Year XL, 1998, Number 3 - Page 244

 

 

RETHINKING WORLD CITIZENSHIP*
 
 
This article deals with the changing nature of the present system of national citizenship and the evolving concept of world citizenship. It covers three issues. First, it examines the current system of “citizenship”, which is derived from the Westphalian System of nation-states. Second, it examines the changing nature of national citizenship. Third, it suggests that a form of world citizenship is evolving.
 
1. The Current Order of Nation-states.
 
a) The Westphalian System. Humanity has evolved through two stages of political organization and it is now embarking on a third. The first “global order” was based on tribes and city-states and the imperial ambitions of some tribes and city-states (such as Athens and Rome). For example, the Roman Empire in the third to fifth centuries was periodically attacked by Goths. As Michael Grant, the biographer of Constantine (?272-337) has pointed out: It was, indeed, fortunate for Rome that the Goths, like other Germans, were disunited and disorganized: every geographical unit of Gothic territory had its own separate markets, selling goods to whoever was prepared to buy, whatever race they belonged to. But what was especially crippling for the Goths was that the fragmentation that was characteristic of them had long extended to political life, for Gothic society normally had no real leader or leaders, no one capable of introducing or enforcing any degree of centralization.[1]
The present system — based on nation-states — is often called the “Westphalian System”, which began in 1648, with the Treaty of Westphalia at the end of Europe’s Thirty Year War and the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire. “Nation” refers to an ethnic group and “state” is the political apparatus to govern that group.
One characteristic of the system is the centralization of power in some form of ruler. Because of improvements in technology such a person can govern large areas of land. Second, clear boundaries are very important for the Westphalian System and so the globe is divided up into a neat patchwork of nation-states. Third, there is uniformity. Nation-states have many similarities in, for example, their political institutions (even though they may operate differently) and this similarity enables governments to co-operate with one another.
 
b) Citizenship and the Nation-State System. Citizenship is a vital component of the Westphalian system. Everyone has to be a citizen of a nation-state (even refugees still have ambitions to be a citizen of either their former country or a new one). Citizenship, in legal and political terms, is the link between the individual and that person’s national government.
But there is no agreement on how “citizenship” is acquired. For example, in France, the citizens are the inhabitants of French territory. Being French is associated with French language and culture — and these can be acquired by learning them. By contrast, the German notion of citizenship is ethnic. Anyone of German ethnic origin can claim German citizenship. Thus, a person whose German family may have lived in the Ukraine for two centuries will find it easier to acquire German citizenship than a person born in Germany of Turkish (“guest worker”) parents. The term “guest worker” is a way that the Germans fool themselves that the Turkish presence — Berlin is now the fourth largest “Turkish” city — is only a “temporary problem”. But there are now up to three generations of such “guest workers” residing on German soil — still without German citizenship. Similarly, to become a Japanese citizen, a person has to be born of parents whose own parents were Japanese. This explains why Japanese-Koreans, whose families have been resident in Japan for a century, still do not have Japanese citizenship.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, Australian and US citizenships are acquired by residence in the countries and according to government criteria (which nowadays are based on the applicants skills or the number of relatives already present in the country).
Michael Dobbs-Higginson, in his study of the Asia Pacific region, has described some of the problems created by western colonialism:
Colonizing nations often drew borders on maps without any consideration for ethnic or geographic boundaries. For this reason, for example, many Thais live outside Thailand… Many nations in Asia Pacific have fought, and in a very few cases are still fighting, guerrilla wars initiated by minority races who feel no national loyalty to the “country” in which they live. The collection of tribal island cultures that is the Philippines has little more than its colonial past to unify it. The same is true for Malaysia, India and Indonesia.[2]
He goes on to identify four groups of “Chinese”: People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Chinese Diaspora. Of the latter category, there are about 43 million Chinese in the region. Their status has changed over the years, as Dobbs-Higginson pointed out:
During the 1950s, Mao Zedong referred to the Chinese abroad as Chinese nationals. He urged the Overseas Chinese to return to their homeland to help build the new China. But during the 1960s and 1970s, the Chinese leadership changed its mind. Instead, it advised these overseas kith and kin to assimilate into the country in which they lived so that they could create beachheads of influence and at the same time continue to remit foreign exchange to their families at home. When Deng Xiaoping resurfaced as a power in China, he also wooed the Overseas Chinese.[3]
Thus, there is the irony that although citizenship is one of the key components of the Westphalian System, there is no agreement on such a basic matter as how it is acquired. But this may not matter so much now because the Westphalian System is in decline.
 
2. The Westphalian System under Threat.
 
The Westphalian System is now being eroded by two somewhat interrelated sources. First, there are new problems which transcend national borders. This article, owing to space limitations, will deal only with the environment and the economy.[4] Second, there are new institutions which also transcend national borders: inter-governmental organizations (such as the United Nations), transnational corporations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
 
a) The Environment. The Westphalian System is having difficulty coping with global environmental problems. Here are four instances of the limitations of a national government.
First, pollution is not new but its global character certainly is. For example, acid rain is generated in one country and falls in another; the 1986 nuclear disaster in the USSR resulted in radioactive contamination going across Europe. Second, on the alleged “global warming”, here is one global problem being created by many countries but which will have different impacts. Australia, on a per capita basis, is a major contributor to this problem and yet the rising sea (if it takes place) will hurt Australia’s neighbours in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean’s islands far more than Australia itself. In other words, people in one country will suffer because of the lifestyles of people in other nations.
Third, diseases such as AIDS, can now sweep more from one country to another because of improvements in transport which permit people to travel from one continent to another. Finally, national governments think in the short-term: up to the next election or palace coup. Environmental problems, by contrast, build up over the years. They do not necessarily manifest themselves within the lifetime of a government.
 
b) The Economy. Western economies are still heavily influenced by the ideas of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). His basic idea was that there should be some government intervention in the economy during a recession by putting money into circulation to stimulate economic activity.
This does not work so well in a globalized national economy. An injection of money into (say) the Italian economy does not now necessarily stay in Italy. About half of what is called “international trade” is actually trade conducted within different components of the same transnational corporations. An attempt to stimulate a national economy by traditional Keynesian methods will not necessarily work. A tax cut for Italians will not necessarily be spent in Italy, but could be spent on Japanese, South Korean or American goods and services.
Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese business consultant, has coined a new term: the Inter-Linked Economy (ILE) of the Triad (US, Europe and Japan), joined by the Asian “tigers” (such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore):
The emergence of the ILE has created much confusion, particularly for those who are used to dealing with economic based on conventional macro-economic statistics that compare one nation another. Their theories don’t work any more. While the Keynesian economist would expect to see jobs increase as an economy picks up, the ILE economy sometimes disappoints them. Jobs might be created abroad instead. If the government tightens the money supply, loans may gush in from abroad and make the nation’s monetary policy meaningless. If the central bank tries to raise the interest rate, cheaper funds flow in from elsewhere in the ILE. For all practical purposes, the ILE has made obsolete the traditional instruments of central bankers — interest rate and money supply.[5]
“Buy Australian” or “Buy British” campaigns are therefore doomed to be unsuccessful as a way of changing expenditure patterns. Given the involvement of foreign corporations in so many aspects of Australian or British economic life, it is often difficult to buy, for example, specifically “Australian” products. Even the labelling may be unhelpful because “Australian made” can also include goods assembled in Australia from foreign components (for example, many “Australian” fruit juices are made from fruit juice extracted overseas and packaged in Australia).
Additionally, such campaigns are undermined by communications corporations. The impact of global television includes — for better or worse — the development of a global consumer culture. This is currently based on such items as Coca Cola, Big Macs and Madonna. Big Macs are the global fastfood and Coke supplies the global soft drink. Coca-Cola is sold in more countries than there are members of the UN and Cable News Network (CNN) is watched in more countries than there are in the UN. There is a McDonalds outlet opening somewhere in the world every 14 hours and the McDonalds chain has three times more staff than the UN.
Consumers want these foreign items. They are not interested in domestic equivalents. This means that each nation-state, has to export goods and services in order to finance the imports wanted by its consumers.
Fish are not aware that they are swimming in water. They take the water for granted. Much the same could be said about social conditioning in humans. We take our social environment for granted and we often do not observe how we are being absorbed into the global consumer culture.
Harry Stein was an Australian left-wing journalist. In his early years he had been a member of the communist party. In his memoirs, he recalled his first trip to England and he was annoyed at the way in which British communists referred to him as a “colonial”.[6] The British communists had become conditioned to thinking in imperial terms — even though they were opposed to imperialism. But then much the same could be said about Harry himself. Harry recalled his youth and the way that he liked to spend his money: “I was fastidious about what I wore and was an avid reader of Esquire, the American magazine, both for its stories and fashion notes”.[7] This leading Young Communist League member was both opposed to US policies — and yet loved US fashion and was a member of the emerging consumer society.
Consumerism is seductive. A person may not know just how their tastes are being moulded by the global corporations — or how their tastes may run counter to their professed political opinions.
 
c) The New Global Institutions. The new global institutions are: international organizations, transnational corporations and non-governmental organizations.[8] National governments have found it necessary to create international (or more accurately “inter-governmental”) organizations to facilitate co-operation across national frontiers. The mere fact that these organizations exist is itself proof that governments (albeit reluctantly) acknowledge that they do need to work together on an increasing range of issues, such as health and protecting the environment.
The UN is the best known example of an inter-governmental organization. While most popular attention to the UN has been focussed on political and military co-operation (such as peacekeeping operations) the real breakthroughs have been in economic and social co-operation. Until the expansion, in the late 1980s, of the UN’s peacekeeping work, at least 80 per cent of the UN’s resources went into economic and social cooperation. For example, the UN co-ordinated the campaign to eradicate small pox (achieved in 1980), and create a new law of the sea (1982). Indeed, inter-governmental organizations are now a growth industry.
Transnational corporations have helped to create one global economy. The USSR and China have tried to stand outside the global economy but they have succumbed to it. If you can’t beat them, join them. Money, for example, moves freely through the global economy. Until recently, money moved slowly because of strict national banking regulations. The regulations were weakened in the 1980s. Money is itself a source of money in that corporations speculate on the changing value of currencies. Up to US$600 billion can move through foreign exchange dealings in a day. The dealers can force up or down the value of currencies. For example, in late July 1993, the speculators moved in the French franc and began selling it. The central bankers (especially those of France and Germany) moved in to protect the franc by buying it with foreign currencies. The franc was still devalued and the French and German central bankers spent US$69 billion in their futile effort (the money went into the hands of the speculators — one of whom made US$1.5 billion in less than a week).
Second, transnational corporations operate across national boundaries. They can play governments off against each other; if one government tries to get tough with a corporation it will try to find a more congenial environment in another nation-state. Third, corporations create a global consumer culture. They can pick up a marketing idea (such as hamburgers or dinosaurs) and quickly create a global appetite for it. Finally, such corporations often operate beyond national control. For example, one of the biggest financial scandals in recent years has been the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). As the UK newspaper The Guardian commented: “The first lesson of the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International is the need to create an international mechanism to police the billions of footloose funds, legal and illegal, which can be shifted around the world at the press of a computer keyboard without adequate control. The 1980s gave us international de-regulation, but not the international surveillance which should go with it. BCCI is rooted in the secret tax havens of Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands. Owned by Arab money and run by Pakistanis, it was not only rudderless but stateless as well, with no central bank standing behind it. The Bank of England has done well to marshal a global clampdown at short notice, but this does not answer the question of why a bank which had been indicted for laundering drug money and which secretly bought control of two American banks was allowed to get away with it for so long. The governor of the Bank of England observed that ‘innuendo is one thing, evidence quite another’. That is exactly the point. If there isn’t an international body to keep watch on a global fraud, there will only be innuendo until a bank becomes so financially rotten that, as with BCCI, it is in danger of dropping from the tree by itself”.[9]
A non-governmental organization is any organization outside the government (such as the public service and the defence forces) and business. NGOs have long played an important part in the life of developed western countries. The only countries this century that have tried explicitly to do without NGOs have been the communist ones, notably the USSR. The USSR believed that the government itself could provide all the services from the cradle to the grave and it knew what was best for the people. Thus, all the eastern European NGOs operated on the fringe of official existence — and at times being declared illegal. With the end of communism, these NGOs have been the basis of eastern Europe’s “civil society”.
One reason for the recent rapid expansion in NGOs has been the overall decline in confidence in western political systems. There is widespread cynicism among voters about politicians. There is much evidence to support their cynicism in that, as argued above, national governments do not (in the two examples) necessarily have much control over the national environment or the national economy.[10]
Second, NGOs mobilize the community. They enable individuals to take an active role in working for a better society. One way in which this is done is through voluntary service. NGOs are a vehicle whereby hundreds of thousands of people can volunteer their services. People will volunteer their time, money and gifts-in-kind to NGOs — but they will not volunteer to do the same for official government bodies.
Third, NGOs are also good at research. This is important because universities in many countries are going through various financial crises and so there is not so much scope for research to be conducted. Additionally, much of the research that is conducted and written up, is too detached from the general public. Academics talk too often to each other, and too little to the general public. NGOs conduct their own research and can popularize esoteric university research. They are also good at using the mass media to publicize their findings.
Fourth, NGOs show that a good way to bring about change is to establish a model of how they would like things to be. In other words, providing warnings is not enough: it is also necessary to provide an alternative. Thus, NGOs are often on the leading edge of change. Through their advocacy work, they provide innovations, fresh thinking and new visions. They — rather than government — often set the pace.
Fifth, NGOs survive the fads and fashions of governments; they outlive the terms of elected governments. They provide a continuity of care and a continued focus on social justice issues when governments might prefer to ignore those issues.
Sixth, many NGOs transcend their own national borders. Amnesty International members, for example, can only campaign on behalf of prisoners outside the their own country. Third World development groups are raising money for people outside their own country. Membership of NGOs is a passport to international affairs.
Therefore, NGOs are a growing force in global politics. They are adept at attracting media coverage, they appeal to who are disenchanted with the usual party political process, and they provide a sense of vision and continuity which outlasts the short-term perspective of their own governments.
 
d) Implications for Traditional Notions of Citizenship. The decline in the relevance of nation-states has obvious implications for the traditional notions of citizenship. A person’s national government and that person’s nation-state are no longer so significant for that person’s sense of loyalty. That person’s wealth, consumer tastes and political activities, for example, are likely to be influenced by factors outside the nation-state. They will still be a citizenship of that nation-state but the nation-state will have declining relevance for them.
 
Creating World Citizenship.
 
a) Towards the Post-Westphalian System. The replacement for the Westphalian System will not be created overnight. No one in 1648 got out of bed one morning and said that they would create a new global order that day. The global order evolved and people bit by bit noticed that a new global order had emerged. The system of nation-states will not disappear entirely. There will still be a role for national governments, albeit a somewhat reduced one.
The new era will not like today’s either/or society. It will be one of multiple options — several features running together in a bewildering range of options. Therefore, national governments will remain but will not be as important as the mass media like to imply (especially at election time).
Therefore, a new global order is evolving in which national governments are having to share their authority with international organizations (especially the UN), transnational corporations (TNCs), and NGOs. The post-Westphalian global order will need to find formal ways of drawing TNCs and NGOs into global decision-making. For example, TNCs benefit greatly from UN peacekeeping operations. Why not impose global taxes on TNCs to help finance the UN? This could be accompanied by giving TNCs a role in UN decision-making: no taxation without representation.
 
b) World Citizenship. The notion of world citizenship is also part of creating the post-Westphalian system. Some foundations for a form of world citizenship already exist and have taken root. First, attention has already been given in this article to the development of a global consumer culture, whereby people are encouraged to think of themselves as part of a global market.
Second, some NGOs enable citizens to take action against their own government over policies of which they disapprove. Governments are not the only source of wisdom in society. NGOs also form a global community (such as Rotary, Greenpeace, Amnesty International) which mean that ordinary people the world over now do more in conjunction with each than ever before.
Third there are the global religious networks which have cut across the neat patchwork of countries, such as the Baha’is, Christianity and Islam.
Fourth, there are specific world citizenship NGOs which exist to encourage people to think of themselves as world citizens. Some of the NGOs are: Citoyens du Monde (Paris)[11] and World Citizens Foundation (San Francisco).[12] These are consciousness-raising NGOs.
Finally, Earth, seen from outer space, is a blue planet without national borders. It is a borderless world. Humans have created political borders. But a new view of the earth is emerging.
In 1948 the English astrophysicist Fred Hoyle remarked: “Once a photograph of the earth taken from the outside is available, once the sheer isolation of the earth becomes plain, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose”. Twenty years later one of the Apollo missions made that photograph available. We knew what it would look like long before we saw it. We were accustomed to phrases like “spaceship earth” “global village”, but seeing the photograph was a remarkable experience. Within 12 months the first Earth Day was held. Within 18 months the Environmental Protection Agency was founded. The first of the European “Greens” parties was formed… This was “picture-power” indeed.[13]
To sum up, the post-Westphalian global order will be an era of multiple “citizenships”. A person will still have a national citizenship (because the nation-state will still exist, albeit in a reduced form). A person could even possibly have citizenships other if they work for a TNC and they have to travel extensively. There might even be just a common European Union citizenship for the people in western Europe already the passports checks on EU — as distinct from non-EU — countries are a mere formality).
They will also be increasingly world citizens in an economic and cultural sense. This could also include paying taxes directly to the UN. The UN Secretary-General, in order to ease the UN’s financial problem, has suggested that the UN rely on sources of income other national governments, such as “a levy on international air, which is dependent on the maintenance of peace”.[14]
In short, the traditional notion of national citizenship is undergoing a major change. Its next form will include a global dimension.
 
Keith Suter


* This heading includes interventions which the editorial board believes readers will find interesting, but which do not necessarily reflect the board’s views.
[1] Michael Grant, The Emperor Constantine, London: Weidenfeld Nicolson, 1993, pp. 54-5.
[2] Michael Dobbs-Higginson, Asia Pacific: Its Role in the New World Disorder, London: Heinemann, 1993, p. 14.
[3] Ibid., pp. 175-6.
[4] See: Keith Suter, Global Agenda: Economics, the Environment and the Nation-State, Sydney: Albatross, 1995.
[5] Kenichi Ohmae, The Borderless World, London: Collins, 1990, p. xi.
[6] Harry Stein, A Glance Over an Old Left Shoulder, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1994, p.43.
[7] Ibid., p. 38.
[8] See: Keith Suter, Global Change: Armageddon and the New World Order, Sydney: Albatross, 1995.
[9] “After the Debacle”, Time, August 16 1993, pp. 34-9.
[10]  “The Bank That Got Away”, The Guardian (London), July 8 1991, p. 5.
[11] 15 rue Victor Duruy, 75015, Paris.
[12] 55 New Montgomery Street, Suite 224, San Francisco, CA, 94105.
[13] John Cato “Foreword” in Kathleen Whelan, Photographs of The Age: Newspaper Photography in Australia, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1993, p. 7.
[14] UN Secretary-General, An Agenda for Peace, New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, 1995, pp. 67-8.

 

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