The Impact of Globalisation on Citizenship
The reduction of trading barriers alongside the increasingly advanced technologies has led to a progressively globalised world, which in turn has influenced many areas, including the concepts and practices of citizenship. Hence, the following essay sets out to investigate in what ways globalisation has transformed citizenship and the issues surrounding it.
As suggested by Tan (2005, p. 6), in practice citizenship is still mostly considered in liberal terms as a set of rights and obligations that accompany specifically defined membership in a nation-state. However, the global flows of information, goods, capital and people are challenging the traditional frameworks of citizenship and changing the way individuals perceive themselves and their place in the world (Linklater, 2008, p. 549). In addition, citizenship has been transformed in two levels, vertically – between individual citizens and political authorities as well as horizontally – between citizens (Kabeer, 2005, p. 23). Moreover, transformations can be further observed on both a philosophical and a practical level, which will be investigated in turn.
As a consequence of the processes of globalization, such as the global trade, production, sourcing and outsourcing to countries with cheap labour, most notably Asia, as well as the global mobility of virtually anything, the world has become a complex system of interconnectedness and interdependence on both state and individual level (Kivisto and Faist, 2007, p. 102). At the same time, the importance of the nation-states is said to be decreasing (Soysal, 1994), while some of the largest multi national corporations (MNC) have become dominant and even more important than most states (Byers, 2005).
This is perhaps most evident in the ongoing problems within the global clothing industry, which is characterised by poor and dangerous working conditions for inadequate salary, suppression of trade-union activity, from both the employers as well as state and corruption. War on Want (2008, p. 8-12) investigated several garment factories in Bangladesh producing for UK retailers and revealed that retailers failed to improve working conditions of workers despite claims of addressing the issues. Ironically, at the same time they were demanding more garments to be made even cheaper and quicker. Similar worker exploitation is widely evident across the whole clothing industry in many Asian countries.
This is despite the increased significance of international law, such as the Human Rights Act and international organisations like the UN, along with the rising global protest activities and growing global civil society, notably international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), which are considered to be the primary carriers of the universal human rights regime (Kivisto and Faist, 2007, p. 129). However, arguments for universal human rights still seem far removed from the realities of these worker’s lives (Tan, 2005, p. 8). Kabeer (2005, p.9) also points out that in a globally differentiated world, universalism cannot be taken for granted, instead it has to be adapted to different contexts, which then shape the concrete forms of rights.
Furthermore, the controversies surrounding the alleged human rights violations and abuses by the private military and security contractors (PMC) raise serious questions regarding the issues of human rights. The situation has further worsened due to the lack of accountability by the nation-states, particularly the US (Murianki, 2010).
As Parekh (2003, p. 9) argues, pursuing goals that damage others' well-being and prevent them from leading minimally decent lives violates their rights and is thus inherently illegitimate. However, the interconnectedness means that the actions in one part of the world will have an impact on the lives of other people, hence boycotting such ruthless retailers would have an even more negative effect on these already exploited workers. And, although most individuals in the Western world would feel emotionally uneasy when seeing such suffering, it is still nevertheless questionable whether the Western culture of consumerism is compatible with a true compassion for others. War on Want (2008, p. 12) proposes that a legislation is enacted by the UK government, which would allow the exploited workers from overseas seek legal redress in the UK.
A notion surrounding today’s citizenship, which builds on the liberal principles, such as the commitment to the human rights, is the cosmopolitanism and its accompanying concept of the citizen of the world and the global citizenship (Held, 2003, p. 514-515). While there is certain controversy and disagreement surrounding these concepts, the cosmopolitan idea generally assumes that all human beings are in a fundamental sense equal and hence deserve equal political treatment. These ideas are most often used by INGOs to promote a stronger sense of responsibility for issues, such as the human species or the global environment (Vertovec, 1999, p. 11).
It is also argued that Western societies are, in fact, becoming increasingly aware of how the global economical and political system results in disadvantages for the most vulnerable in the developing societies (Linklater, 2008, p. 555). This helps explain the increasing charity donations, humanitarian aid, and public pressure on governments as well as the great personal risks undertaken by aid workers (Parekh, 2003, p. 10-11). However, it is also widely accepted that the foreign aid is not really helping, even more it is said to be an actual hindrance to development of the poor nations (Wadhams, 2010). For instance, flooding markets with second hand clothing actually harms the local garment industry (Britten, 2008). Hence, many argue that the best way to help poor countries is to replace Western aid with a free and liberal trade system (BBC, 2005).
Parekh (2003, p.10) further argues that as a result of the colonial legacy, many Western states are in part responsible for the bad conditions in many parts of the world, which would oblige the rich countries to help the poorer countries in achieving a decent standard of living. However, as Hindes, (2005, p. 71-72) maintains, existing global institutional systems are inherently unjust. He also sees important structural and systemic limitations on the role of citizens; hence he concludes that the cosmopolitan ideas will not eliminate these inequalities. Both Parekh (2003, p. 11) and Buyers (2005) therefore propose the idea of a collective pressure on governments to act accordingly as a way forward. Similarly Mignolo (2006, p. 323) argues that global citizenship is being hindered by the colonial and imperial differences, which are based on the racial classification of people in the planet and are still alive. He then concludes that if changes cannot come from new laws or policies, they should come from changes in people’s minds.
According to the UNDP (2003, p. 423) the gap between the poor and rich states as well as people in the global economy has been constantly increasing. And, while there has always been a migration between states, the raising mass movement of immigrants from south to north is a direct result of the inequality caused by the globalisation. Thus, while working on a more practical level, the traditional concepts of citizenship should be adapted to fit the multicultural nature of modern societies (Linklater, 2008, p. 550). Migration causes citizenship spillovers across international borders (Bauböck and Guiraudon, 2009, p. 443), which leads to many novel and hybrid forms of citizenship located to some extent beyond the nation-state (Kivisto and Faist, 2007, p. 11).
As a result of globalization the intensification of many transnational relations has led to social and political mobilization beyond boundaries, also known as transnationalism (Kastoryano n.a.). As Vertovec (1999, p. 1-6) further argues, although some migrants who are living in different countries will identify more with one society, the majority appear to maintain several identities that link them simultaneously to more than one nation, hence producing a sort of hybrid cultural phenomena. Nevertheless, as pointed out by Carter (2005, p. 22) many migrants seeking economic betterment will tend to adhere to their original culture as a source of identity.
Furthermore, closely related are the issues around dual and multiple citizenships. Bloemraad (2004, p. 389-391, 421) investigated the spread of dual citizenship using self-reported census data from immigrants in Canada while also analysing the implications for the traditional, transnational and postnational frameworks of citizenship. He concluded that while the level of reported dual citizenships has been increasing rapidly, there is little evidence for either post-nationalism or a growing support for transnationalism, however he did find significant evidence for the continued relevance of traditional frameworks. He also concludes that it is likely that multiple nationalities will increasingly become the norm.
The position of immigrants has worsened, however, after the 9/11, as the respect for rights of strangers within the Western societies is under attack (Carter, 2005, p. 27). Irrespectively of these feelings Ten (2005, p. 32-33) argues that the category of refugee should be extended to include not only those suffering from persecution but also those who live in such appalling social and economic conditions that their lives are at a serious risk.
Globalization has further contributed to the creation of several problems, such as the climate change that are global in its nature as well as its impact (Parekh, 2003, p. 10). Moreover, according to Buyer (2005, p. 3) individuals rather than corporations are to blame as business typically responds to consumer demand. And, while companies certainly have a duty to improve their environmental performance, behind any company are individuals making decisions with far-reaching consequences. Thus, change has to happen at individual level and a global and responsible citizenry is essential to solve these problems (Stevenson, 2003, p.94). Stevenson also (2003, p. 73) points out that those most responsible for the environmental damage and those most at risk from the destruction should not be treated the same.
Furthermore, the benefits of globalization, such as deregulated capital markets, technological advances and cheaper transport, makes flows of illicit trade, such as drugs, weapons laundered money but also humans, easier, faster and less restricted (UNDP, 2003, p.427). These trends are affecting both the developed as well as the developing nations, albeit in different ways.
Similarly, terrorist organisations, such as Al Qaeda has relied on globalization to promote its objectives and to increase support for its transnational cause (Tan, 2005, p.5). These kinds of cross-border activities will also require global solutions in form of transnational measures and structures to combat them (Vertovec, 1999, p. 4).
Finally, the globalization of media has influenced the concepts of citizenship in many different ways. Humanitarian support in many instances of disasters has been promoted through the images of suffering disseminated by global media (Linklater, 2008, p. 551). While media is an increasingly significant channel for the flow of cultural phenomena and the transformation of identity (Vertovec, 1999, p.6-7), it is also enhancing international dialogue, thus leading to more tolerant citizens (Stevenson, 2003, p. 103). On the other hand, Hart (1996, p. 110) argues that the television has reduced the burdens of citizenship and their political involvement.
Concluding, it can be noted that there is an increased awareness of the global problems facing contemporary world as well as a notion of the need for an increased responsibility, on both individual and nation-state level. However, the future will show whether the increased interconnections between various groups will lead to greater solidarity or generate new conflicts.