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Book Review Essay

Begging to Differ:
On Pluralism and "Civil" Society

Roland Vazquez
Upper Iowa University

Engin F. Isin and Patricia K. Wood. Citizenship and Identity. New York: Sage Publications, 1999; 189 pp.
Carol J. Greenhouse, ed. Democracy and Ethnography: Constructing Identities in Multicultural Liberal States. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998; 305 pp.

In what ways and to what extent is difference to be accepted, accommodated, and/or paraded in today's globalized, postmodern world? Can, should, or must the envelope be pushed further? By and large, these conundrums of difference and belonging are at the heart of both books under review. In their very titles, both place a first concept that should be addressed more widely in anthropology in dialogue with a second that has long been central to the discipline. Both volumes are greatly influenced by the "post-" milieu at the heart of current scholarly trends. Both pay special attention to the role of the nation-state in the configuration of subjectivity. This includes the state's decreasing ability to penetrate the realities of everyday life, given the new flows that increasingly lie beyond its gaze and regulatory capacity. Both volumes seek to expose the cracks in official discourses. Both are framed in such a way as to position themselves within the larger political field, infusing more than a bit of moral vision into their scholarly enterprises. Albeit to varying degrees, both books also take liberalism to task as a political philosophy, but especially as a regime.

Beyond these similarities, the two works take different approaches. Citizenship and Identity offers itself as an introduction to key issues in current social and political theory. It looks at the political economic pressures created [End Page 413] by advanced capitalism—particularly towards the postmodern, globalizing realities in which the authors argue that the two title concepts are ultimately inscribed. In contrast to the pervasive tendency to view citizenship as universal and identity as particular, the book seeks to promote "the relationship between citizenship and identity from a perspective that sees modern citizenship not only as a legal and political membership in a nation-state but also as an articulating principle for the recognition of group rights" (p. 4). This articulation of group rights shows the constant struggle, at once theoretical and practical, of coming to grips with alternative visions of the political.

Citizenship and Identity has seven chapters, the middle five of which each deal with a specific type of citizenship: "modern" (Chapter Two), "diasporic and aboriginal" (Three), "sexual" (Four), "cosmopolitan" (Five), and "cultural" (Six). Chapter Two, for example, builds on T.H. Marshall's articulation of various types of citizenship, and the extent to which they were enabled and restricted by the pressures of advanced capitalism, with its historical creation of social stratification and class inequalities. The chapter then draws from the work of Otto Gierke on group rights, Pierre Bourdieu on the theory of social groups (noting the mirror dangers of ignoring groups and uncritically reifying them), and a variety of democratic theorists (radical and otherwise) in the debates over redistribution and recognition as potential redresses for exclusions past.

Chapter Five discusses globalization as a set of processes marked by two major differences: (1) the intensity of flows, and (2) the fact that such flows express new types of relations not between states but between transnational entities and local actors. Insofar as rights are concerned in this new-world order, the very concept of citizenship has lost much of its force, ceding ground to the exclusive privileging availed to cosmopolitan professions. Meanwhile, a large number of groups (largely urban), such as ethnic and racial minorities, immigrants, youth, unskilled workers, 'flexible' workers, and a permanent underclass, suffer the blows of continued otherization.

In its ambitions, Citizenship and Identity is doubly political, insofar as it seeks to provide both diagnosis and cure. The authors leave clear their radical democratic agenda in the battle against advanced capitalism. They argue for a critical balance between redistribution and recognition in equitably allocating the various forms of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1518
Print ISSN
0003-5491
Pages
pp. 413-418
Launched on MUSE
2002-04-01
Open Access
No
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