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Keywords:

  • Citizenship;
  • immigration;
  • social justice;
  • individuality;
  • human rights;
  • Europe

Abstract

As envisioned by T.H. Marshall, social citizenship was a corrective to the injustices caused by the capitalist market. Entitlements and protections guaranteed by the welfare state would prevent social and economic exclusions that civil and political rights, on their own, simply could not. Such protections consequently would ensure social cohesion and solidarity, as well as a productive economy and market. European welfare states successfully followed this formula for the most part of the post-World War II period, however the last couple of decades witnessed significant changes. For one, the very meaning of ‘work’ and ‘worker’ on which the welfare state is based has changed – flexibility, risk, and precariousness have become defining elements of working life. The welfare state itself has gone through a transformation as well, increasingly moving away from a system of ‘passive benefits’ to ‘social investment’ in human capital. These developments are coupled with an emphasis on education in ‘active citizenship’, which envisions participatory individuals who are adaptable in an increasingly globalized society, and ready to contribute at local, national and transnational levels. The emergent European social project draws on a re-alignment between these strands: work, social investment, and active participation. In this article, I consider the implications of this project for immigrant populations in Europe in particular and for the conceptions of citizenship and human rights in general. In contrast to the recent commentary on the neoliberal turn and the return of nation-state centered citizenship projects in Europe, I emphasize the broader trends in the post-World War II period that indicate a significant shift in the very foundations of good citizenship and social justice. The new social project transpires a citizenship model that privileges individuality and its transformative capacity as a collective good. Thus, while expanding the boundaries and forms of participation in society, this project at the same time burdens the individual, rather than the state, with the obligation of ensuring social cohesion and solidarity, disadvantaging not only non-European migrants but also the ‘lesser’ Europeans. The new social project brings into focus the relationship between universalistic individual rights and their effective exercise. I conclude that rather than treating human rights and citizenship as a dichotomy we should pay attention to their entangled practice in order to understand the contingent accomplishments and possible expansions of citizenship in Europe.