When people discuss citizenship, they often have in mind a particular model of the relationship between a state and its citizens. This model reflects different historical experiences and differing political traditions. For example, the republican model was inspired by Aristotle and later authors like Tacitus, Cicero, Machiavelli and Harrington. It understands citizenry as a social status that is associated with specific political rights and duties. This model is widely prevalent in contemporary constitutional democracies.
The liberal model, on the other hand, was influenced by authors like Locke and Rousseau. This model focuses on the importance of individual liberty and the recognition that laws are promulgated with the welfare of citizens in mind. The liberal model also posits that good citizenship is the result of an active participation in the public sphere. This participation includes voting in elections, attending public deliberations and demonstrating against government policies. It also involves being familiar with the country’s history and culture.
Both models of citizenship have their strengths and weaknesses. They are often based on different assumptions about what it means to be a good citizen and how a citizen should behave. However, there are some basic characteristics that all good citizens have in common. For one, they are morally responsible and they respect the rights of others. They are also willing to adapt to changing circumstances and they can make quick decisions in urgent situations. In addition, they are able to listen to the views of others and recognize that they may have valuable perspectives on problems that need immediate attention.
There are many different conceptions of citizenship, but most of them have a shared goal: to make society better. For example, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, around three-quarters of Americans say that it is very important for citizens to vote in elections and pay taxes. A smaller share believe it is very important for citizens to volunteer, know the Pledge of Allegiance and follow what happens in their country’s government and politics.
One of the most important differences between the republican and liberal models is that they both depend on the capacity for rational agency as a prerequisite for citizenship. The extension of citizenship to groups that were previously excluded – such as women and the descendants of slaves – has not changed this basic understanding of citizenship. Similarly, the democratic process can only be legitimate when it enables a high level of solidarity, which in turn depends on basic standards of social justice being met.
While these distinctions between the various definitions of citizenship are important, they are not as stark as they might seem. In reality, most of the time, people think about what it means to be a good Citizen by asking themselves how they can contribute to making their communities and country better. This is why it is not unusual to see people wear “I Voted” stickers or talk about their participation in civic life – even when they have a very different definition of citizenship from the majority.