Local Citizenship in a Global Age: How Cities are Changing What It Means to be a Citizen (Part I)

Local Citizenship in a Global Age: How Cities are Changing What It Means to be a Citizen (Part I), Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming

103 Pages Posted: 31 May 2019 Last revised: 30 Jun 2019

See all articles by Kenneth Stahl

Kenneth Stahl

Chapman University - The Dale Fowler School of Law

Date Written: May 8, 2019


Although it is a signature characteristic of the modern nation-state to locate citizenship exclusively at the national level, a distinctive local citizenship has always existed alongside national citizenship. While long dormant, local citizenship has become highly salient with the rise of globalization and, as it has done so, it has begun to threaten the meaning and relevance of national citizenship. The debate over sanctuary cities in the United States is perhaps the most obvious example of how globalization has hastened a conflict between local and national meanings of citizenship.

As the manuscript explores, the current conflict grows out of an inherent contradiction in modern citizenship, namely, its effort to reconcile two competing ideas of citizenship: the “ethno-nationalist” idea, which sharply distinguishes the privileged class of citizens from the underclass of non-citizens; and the “liberal” idea, which insists upon the basic equality of all those subject to the law’s jurisdiction. This contradiction has historically been managed by separating out the different dimensions of citizenship and assigning them to different scales, with the local level designated as the sphere of liberal, mobile, market-oriented citizenship and the national level as the sphere of a fixed citizenship based on territory and identity. Within that framework, the federal government has the exclusive authority to admit immigrants and confer the benefits of national citizenship, but local governments have wide-ranging authority to incorporate immigrants – even undocumented immigrants – into local civic life. For example, San Francisco recently conferred the right to vote in school board elections on noncitizens with children in the public school system, including undocumented immigrants. These immigrants are effectively “noncitizen citizens,” in Linda Bosniak’s evocative phrase. The existence of “noncitizen citizens” reflects the uneasy coexistence of two fundamentally contradictory conceptions of citizenship.

The latent tensions between local and national citizenship have been exposed and magnified by the rise of globalization. The massive movement of money and people across national borders destabilizes the ethno-nationalist conception of citizenship and causes the thin boundary between local and national citizenship to blur. By and large, this movement of money and people is flowing into cities that are global trade and immigration centers. These cities are becoming more populous, diverse, and prosperous. Not coincidentally, they typically also have disproportionately large immigrant populations and friendly policies towards immigrants. This confluence of factors results in an intensified conflict between cities and states over the meaning of citizenship, as nationalist movements portray global cities as the Trojan horses undermining citizenship from within.

This document contains Part I of the book, which consists of the Introduction and chapters 1 through 3. Chapter 1, entitled “Three Models of Citizenship” explains how the modern state simultaneously maintains commitments to three different conceptions of citizenship that are all in some tension with each other: the republican, liberal, and ethno-nationalist models of citizenship. Chapter 2, “Local and National Citizenship,” details the mosaic of laws regarding suffrage, immigration, education and public benefits, zoning, civil rights and others through which our federal system has designated the national government as the sphere of identity and civic activity, and local governments as the sphere of the market and the family. This chapter also describes, however, how globalization has caused the line between local and national citizenship to become blurred. Chapter 3, “A Short History of Local Citizenship,” describes the process by which our ideas about citizenship came to be divided between federal and local scales.

Keywords: Globalization, citizenship, local government, local citizenship, urban citizenship, citizenship federalism, immigration, immigration federalism

Suggested Citation

Stahl, Kenneth, Local Citizenship in a Global Age: How Cities are Changing What It Means to be a Citizen (Part I) (May 8, 2019). Local Citizenship in a Global Age: How Cities are Changing What It Means to be a Citizen (Part I), Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3385067

Kenneth Stahl (Contact Author)

Chapman University - The Dale Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States

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