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What are the main features of Marshall's theory of citizenship?

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What are the main features of Marshall's theory of citizenship? T. H. Marshall's theory of citizenship is the most recent theoretical model developed in the 1950s. He elaborated his ideas around the three rights elements, civil, political and social rights. He argued for equality of status rather than that due to the labour market. Along with all theories Marshall did not go without criticism, I will conclude with some of these criticisms and focus on the contemporary problems of citizenship. Prior to explaining Marshall's definition of citizenship, more general explanations can be offered. Citizenship refers to the position of being a citizen, and the collection of rights and duties of this position. These rights define the socio-political membership with the consequence of allocation of collective benefits to the social groups, households and individuals. Citizenship therefore comprises the individuals as fully- fledged members of a socio- political community, whether it is an inhabitant of a city or as a native. This provides the individual with access to limited resources, supplying social or legal protection from unexpected uncertainties of the market place and related life-cycle disadvantages. Within the modern society citizenship creates new types of social solidarity in term of public relations of the exchanging of possessions with others for mutual benefit; this establishes new intergenerational bonds of loyalty and obligation outside the family. ...read more.


The third element is that of social citizenship. Marshall identifies this final element as being the individual's independent access to the basic social goods provided by the community to its members. Therefore the access to welfare benefits, the range of welfare services from education to medical treatment form part of this third element. Marshall gave a celebratory lecture in 1949 to the establishment of the British welfare state. A state he declares 'gives concrete application to these social rights'. He believed the modern state now cared for the individual, representing them. The social rights ensured equality of opportunity to education, the medical and welfare services. Marshall thought the procession of all three of these elements of rights a guarantee of formal equality, a formal equality that puts an end to the inequalities of class and status formed by the capitalist society. Marshall argues that in English legal and political life these three stages formed by a gradual sequential development. The development of civil rights marked the distinction between a feudal society to one of independent, leading to equal persons. Once this was attained, the next move was towards universal suffrage and political participation by all, including the ability to fully exercise those political rights and obligations. This structure then sets the path towards his third stage, social citizenship, and a welfare state where all citizens are able to enjoy the protections of the society in which they live. ...read more.


Therefore the evolution implied in Marshall's plan is, as Mann believes an illusion; 'Sociologists are prone to forget that "evolution" is often geopolitically assisted'. Ralph Dahrendorf deals with Marshall's central theme of the significance of class in a stage where citizenship has conferred one universal equality of status on all citizens. He combines Marxian notions of class conflict with Marshall's theory, seeing the relationship between citizenship and social class in terms of a broader 'struggle for life chances.' Using Marshall's account of the progression of national citizenship to join the normative debate on the uses of nationalism, he argues that: "Historically at least, the nation-state was as much a necessary condition of progress as it unfortunately turned out to be a source of regression and inhumanity. The alliance of nationalism and liberalism was a force for emancipation"(Bulmer and Rees, 1996, p. 29). Nationality and citizenship were are entangled for Dahrendorf as the only advantage of the nation state he saw was that it made generalisations of the ancient idea of citizenship. The problem of Marshall's work is noticeably the vagueness to the status of the theoretical idea. The three stage model of civil, political and social rights could be questioned for concentrating too heavily on the rights and not the responsibilities. Marshall's work, whilst being informative for the modern phase in English national history it is no longer transforming for the current globalising, fragmenting world. Marshall's theory vague even in his time is now even harder to maintain. ...read more.

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