Identity, Individualism, and Activism beyond the State: Examining the Impacts of Global Citizenship

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March 2012


The concept of global citizenship has risen to prominence through its use by policy makers, activists, and scholars, who employ the idea of global interconnectedness to encourage individuals to actively engage with transnational issues. Proponents of global citizenship claim that it will promote greater global unity and equality of rights, and even generate a new, post-national identity. Yet self-professed global citizens operate in a transnational realm marked by extreme disparities in power between the members of different states and economic classes. This article assesses whether global citizenship can live up to the claims of its adherents, or whether it will replicate the existing inequalities and moral hazard currently manifest in global policy-making. The article uses the work of T.H. Marshall to identify the conditions under which citizenship has generated equality and unity in the national realm and examines whether these conditions are present beyond the state. It then compares the resulting theory with global citizenship's observed impacts in transnational activism. It concludes that unity and equality of rights cannot be achieved globally in the absence of a commonly shared pool of social and economic resources and that, ironically, global citizenship may worsen existing power imbalances by legitimating elites' use of power.

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Global Society

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