Especially with the introduction of the Internet, people have started to believe that nation-state lines are blurring, and that we are becoming part of a global community. Civil upheavals such as the ones that took place in Libya and Egypt, were not confined to the nation-state as its citizens used the Internet, specifically, social media, to communicate globally. Despite the global communication, is the term “global citizenship” truly exemplified across sovereign-state borders?
Citizenship is best described by British Sociologist T.H. Marshall as “‘full and equal membership in a political community’ denotes (a) the unit of membership, i.e., the political community, which in the modern context is the nation-state, and (b) the nature of that membership, i.e., full and equal.”
The Internet is building a global brain, but not necessarily global citizenship – “a full and equal membership”. Simply because people, ideas, and economies are crossing sovereign-state lines, it does not mean that people are receiving the same freedom and rights as all people around the globe.
3 Global Citizenship Misconceptions
Recently I read an article by Eric Liu, Why There’s No Such Thing As Global Citizenship. Liu explained that there are three things that people mistake as “global citizenship”. These three misconceptions include:
A global ethic consciousness of our responsibility, or stewardship over the environmental state of our world. It is about taking responsibility for how our actions affect the world.
While this definition of global citizenship comes from the right place, it does not meet the political participation and guarantees that a citizen of a nation-state enjoys.
Approved by tech-minded individuals as well as fans of multilateral diplomacy. This perceived form of “global citizenship” is based on “creating or bolstering institutions that can help govern the people of Earth.” Whether the issue is regulation of the Internet or adjudication of territorial disputes, overall, it is an issue of transnational governance in areas such as the Internet or the settlement of territorial disputes.
While this concept of global citizenship has its merits, it is not truly global. When people have issues within their “world” or sphere of influence, they are more likely to go to their local government than run to the United Nations for help with health-care, employment, etc. Most people still think on a nation-state, or local perspective.
Backed by Fortune 500 CEO’s and others, they believe that capital has globalized the economy as companies have outsourced their business and made connections globally. The corporations have gone beyond their country of origin, “thus freeing capitalists from the nation-state” and the responsibilities that come with paying homage to the country of their company’s inception.
Liu explains that this form of “global citizenship” is a form of “self-justification”. It is a way for corporations to justify their business decisions: to make more money by cutting production costs through taking their factories to export processing zones or third world countries where they can pay less for the same work. It is also a way for the corporation to “opt-out”. As Liu describes, this form of global citizenship allows corporations to forget that they “were made possible by the investments and institutions of actual nations” and thus they “shed responsibility for the health of those nations”.
Overall, it is individual nation-states that will enact change. Individual nation-states will have to ban together to make collective change. It is not about creating one large nation that makes changes for all people in the same way at the same time.
The Nation-State is Like a Family
The nation-state is also important because it acts as a family. Human beings were created to be in communion with others; it is the tribe mentality or way of living. This “tribal living” is shown on different levels (from smallest circle to greatest): romantic relationships (between two people), the family unit, and even the greater community, city, province/state, and the nation-state. These various tribes or circles of influence have a certain population, or membership; it is the opportunity to be included or excluded based off of specific criterion.
Before we can think globally, we need to think locally. People need to focus on their tribes of influence at the micro level and work outward from that. If we do not have our affairs in order in our own backyard, or in our most intimate of relationships, how can we hope to bear fruit on a global stage?
by Brienne Torley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.