Citizenship as Inherited Property

Political Theory, Vol. 35, pp. 253-287, 2007

35 Pages Posted: 28 May 2008 Last revised: 11 Aug 2009

See all articles by Ayelet Shachar

Ayelet Shachar

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Ran Hirschl

University of Toronto


The global distributive implications of automatically allocating political membership according to territoriality (jus soli) and parentage (jus sanguinis) principles have largely escaped critical scrutiny. This article begins to address this considerable gap. Securing membership status in a given state or region - with its specific level of wealth, degree of stability, and human rights record - is a crucial factor in the determination of life chances. However, birthright entitlements still dominate both our imagination and our laws in the allotment of political membership to a given state. In this article we explore the striking conceptual and legal similarities between intergenerational transfers of citizenship and property. The analogy between inherited citizenship and the intergenerational transfer of property allows us to use existing qualifications found in the realm of inheritance as a model for imposing restrictions on the unlimited and perpetual transmission of membership with the aim of ameliorating its most glaring opportunity inequalities.

Keywords: citizenship, property, intergenerational transfer, equality of opportunity, global justice

Suggested Citation

Shachar, Ayelet and Hirschl, Ran, Citizenship as Inherited Property. Political Theory, Vol. 35, pp. 253-287, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Ayelet Shachar (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

455 Law Building
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Ran Hirschl

University of Toronto ( email )

100 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S3G3

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