Saturday, March 29, 2008

Citizenships on the track: social-liberalism after TH Marshall

[1952 Helsinki Olympic Games - 5,000M]

The ‘return’ of the heuristic and problematic of citizenship in the academic humanities (sociology, cultural studies, political science, philosophy) is often attributed to the disappearance of actually existing socialism, the onset of the ‘New World Order’, the triumph of neo-liberalism, the demise of the Fordist-Keynesian Welfare-State, the rise of globalisation. Lacking a modernising project, the Old and New Left, so the narrative I’m rehearsing goes, sought to re-invent, rehabilitate, resharpen the language and discourse of rights: the language of citizenship.

Most of this literature of the last 17 years or so references British sociologist T.H.Marshall’s influential theory of citizenship. Marshall’s 'Citizenship and social class' is: a narrative of the development of citizenship; a typology of the three forms of citizenship; and an argument concerning how what he names social citizenship works to ameliorate the class inequalities that the other two forms reproduce. So, while the heroic gains made by c18 British civil, or legal, rights are followed by the similarly expanding gains of political rights, in the c19, the stage of the c20 is populated by social rights. Written in 1950 Marshall’s triad of citizenship forms is presented as three runners on a track who have, up till ‘now’, never run alongside each other. However, in Marshall’s estimation, the onset of the Welfare state under Keynesian conditions of government permits the three runners to synchronise for the first time; to draw even and move in time.

We are some distance from such a hoped-for eurhythmia, in 2008. Not only have the three runners on Marshall’s track fallen to an arrhythmia, other runners circle: industrial and cultural citizenship also partake in the race of citizenship discourse, although the first is perhaps now as residual and winded a runner as social citizenship. To a large extent these two residual forms of citizenship – how they became residual, and why – fills the central section of this thesis, especially during the long Labor decade (1983-96). But in order to approach such a narrative of these two fallen runners, it’s first necessary to watch them on the track, pulling even, pulling ahead during Whitlam’s (1972-5) period.

And yet the notion of cultural citizenship, a relatively recent addition to the language of and discourse on citizenship, deserves some extended comment as its recent discovery brings into focus something of the post-colonial heuristic with which I also set this thesis in.

In Peter Beilharz’s essay ‘Rewriting Australia’ Beilharz sets out six (and a seventh) dominant frames within which Australian historiography has been written. Beilharz argues that for much of the twentieth century it has been the Left (old and New) which has controlled the terms and terrain of such writings, moving through:
i. Australian as social laboratory;
ii. Australia as nation-building;
iii. The Bush myth and radical nationalist traditions;
iv. New Left critiques of Australia as bourgeois and racist;
v. Social movement history;
vi. the centrality of racial exclusion; and finally, under the Prime Ministership of John Howard,
vii. a right-wing historiography based on a de-labourised nationalist populism: everyone as ‘mates’, entrepreneurs, family-oriented, aspirational.

Looking at the forms of historiogrpahic frames, from iii. to vi. evinces a growing concern with citizenship less as expanding along the axis of the social dimension, than towards the cultural (even in Howard’s ‘writing’ of the nation, cultural citizenship is a central concern). Questions of postcoloniality, thereby, come more and more forcefully present, especially over the related issues of immigration, official multiculturalism, and race relations regarding the legacies of British settlement and the institutional and everyday cultures that resonate with imperiality.

The post-colonial literary imagination, then, can be approached through Culture as a form of citizenship, although to limit cultural citizenship to merely the post-colonial problematic would bracket out much that cultural citizenship claims within its domain (sexuality, youth subculture, informational rights, aesthetics etc). But, the post-colonial (literary) imagination can be subsumed within the rise of cultural citizenship as a newly discovered problematic and set of claims for rights, if not also responsibilities, in the post 1970s Australian world.

Definitional, borders and limits, arise in attempting to demarcate the social from the cultural. How is cultural citizenship different to social? Is it - cultural citizenship - a rupture in citizenship formation, or merely a development in social citizenship? Is cultural citizenship not so much a new discovery of a new phenomenon, but rather a new discovery of an old phenomenon? What is citizenship, anyway? Does the new discovery, and related projects of, cultural citizenship arise out of melancholy, nostalgia for solid cultural identity (participation, status, belonging) in an age of liquid self-hood or cultural activity as increasingly colonised by commodization etc? What is ‘culture’ in relation to citizenship?

[Global bird tracks]

Finally, to loop back to TH Marshall's three runners on the track - legal, political and social citizenship - pulling even after over two centuries of modernity, synchronising during the take-off of the long boom and its Keynesian Fordist Welfare-State conjuncture. Will such a convergence, or even harmonised rhythm be possible again? For whom? Is such a eurhythmia an imaginary, or can it be realised, this time with the rhythms of the biosphere also in play?