The Global Citizenship Regime As a Caste System

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 15:00
Oral Presentation
Ana VELITCHKOVA, University of Mississippi, USA
This work extends Weber’s discussion of social status, and of caste in particular, to the global level. I identify the existence of a global caste system organized around citizenship and maintained by nation-states through a regime of laws and cultural practices. Comparably to smaller-scale caste systems, this global caste system is characterized by a high degree of social closure assigning social positions—citizenships—principally by birth. Citizenship-based castes display high levels of inequality in terms of the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness at the least. Underprivileged citizenship castes experience legally enforced territorial segregation with limited access to the territories of privileged citizenship castes, which exposes them to high risks of suffering and of dying prematurely. Groups of persons not fitting in its legal framework (e.g. “stateless” and “undocumented”/“illegal” persons) experience some of the highest levels of exclusion from the global citizenship caste system. The paper showcases the continuing importance of nation-states in a globalizing world. The nation-state is a primary institution affecting persons’ life chances by holding a monopoly on bestowing privileged or underprivileged social statuses under the banner of citizenship. Furthermore, nation-states coordinate the legal and cultural mechanisms through which citizenship and its differentiated status outcomes are enforced. Citizenship associated with some countries—the most developed ones—is a form of privilege. It is the equivalent of a new form of aristocracy, a global aristocracy, that confers better chances to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Citizenship associated with other countries is a form of disadvantage. This kind of citizenship decreases people’s chances to be free—e.g. to move across borders—and to live long, healthy, and happy lives. If persons migrate to counter their disadvantage, they face years of limbo that most likely will not result in acquiring a privileged citizenship status.