Examine the extent to which T H Marshall's concept of citizenship has relevance for today's welfare state.

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Examine the extent to which T H Marshall’s concept of citizenship has relevance for today’s welfare state.

by Matthew Ott

Understanding of the concept of citizenship is very important in the forming of Government, law, social policies and their impact on individuals (Drake, 2001). For this reason there has been much interest and study into the concept of citizenship as it is a vital factor in societies throughout history and across the globe. Put simply, citizenship mediates interactions between individuals and the state; indeed T H Marshall defines citizenship as “a status bestowed on those who are full members of a community. All who possess the status are equal with respect to the rights and duties with which the status is endowed”.

        In his literature “Citizenship and Social class” (1963), the fulfillment of citizenship depended on a person’s access to civil, political and social rights. By civil rights, Marshall was referring to rights necessary for individual freedom, for example freedom of speech, thought and religion, the right to own property and to conclude valid contracts, and the right to justice (Marshall, 1963). Political rights denotes the “participation” aspect of citizenship, e.g. the rights to participate in the exercise of political power as a member of a governing body or as an elector and therefore the right to vote and seek political office in free elections (Marshall, 1950). Social rights concerns “ the right to a modicum of economic welfare and security to the right to share to the full in social heritage and to live the life of a civilized being according to the standards prevailing in the society.” ( Marshall, 1963)

        Yet many recent works concerning the subject of citizenship by other authors including Phillips (1991), Young (1990) and Lister (1997) argue that universal citizenship can only be achieved where all members of a society participate equally in coming to a working definition that specifies boundaries, privileges and duties.

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        In addition, Marshall’s initial three classes of rights have been supplemented by Turner (1993) with three more, all of which accentuate the “social” element of Marshall’s analysis. Firstly, Turner puts forward the idea of welfare rights, which go beyond Marshall’s notion of a modicum of economic welfare and security; Turner speaks of welfare rights involving “some principle of redistribution” and therefore have the capacity to promote an “egalitarian transformation of social hierarchies”. In other words, entitlements may go beyond the idea of rights within a given socio-political structure to include changes to that structure itself.

        In the same way, ...

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