What does it mean to be a citizen?

Essay by slappy_chops June 2004

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1. What does it mean to be a citizen?

The term "Citizen" is defined in the compact Macquarie Dictionary as, "a member, native or naturalised, of state or nation". This paper intends to question what it is that constitutes a member or citizen, of state or nation. Many concepts and theories are promoted by political theorists and practitioners alike that are varied and many in response to defining a "citizen". The expanse of these theories ranges from the all-encompassing endorsement of world citizenship where nation or state borders are invisible, to limited conditional nation based citizenship, which for example, may discriminate against a citizen's nationality in applying for government office positions.

Whilst citizenship in a legal context can be defined objectively and focuses on the formal status of an individual in the community, such as permanent or temporary residency it is the social definition of citizenship that becomes varied.

Diverse as the theories are regarding citizenship, as noted by Heywood there is a correlation amongst the theorists that citizenship is the relationship between the individual, state and society. It is this relationship and surrounding values that defines the rights and responsibilities of citizenship that becomes complex.

It is the focus of this essay to present a critical perspective on the broader concepts of citizenship that explores ideas and theories concerning the social rights and responsibilities of citizenship and my support, and/or criticism of these theories in response to marginalisation, exclusion and inclusion within the community.

As Australia has no bill of rights that outlines the identity of what the relationship is regarding the rights and responsibilities as a citizen, it is up to each individual to interpret the significance of citizenship. As an Australian born citizen my personal expectations include a broad variety of rights and responsibilities that...