What is a Citizen?

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A citizen (plural: citizens) is a person who is a member of a community, state or nation. A person may become a citizen by birth, descent or naturalisation, or may acquire citizenship by marriage or civil partnership to a citizen. Citizenship is also a status that can be conferred by a government and is usually associated with rights, privileges and responsibilities. Different scholars have defined citizenship in a number of ways, with some defining it as a relationship to political society and others describing it as a concept that encompasses both legal and subjective elements of identity.

In modern Western societies, the concept of citizenship has emerged since the 18th century, during the American and French Revolutions. It originally referred to the possession, and protection, of certain freedoms from coercive power. These freedoms have evolved over time, and today, they refer to a wide range of social activities that are controlled or protected by the government.

A good citizen respects and obeys the law, pays their taxes and contributes to the economy of their country in some way. They are a positive force in their community and strive to make things better for everyone. A good citizen cares about the environment and takes steps to protect it. They help people who can’t help themselves.

They vote in national elections and participate in the democratic process. They are involved in their local community and look for ways to contribute to it, such as volunteering, fundraising or running a business. They take an interest in the history and culture of their country and support its sports teams.

Citizenship is an essential part of our lives. It enables us to enjoy the benefits of free healthcare, education and transport and to protect our property. We can vote, stand for office and join the armed forces, which is all made possible because of our citizenship.

To be a citizen of a country, you must be born in that country or have one parent who is a citizen. Some countries limit the number of generations that can claim citizenship through descent, and others have age limits for new citizens. If you are a foreign citizen, you can apply to become a citizen through naturalisation.

Different scholars have debated the nature of citizenship, and differences revolve around four disagreements: over the precise definition of each element (legal, political and identity); over their relative importance; over the causal and/or conceptual relations between them; and over appropriate normative standards. The debates have been influenced by distinct historical experiences, from Athenian democracy and Republican Rome to Italian city-states and workers’ councils. They have been conducted in two broad traditions, the republican and the liberal.