Three Models of Citizenship

34 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2008 Last revised: 3 Aug 2009

Date Written: July 15, 2009


This conference paper, focusing on the citizenship debate in the U.S., elaborates three distinctive models of citizenship, which I call nationalistic, human rights, and Marshallian (after sociologist T. H. Marshall's seminal essay). I analyze each model along three normative dimensions: justification, territoriality, and entitlements.

The nationalistic model is justified by a theory of mutual democratic consent and emphasizes bounded territoriality as the main basis for membership. A liberal, highly individualistic polity like the U.S. takes a decidedly ambivalent view of entitlements. On the one hand, they are part of the quid pro quo, the social contract on which consensual membership rests, at least in contemporary society. Moreover, most Americans manifestly believe that even in a liberal polity - or perhaps especially in such a polity - certain minimum entitlements are in fact necessary to secure a dignified, participatory, independent life for their fellow citizens and for at least some of the non-citizens who reside and work among them. On the other hand, Americans also manifestly believe that additional entitlements, either in kind or amount, threaten these very same values, especially independence, and would at the margin reduce the motivation to work and to take responsibility for oneself and one's family. Although all developed societies exhibit this ambivalence, different ones strike the balance among the benefits, costs, and risks of entitlements quite differently, with the U.S. being an outlier in limiting publicly-funded welfare supports.

The human rights model is justified by the imperative of securing individual and group rights that will assure humane and protective conditions for those who are unfortunate enough to reside in cruel or despotic states, and for those who are outside their country of nationality and at risk of unequal and inhumane treatment in their new locations. The human rights model's domain is emphatically transnational, not territorially bounded. On this account, one's birth in a particular state and to particular parents is adventitious; such a locational accident is arbitrary and should not determine one's access to rights that, as a matter of distributive justice, should be enjoyed universally, not only by national members. On entitlements, this model is keen to preserve, not diminish, the full panoply of civil and political rights that are already guaranteed (constitutionally or by statute) to nationals in the U.S., European states, and other liberal democracies. These rights constitute the baseline for entitlements; the model's goal is to extend them to all people who are located within the state and thus subject to its governmental authority

The Marshallian model focuses not on the rights of non-citizens but rather on what he viewed as the incomplete set of rights accorded to those who are already full citizens. Its justification lies in its aspiration for social equality for all citizens, including their equal access to those resources that are essential for full and equal participation in community life. It has little to say about territoriality, perhaps because he assumes the autonomy of the nation-state, specifically his own, the United Kingdom. Unlike the other models, Marshall's fails to discuss the phenomenon so central today of large-scale immigration and the consequent claims against the state by non-citizens. On entitlements, the model focuses on full participation in the society, polity, and economy. Its proponents view the U.S. as a "welfare laggard" in this respect, a premise that I question by calling attention to six complicating factors: size, immigration, demography, privatization, globalization, and intra-EU dynamics. For each model, the paper poses what strikes me as the most urgent, and usually neglected, question to be raised about it, and I offer a very tentative and all-too-brief and simple, if not simplistic, answer to each question. For the nationalistic model, the question is about its continuing relevance in a rapidly globalizing world. For the human rights model, the question is whether it contains any real limits, internal to itself, on the obligations that it would impose on states in their dealings with people who are often (not always) perfect strangers in all but a universalistic, humanistic sense. The question for the Marshallian model is why it has gained much less public support in the United States than in most of the European states.

The conclusion briefly speculates about the future of the Marshallian model in both the U.S. and Europe. It predicts that a distinctively liberal, individualistic, privatistic form of nationalist citizenship will continue to flourish, one that will bewilder Europeans even as they edge their way inexorably toward their own more communitarian version of it.

Keywords: citizenship, social policy, United States

Suggested Citation

Schuck, Peter H., Three Models of Citizenship (July 15, 2009). Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 168, Available at SSRN:

Peter H. Schuck (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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