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Review: The Citizenship Dilemma

Reviewed Work: Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U. S. History by Rogers M. Smith
Review by: Peter J. Spiro
Stanford Law Review
Vol. 51, No. 3 (Feb., 1999), pp. 597-639
Published by: Stanford Law Review
DOI: 10.2307/1229266
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1229266
Page Count: 43
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The Citizenship Dilemma
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Abstract

In this review, Professor Peter J. Spiro examines Roger M. Smith's recent work, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U. S. History. Out of Smith's historical treatment, Spiro distills what he terms the American "citizenship dilemma." This dilemma arises, in Professor Spiro's view, from the inherent tension between inclusion and solidarity in forging a cohesive and vigorous national identity. As Smith demonstrates, morally-discredited traditions of exclusion provided an important source of cohesion in American history. Policies and acts of inclusion-while consistent with the rhetoric of civic myths-have diminished the state by weakening the bonds of national identity. In the modern world, Professor Spiro advances, the notion of inclusion is not sufficient to provide a basis for a unique American identity. In light of this, Professor Spiro argues that Smith and other liberal nationalists are misguided in assuming that America can be both strong and inclusive. Given the unacceptability of returning to previous exclusionary citizenship regimes, Professor Spiro questions the liberal-nationalist assumption that the nation will remain the focal point of rights and solidarities. He discusses a host of nonstate communities that have garnered individual loyalties and argues that the increasing prominence of such associations indicates the weakening of bonds of national identity. Professor Spiro concludes that the nation-while remaining an important force in American's lives-is likely to become less important in terms of associative identity than it has been in the past, and he sketches the normative challenges that will be posed by this new regime.

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