Market citizenship : experiments in democracy and globalization

In her book Market Citizenship Experiments in Democracy and Globalization Amanda Root first explores the question, “What is citizenship?” The answer, which she derives from an ancient Athenian view on citizenship, is the active participation of a private person in the public sphere, more specifically, the polis or city-state. Root looks to the Athenian model as a predecessor to current views of Western democracy. She then emphasizes that citizenship is based on a system of beliefs, values and symbols, which create ideological patterns for belonging and not belonging. As it was in ancient Athens only certain people were considered citizens setting the stage for exclusion. In modern times this type of exclusion places pressure on those at the bottom (or on the outside) to work harder to live up to the status quo, which determines their suitability for citizenship.

Today democracy depends highly on the participation of its citizens to further the greater good of society, yet we have progressively moved toward an individualist perspective on getting ahead in this world, which has nothing to do with the larger community. When individuals become so concerned about their own upward mobility in society they are unwittingly relieving pressure on the government to provide for its people by taking up the burden themselves through hard work. So then how is a whole society convinced to behave appropriately so as to produce greater participation in furthering the greater wealth of society (this does not imply that all are wealthy, e.g. America is a wealthy country yet still there are millions of Americans in poverty)? Root suggests that this is done through incentives via capitalism; the opportunity to gain citizenship through the market, which provides a false promise of equality since “power and influence are linked to status and wealth (2).”

by Monique Goudeau

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