Compare and contrast the 'materiality of citizenship' in the west and the post-colonial world - by Sadiat Mannan

07262010 th 25 June 2008 In the article Citizenship, Affiliation and Exclusion Naila Kabeer shows that citizenship has evolved in the West and in the post-colonial countries the materiality of citizenship was constructed and codified. The pre-capitalist Western Societies were hierarchical and it was based on 'moral economy.' The system required subordinates to obey and super-ordinates to protect, where the disposition of property was based on the complex relationships among the peoples. There was no legal code for individuals to as bearer of rights. It was not until the period of Enlightenment that the idea of citizenship emerged: a sovereign human being. Individual consciousness and free-will was combined in the marketplace. Relations took place with the dissolution of privilege and a new middleclass emerged with private-property ownership. The materiality of citizenship worsened the society structure by widening the rural population with the others. The privatisation of land deprived the poor of their customary rights of use but allowed them sell their labour at the marketplace. Hence, an 'impersonal' public sphere was created and contract had replaced customs. Progressively a model of exchange was created that consisted of contractual, familial and a unilateral and voluntary forms of exchange. However, charity (unilateral and voluntary forms of exchange) stigmatized the poor and provided the giver a moral credibility. Over time, this inequality was recognised. The notion of labour as commodity was abolished and the working man was provided with basic minimum social security. The civil-political rights had promoted 'positive freedom' and 'negative freedom' but the inequalities were not completely ruled out. Nevertheless they did promote the poor with the capacity to act as citizens. The transformation created a 'private' sphere of market and a public sphere of family, kinship and community. This was accompanied by the development of institutions to uphold rule of law. In the colonial states the social system was based on tradition, custom and hierarchy as well. The colonial rulers barely practised their notion of citizenship as they did at home. They actively strengthened the existing system through a codified system of law. Independence of the colonial states did not bring about material prosperity and political freedoms. The power was kept by few elites of the society and the structure barely changed. The proper idea of citizen as bearer of rights has shallow roots in many of the societies even now. Kinship remains a central part of the social system. It organizes 'institutions, structuring politics, religion, economy and social relationships, and [renders] the distinction between public and private irrelevant (pg. 18, Kabeer).' In most post-colonial states this situation prevails where the idea of the individual depends upon the kinships roles, relationships and their roles in the society. The commitment to forming institutional machineries to adopt formal rights and give them substance was inept. The rights given to the people were rather formal than real. The notion of citizenship was highly partial, fragmented and incomplete. This hardly brought about change and to a certain extent reproduced the pre-existing social systems of kinship, religion, ethnicity, caste etc. According to Kabeer, the ideas of citizenship resonate the existing cultural system rather than the universalist notion of citizenship.

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