Public Lecture: Rogers Smith

Here is my paraphrasing of Rogers Smith’s “Keynote” speech, from Wayne State’s 2013 Meaning of Citizenship Conference. Rogers Smith New book, Civic Horizonswill address some of the issues outlined below.


There are 4 big questions of citizenship, which hold empirical and normative dimensions, and will help illuminate the “big picture” with respect to citizenship. The “big picture” of citizenship consists of multiple constructed definitions; from Augustine’s City of God to… “Yes, I have a passport that says I am a citizen of this country;” to shared fate, to active service, etc. In studying citizenship, we must keep an open definition, even if this “probably means that we will fail to grasp important dimensions of the phenomena of citizenship we profess to be working on in our work.” In short, citizenship creates social and political processes. Thus, how might we best live, and how do we live, via the citizenship available within and between us–under construction?

The 4 big questions of citizenship [under construction]:

1. Appropriately differentiated citizenship: Dawn of 20th century, post Civil War, American laws were structured, punitively, for second class citizens; such as Jim Crow laws. This led 20th century struggles to achieve equal citizenship—unitary in form. But to what degree were all citizens going to be treated as equal atomized citizens without second class citizens? The empirical reality that democratic citizenship has never shown fully equal citizenship is readily apparent. The legal construction of citizenship creates differentiated citizenship. There is resistance, but the time for resistance is over! The government should determine on a continuing basis what kinds of appropriately differentiated citizenship are necessary in the promotion of equal citizenship!

2. Horizons of citizenship: transnational political associations may connect elites, or more generally groups, but these transnational associations may not better the standard of living of people—cosmopolitanism may not improve the social or environmental developments. The question of the appropriate horizon must therefore be central to the question as the world transforms normatively and empirically. To whom does the citizen belong? For example, what is the horizon for accounting for citizenship amidst the cycle of authors proclaiming the fragmentation of the nation-state in favor of local governments [i ask: republicanism?]–followed by newer research demonstrating the strenghthening of the nation-state [i ask: liberalism?]–followed by groups within groups? Identity in world history was not long ago connected with empires; however, today, for instance, Isma’ili are failthful to Isma’ili–and the country of residence is second.

3.  The question of the character of civic bonds which should be fostered is central. Primarily, there is the problem of allegiances sufficient to promote civic engagement, and to avoid chauvinism. Political leaders empirically, at times, may promote chauvinistic nationalism or  other exclusionary activity, such as xenophobia or racism–and this must be considered. We may begin to understand differentiated citizenship, for example, via stories of people hood; say, how George W. Bush views citizenship in his first inaugural address as contrasted to how Obama views citizenship in his second inaugural address. The contrast is clear—W. Bush finds that Americans are not the ultimate authors of the American story; rather, providence is the author. Conversely, Obama said that we are different; however, together we are citizens and indeed the ultimate authors of the American story. Both stories, further, do have the potential to be chauvinistic and xenophobic interpretations. Hence, we may “map” differentiated citizenship, both positive and negative, within and between citizens by accounting for the “character” through which civic bonds can and should be fostered–bonds which serve to hold together political communities and inspire civic engagement!

4.  However we answer the former three points, our answers will be imperfect. What do we do when our duties as citizens conflict with our duties as being our best normative being? The 21st century must be a century for developing the normative citizen[ship] empirically in light of the necessary role of government in promoting differentiated citizenship. Thus, we must consider the problem regarding when “allegiance” is violated via the community–good man v. good citizen. Indeed, we face this challenge every day, as scholars and as human beings. In this “big picture,” defining and resolving conflicting civic and personal obligations are central to the empirical and normative dimensions facing citizenship.


Energetic discussion follows…. what I was about to ask:

Republicanism—Pettit and Maynor say that republican citizens promote deliberative democracy and not just the right to vote. That republicans will admonish liberal neutrality—that republicanism will promote collaborative citizenship for the public good… what degree do you think republicanism may play a role in differentiated citizenship in America in the 21st century?

Also, since I find evidence for multiple traditions in America in my [working] dissertation; will your new book, Civic Horizons, perhaps provide a few normative possibilities for republicanism, authoritarianism, biblical thought, and/or conservative thought?


2 thoughts on “Public Lecture: Rogers Smith

  1. Pingback: Roosting Justice, Roasting Conservatives. « Political Pipeline

  2. Pingback: “We Got an A.P.D. on Syria and Chemical Weapons” | Political Pipeline

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