Struggles for Belonging. Citizenship in Europe, 1900–2020

Citizenship was the mark of political belonging in Europe in the twentieth century, while estate, religion, party, class, and nation lost political significance in the century of extremes. Struggles for Belonging. Citizenship in Europe, 1900–2020 (OUP, 2021) demonstrates this thesis by examining the legal institution of citizenship with its deciding influence on the limits of a political community, on in- and exclusion. Citizenship determined a person’s protection, equality, and freedom and thus his or her chances in life and survival. This book recounts the history of citizenship in Europe as the history of European statehood in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, doing so from three vantage points: first, as the development of a legal institution crucial to European constitutionalism; second, as a measure of an individual’s opportunities for self-fulfillment ranging from freedom to totalitarian subjugation; and, third, as a succession of alternating, often sharply divergent political regimes, considered from the perspective of their inclusivity and exclusivity and its justification. The European history of citizenship is discussed on the basis of six selected countries: Great Britain, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Russia. For the first time, a joint history of citizenship in Western and Eastern Europe is told here, from the heyday of the nation state to our present day, which is marked by the crises of the European Union.

It reaches four main conclusions. Contrary to an influential theory (Rogers Brubaker), it is, first of all, not discursive idioms about the nation that primarily determine the inclusive or exclusive character of citizenship. Rather, in the twentieth century it was changing politico-social constellations—economic, demographic, and foreign policy interests and conjunctions—that defined the political form and practice of citizenship. Second, contrary to a dominant narrative, the history of citizenship in Europe is not told as the history of a qualitative decline of legal culture from Western to Eastern Europe. Instead, this frequently alleged gap is called into question. Through the equal inclusion of comparative countries from Western and Eastern Europe—for the first time in the historical literature on citizenship—transfer processes in both directions, as well as areas of citizenship policy, are revealed whose “progressiveness” did not have its origins in the West. Third, in this regard the book’s historical cross-section supports a critical review of the widespread theory of convergence between regimes of citizenship in Europe. A differentiating finding that gives a balanced assessment of citizenship policy in Western and Eastern Europe shows the historical conditions for expectations of Europeanization through law and thus for European citizenship. Fourth, the history of citizenship in Europe since the nineteenth century cannot be told as an exclusively European one. The politics of colonialism and the colonial practices of affiliation in the European powers’ overseas and continental colonial empires remained in effect well into the postcolonial policies of citizenship and migration. The colonial racial hierarchy of belonging shaped not only the antipodes, but also the inheritance of a current policy of citizenship in Europe. In this sense, the book is a study about the historical substance and future prospects of European citizenship in a globalized world.

The book leads from the apogee of the European nation state to current developments in present-day Europe—to the debates and conflicts surrounding migration and integration; to the meaning of national belonging at Europe’s center as well as in its crisis regions; and, finally, to the battles over security and freedom that are being fought in the name of citizenship, from the French banlieues to the Ukrainian-Russian border. It tells the history of a central legal institution that significantly represents and at the same time determines struggles over migration, integration and belonging. One of the central concerns of this book is what lessons can be learned from it with regard to the future chances of European citizenship.

Struggles for Belonging. Citizenship in Europe, 1900-2020
by Dieter Gosewinkel
Oxford University Press | Oxford, 2021. 544pp.

Written by

Dieter Gosewinkel is Head of the WZB Center for Global Constitutionalism. He is also Professor of History at Freie Universität Berlin.
Website at the WZB

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