A citizen is any member of a state who is formally recognised as a citizen by that state.

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What is a citizen?

        A citizen is any member of a state who is formally recognised as a citizen by that state. The concept of citizenship is therefore legalistic. Citizens are individuals who have some sort of legal status within a state – they have been granted certain rights by the state & are expected to perform certain duties:

        “The citizen should be understood in the first instance not as a type of person…but as a position in the set of formal relationships defined by democratic sovereignty” (Donald 1996, p.174)

        The precise range & balance between the rights granted to citizens & the duties that they are expected to perform varies from time to time & from state to state.

Where exactly do political rights come from?

        The question of where political rights come from has concerned political philosophers for centuries. The distinction is often made between natural rights & positive rights.

  1. Natural Rights

Political theorists who acknowledge that there are natural rights argue that certain rights are universally applicable to all societies. Locke (1690) argued that before the creation of political societies, human beings existed in a state of nature in which God-given natural laws & rights existed. These & rights were to be the basis of political societies when they were eventually created. Locke claimed that life, liberty & property were natural rights.

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  1. Positive Rights

Despite the attraction of natural rights theories, a number of problems arise. It is difficult to prove that a state of nature ever existed, for example, or that rights are derived from God. It is also difficult to work out which rights are natural and which are not. As a result, some political philosophers have abandoned the idea of natural rights altogether in favour of a theory which asserts that the only rights which exist are positive rights granted by a state to its citizens. This avoids the problems in natural rights theories but raises questions about:


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