Over the past 15+ years, academics and researchers have written extensively about the rolling back of the state (Atkinson, 1999; Colás, 2005; Essex, 2008; Jessop, 2002; Kelsey, 1993; Koffman & Raghuram, 2009; Kiely, 2005; Peck, 2002; Sothern, 2005; Sparke, 2005). But most (all?) of these explorations have been about the rolling back of the social service state with regard to economic policy as it relates to the state or to debt (national vs. international shifts). Neoliberalism requires a kind of stunted social service sector that is provided by the state, one that is reliant on the “interstitial spaces” (Lake and Newman, 2002) of the “shadow state” (DeVerteuil & Wilton, 2009; Jeffrey, 2007; Kearns, 1995; Mitchell, 2001, 2004, 2010; Parr, 2000; Sparke 2008). The shadow state is the filling in of the interstitial spaces left behind by the rolling back of the social welfare state. This is filled in with churches, local NGOs, non profits, and other non-governemntal social service providers (of which are too many to even begin to enumerate) who provide services that were once provided by the state (e.g., food banks, free and low-cost community clinics, directed health and development programs – obviously the “interstitial spaces” range from very local to global – think: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded programs).
However, i argue, the “rolling back of the state” has taken a much stronger (dare i say “sinister”?) turn not just from social service, but also a rolling back of civil and political rights, as well. I turn to TH Marshall to even begin to unwind this thought process (in all its infancy).
T.H. Marshall, in his essay, “Citizenship and Social Class,” (1950) marks the stages of citizenship through three temporally demarcated progressions of civil citizenship, political citizenship and social citizenship. Each of these progressions builds upon the previous to expand the scope of citizenship through the opening of rights of individuals and groups. Civil and political citizenship encompass the negative rights of citizens while social citizenship encompasses positive rights.
Civil citizenship developed during the eighteenth century, shifting the economic landscape through the advancement of the right of citizens to work where and how they felt inclined. This newly-developing freedom worked to undermine local and group monopolies which wielded the power to exclude people from professions, to tie others to a particular place or trade, and to maintain a tight grip on traffic and trade. This included a right to own property. During this same century, other civil rights blossomed in the form of freedom of speech and rights to thought and to choose one’s own religion. It is during this time that “freedom” and “citizenship” become transposable terms representing a new national identity and protection of adult men.
Political citizenship, Marshall (1950: 13) posits, was not the creation of new rights, but the extension of old rights to a new population. These rights, in the nineteenth century, were opened to “those who could produce the normal evidence of success in economic struggle.” This capacity to participate as an economic actor in the newly-emerging capitalist system granted the right to exercise political power through voting, which, in turn, broadened the electorate.
Social citizenship, emerging through the end of the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, stretched rights toward “a modicum of economic welfare and security to the right to share to the full in the social heritage and live the life of a civilized being according to the standards prevailing in the society” (1950: 8). By this, Marshall is referring to education and social services, not, as he points out, because children are citizens, but, rather, as the responsibility of the state to prepare future citizens with the necessary tools to be “reasonable and intelligent” citizens who have the capacity to make informed decisions about their own participation in society.
Social citizenship, Katharyne Mitchell (2004: 22) points out, developed more fully during the rise of the welfare state as “Keynesian ideas concerning the importance of planning, full employment, and the maintenance of a minimum level of social reproduction represented both an economic and a social philosophy about the organization of society”. Social citizenship, then is an attempt to balance the naturally-occurring inequities of laissez-faire economics of liberal capitalism through state-sponsored welfare programs which range from economic welfare and security to educational training (Dwyer, 2004: 41). This shift in hegemonic ideologies foregrounded the rights of citizens to participate fully in their democracy and recognized the inherent need for social and economic security to fulfill these rights.
It is already fully documented that social citizenship has been undone, or at least begun to roll back (we still cling to the vestiges of Social Security and Medicare, even as we loosen our grip on Medicaid and SSI, not to mention food stamps, TANF, and other unemployment and under-employment supplements). But what i’m interested in is the absolute destruction of the political and civil rights that we have seen in the past few years, especially since 9/11.
It is one thing to let go of positive rights (with the constant barage of neoliberal ideologies and neo-Christian / Calvinist dogma that plagues the U.S. [at least] i can understand the whole “hard work” ethic – boots and all – even if i don’t agree with it), but an entirely different one to let go of negative rights. The negative rights were enacted to protect us from the state, from the powers-that-be. Yet the NDAA, which technically does not nullify the rights of citizens, does, in fact, give the state (the U.S.) the right to declare some citizens citizenship-less, grants the right to the U.S. to hold people indefinitely if they are thought to be members of or aiding a terrorist organization, has passed through Congress and is awaiting (we all hope) the veto of the President.
What does this do to citizenship rights? If we are all held to this arbitrary notation on citizenship, what then happens to our citizenship, in general? It’s one thing to posit that our positive citizenship rights have been undone through PRWORA and other means, it is another to acknowledge the eroding of our positive rights. Must we return to the state (or is it “State” – with a a capital “S”?) all and any rights if we are found to be in the parry of terrorists?
What i posit is that while we’ve been busy expounding on the loss of social (or positive) rights, we’re actually losing our negative rights – all in the name of Terror (or at least the “war on terror”). What then?
Is OWS, the small and unscrupulous movement that is still finding its footing, even as our rights disappear, our saving grace? Or is there more that we must do?
I am asking you, all of you, to consider, for just one moment, what we are facing. As we walk into the New Year – What are you giving up? What positive and negative rights are disappearing even as we consume, consume, consume….? Welcome to 2012 – the year that we begin to recognize that we are nothing but citizens of an empty understanding to what it means to be a “citizen” – what are you going to do about it?