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Abstract

This study surveys debates on citizenship, the state, and the bases of political stability. The survey begins by presenting the primary sense of ‘citizenship’ as a legal status and the question of the sorts of political communities people can belong to as citizens. (Multi)nation-states are suggested as the main site of citizenship in the contemporary world, without ignoring the existence of alternative possibilities. Turning to discussions of citizen identity, the study shows that some of the discussion is motivated by a perceived need for citizens to have a sense of political belonging, on the assumption that such a sense promotes political activity and has other personal and social benefits. But there are serious problems with the strategy of understanding the relevant sense of belonging in terms of identification with the nation-state. The study explores a more promising way to generate this sense of belonging. First, societies should function, to a sufficiently high degree, in accord with political principles of justice and democratic decision making. Second, there should be a general consensus on political principles among citizens, as well as high levels of engagement in democratic deliberation.