From Sacred to Instrumental: Exploring the Commodification of Citizenship
A presentation by Yossi Harpaz (Tel-Aviv University)
Citizenship in a nation-state is traditionally seen as a highly meaningful status that is closely associated with national identity. In recent years, numerous scholars have argued that citizenship is becoming “lighter” and more instrumental. The most salient expression of this trend is the proliferation of “citizenship-by-investment” programs, which allow wealthy individuals to purchase citizenship for cash payment. Scholars have argued that such sales represent a commodification of citizenship, which – according to some – will corrupt its moral and social value. This paper contributes to the debate on instrumentalism and commodification by broadening the empirical and theoretical scope and developing a systematic approach. Whereas students of the instrumentalization of citizenship have mostly looked at the criteria of admission into citizenship (e.g. citizenship-by-investment programs, economic criteria in naturalization), I will examine how the structure and meaning of citizenship are changing for individuals who are already citizens of a country. I will focus on three changes: 1) the diminishing weight of citizens’ duties and obligations, reflected for example in the elimination of conscription and national service; 2) the acceptance of multiple citizenship; 3) the growing presence and visibility of citizens who do not share a country’s national identity and, in some cases, do not live in its territory. I will analyze these developments while drawing on insights from cognitive science and relational economic sociology, two subfields that have studied how individuals categorize and understand different relationships.