First Year Humanities (HU101A)
Daniel J. Lavoie, Ph. D., Facilitator
December 12, 2013
The Concept of Citizenship
A citizen is defined as a person who legally belongs to a country and has the rights and protection of the country, or a person who lives in a particular place (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). There is more to a citizen than this simple definition given, but sadly in our world today, people that are citizens think nothing more of it than that simple description. In order to remind ourselves what it means to be a citizen, we must look to a time when people actually pondered the idea of what citizenship was.
The first exact definition of citizenship is given by Aristotle in his Politics. This first political and philosophical definition of citizenship is based on a separation of "we and they," because it emphasizes the distinction between those individuals who are considered as members of the demos and those who are not.
Aristotle regards a citizen as a righteous man, and he perceives citizenship as an instrument of virtue. He excludes workers, slaves, and women from the category of citizenship; because he argues that they are not governed by virtue (Politics, 1278a). On the other hand, Aristotle's idea of citizenship aims at constructing a common cultural ground. He excludes representatives from local religions and tribes from his understanding of citizenship. Consequently, Aristotle's idea of citizenship includes two oppositions, which sharply divide citizens from strangers, women, slaves and workers. He claims that this exclusion is rational.
Aristotle promotes active citizenship and attempts to develop moral norms and a conceptual framework, which could produce the skills and wisdom necessary for political decision-making. He defines citizenship as participating in governments' decision-making (Politics, 1275b)...