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Citizenship and the Place of the Public Sphere: Law, Community, and Political Culture in the Transition to Democracy

Margaret R. Somers
American Sociological Review
Vol. 58, No. 5 (Oct., 1993), pp. 587-620
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096277
Page Count: 34
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Citizenship and the Place of the Public Sphere: Law, Community, and Political Culture in the Transition to Democracy
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Abstract

Democratic revolutions and global transitions have again thrust debates about citizenship and social class onto the sociological agenda. I use institutional and relational/network analysis to reconsider three tacit assumptions of these debates: (1) citizenship must be defined as a status; (2) capitalist development and citizenship formation must occur together; and (3) theories of citizenship must be based on the relationship between the state and capitalism. These assumptions are examined in T. H. Marshall's ([1949] 1964) classic historical sociological work, Citizenship and Social Class. By examining Marshall's thesis in its original empirical context of eighteenth-century English history, I demonstrate that varying patterns of institutional relationships among law, communities, and political cultures were central factors in shaping modern citizenship rights. Focusing on regional variation in citizenship practices among eighteenth-century English working communities, I suggest that: (1) citizenship should be redefined as an "instituted process" rather than a status; (2) the development of citizenship rights depended on the nexus of England's national legal infrastructure and the varying community capacities for participatory association; and (3) future research on citizenship and democratization expand beyond a focus on states and capitalism to include a sociology of relationships among public spheres, community associational life, and patterns of political culture.

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