City Research Online

The Transformation of Citizenship in Complex Societies

Susen, S. (2010). The Transformation of Citizenship in Complex Societies. Journal of Classical Sociology, 10(3), pp. 259-285. doi: 10.1177/1468795x10371716


The main purpose of this paper is to propose a theoretical framework for understanding the transformation of citizenship in complex societies. To this end, the paper is divided into six sections. The first section elucidates the main reasons for the renaissance of the concept of citizenship in the contemporary social sciences. The second section argues that a comprehensive sociological theory of citizenship needs to account for the importance of four dimensions: the content, the type, the conditions, and the arrangements of citizenship. The third section suggests that in order to understand the sociological significance of T.H. Marshall’s account of legal, political, and social rights we need to explore the particular historical contexts in which citizenship rights became ideologically and institutionally relevant. The fourth section offers some critical reflections on the main shortcomings of the Marshallian approach to citizenship. The fifth section draws an analogy between the transformation of social movements and the transformation of citizenship. The sixth section sheds light on the fact that contemporary citizenship studies are confronted with a curious paradox: the differentiation of citizenship has led to both the relativistic impoverishment and the pluralistic enrichment of contemporary accounts of ‘the social’ and ‘the political’.The paper concludes by arguing that, under conditions of late modernity, the state’s capacity to gain political legitimacy increasingly depends on its ability to confront the normative challenges posed by the ubiquity of societal complexity.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: citizenship, complexity, differentiation, Marshall, modernit, rights, social movements, transformation, universalism
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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