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Marxist Theory of Citizenship Anthony Giddens

Examine the Marxist notion of citizenship with special reference to

Anthony Giddens.

Marxist theory of citizenship treats the rights associated with citizenship as

the product of class conflict. Anthony Giddens is the chief exponent of this
theory. In his two important works A Contemporary Critique of Historical
Materialism (1981) and Profiles and Critiques of Social Theory (1982),
Giddens has contradicted Marshalls view in order to bring forth his own
viewpoint. He has particularly raised three issues:

1. Firstly, Marshall treats the development of citizenship as if it were something

that unfolded in phases according to some inner logic within the modern
world. Giddens find this account as oversimplification of the role of politics
as the state, as if the whole process was supported and strengthened by the
beneficent hand of the state. Giddens argues that the unprivileged have
achieved their citizenship in substantial degree only through struggle; they

Marxist Theory of Citizenship Anthony Giddens

succeeded to tilt the balance of power in their favour only during the times of
war, particularly during the period of world war.

2. Secondly, according to Marshall, development of citizenship has taken place

in a unilinear manner. Giddens disagrees with him on this point. He argues
that it was the product of various social movements. The varying strength of
these movements led to variations in the benefits conceded to the
unprivileged. Erosion of welfare rights of the poor during 1970s and 1980s,
particularly under Margaret Thatcher (in England) and Ronald Reagon (in
US) are the cases in point.

3. Thirdly, Marshall identified three types of rights associated with citizenship:

civil, political and social rights. He held that these rights belong to a single
category. On the contrary, Gidden identified two types of citizenship rights
which belonged to different categories:


Marxist Theory of Citizenship Anthony Giddens

Individual freedom and equality before law signify those civil rights which
were largely won by the emergence of bourgeoisie through their struggle
against the feudal privileges. These rights helped to consolidate industrial
capitalism and modern representative state.

Economic civil rights signify those rights for which working class and tradeunion activists fought against bourgeois system of power. These include
workers right to form their union, expand its activities, right to bargaining
and right to strike. These rights sought to challenge the dominance of
capitalist system.

According to Giddens, development of citizenship and modern democracy

began in late 16th century with the expansion of state sovereignty and
administrative build-up. This paved the way for the extension for the states
capacity for surveillance which implied the collection and storing for
information about members of society. This type of supervision increased the

Marxist Theory of Citizenship Anthony Giddens

states dependence on cooperative forms of social relations. It was no longer
possible for the modern state to manage its affairs by force alone. More
opportunities were generated for subordinate groups to influence their rulers.
Giddens has termed this phenomenon as two-way expansion of power.

In his work The Nation State and Violence (1985), Giddens has conceded
the contemporary capitalism is different from 19th century capitalism. Labour
movements have played a prominent role in its transformation. In most of the
capitalist countries of today, welfare capitalism has come into existence
which safeguards the civil rights of the working class. These civil rights have
helped to consolidate industrial capitalist system.

Thus, Giddens has departed from the original tenets of Marxism and has
come round the view that citizenship rights can be maintained within the
structure of liberal democracy.