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Psychological citizenship and national identity

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Abstract

In this paper, I raise the question of whether psychological citizenship (i.e. the subjective sense of being a citizen) is necessarily intertwined with a sense of national identity in our contemporary world. First, I argue that psychological citizenship is always dependent upon a sense of shared identity with the community (be it national or other), and I explore some of the reasons why this is the case. Second, I argue that such sense of shared identity can nevertheless sometimes remain implicit so that in order to assess its impact one may need to look beyond people's explicit statements of identification. Third, I turn to the more specific question of national identity and argue that such identity presents particular characteristics that make it consonant with the notion of citizenship (and thus able to sustain a subjective sense of citizenship) in ways that other identities might not always be. Finally, I compare a psychological citizenship based on national identity to one which would be based on a ‘global’ or ‘cosmopolitan’ identity. I argue that, whilst the former constitutes a pervasive social psychological reality, doubts can be raised as to whether this is the case for the latter, and thus as to whether it can form a credible alternative to national identity as the psychological substrate of citizenship. I conclude with some reflections concerning what different approaches of social psychology can bring to the study of the psychological aspects of citizenship. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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