Beyond Citizenship: American Identity After Globalization

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American identity has always been capacious as a concept but narrow in its application. Citizenship has mostly been about being here, either through birth or residence. The territorial premises for citizenship have worked to resolve the peculiar challenges of American identity. But globalization is detaching identity from location. What used to define American was rooted in American space. Now one can be anywhere and be an American, politically or culturally. Against that backdrop, it becomes difficult to draw the boundaries of human community in a meaningful way. Longstanding notions of democratic citizenship are becoming obsolete, even as we cling to them. Beyond Citizenship charts the trajectory of American citizenship and shows how American identity is unsustainable in the face of globalization.

Peter J. Spiro describes how citizenship law once reflected and shaped the American national character. Spiro explores the histories of birthright citizenship, naturalization, dual citizenship, and how those legal regimes helped reinforce an otherwise fragile national identity. But on a shifting global landscape, citizenship status has become increasingly divorced from any sense of actual community on the ground. As the bonds of citizenship dissipate, membership in the nation-state becomes less meaningful. The rights and obligations distinctive to citizenship are now trivial. Naturalization requirements have been relaxed, dual citizenship embraced, and territorial birthright citizenship entrenched—developments that are all irreversible. Loyalties, meanwhile, are moving to transnational communities defined in many different ways: by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, and sexual orientation. These communities, Spiro boldly argues, are replacing bonds that once connected people to the nation-state, with profound implications for the future of governance.

Learned, incisive, and sweeping in scope, Beyond Citizenship offers a provocative look at how globalization is changing the very definition of who we are and where we belong.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a major contribution to the issue of political membership in our unsettled world. Its distinctiveness is a mix of precision and the shattering of traditional conceptual boundaries, which allows Spiro to open up new analytical terrain in a subject more often developed through the language of aspirations."—Saskia Sassen, author of Territory, Authority, Rights and Helen and Robert Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

"In this lucid, engaging, and highly accessible book, Peter Spiro traces the erosion of the legal foundations of American citizenship and shows why the foundations cannot be repaired. Spiro argues that it is no longer possible to sustain a distinctive American identity. This book poses an important challenge to anyone seeking to view American social and political life through the lens of citizenship."—Joseph H. Carens, author of Culture, Citizenship, and Community and Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto

"A lively and accessible investigation of how the law and practice of citizenship are being transformed by globalization. Professor Spiro fearlessly explores the ultimate consequences of current trends and arguments. His vision of a future multiplicity of partial citizenships raises serious challenges for democratic politics. Spiro's account is provocative throughout and provides rich food for thought."—Gerald Neuman, author of Strangers to the Constitution and J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, Harvard Law School

"In Beyond Citizenship, one of our best and most provocative scholars demonstrates with skill, erudition, and an engaging style accessible to all how globalization's tectonic forces are eroding the coherence of American citizenship, the supposed bedrock of our national identity. With this much-needed book, our debate on this vital subject will never be the same."—Peter H. Schuck, author of Citizenship Without Consent and Citizens, Strangers, and In-Betweens and Simeon E. Baldwin Professor, Yale Law School

"Spiro's provocative claims push us to think about the right questions for today and the future."—Harvard Law Review

"The law of citizenship is not a subject that figures large in American law schools. Only a handful of legal academics pays much attention to it. One of them is Peter J. Spiro, the Charles R. Weiner Professor of Law at Temple University.... At the heart of Spiro's argument is an acceptance of dual citizenship in American law and life. On this point his discussion is lucid and calls attention to a consequential phenomenon that has received curiously little public attention in recent times, despite it having loomed large in legal thinking since the found of the American Republic."—The American Interest

"Peter J. Spiro's timely and highly accessible book encourages readers to reflect upon the contemporary meaning of citizenship. It could not have come at a better time...We should hope that the aftermath of the election will afford us a chance for such a dialogue on the nature of our national political community and its relation to the wider, global community. Beyond Citizenship should be required background reading for such a conversation."—Perspectives on Politics

"This is an important book, essential reading for anyone seriously concerned with the nature of citizenship. Spiro raises crucial questions about the nature of American identity in the modern age." —Michigan Law Review

"While this book may not convince every reader of the larger argument about citizenship's inexorable decline, Beyond Citizenship does an excellent job of illustrating, through specific examples, the ways in which globalization has simultaneously expanded and contracted America; it can be found all over the world, but the concept of America has been diluted...Beyond Citizenship is targeted at the general public, and tackles large-scale themes. As such, it would be a fitting addition to an undergraduate syllabus on globalization or American studies." —Law and Politics Book Review

"In Beyond Citizenship Peter Spiro advances a bracing premise: American citizenship has lost its meaning...He manages to offer fresh reflections on the supposed decline of the national community by focusing on the law, or on how the legal frameworks that define national membership have eroded in the wake of globalization. His approach is refreshing because he neither laments nor celebrates the transformation that he documents. Instead, he accepts the causes of erosion as inexorable features of modern, globalized society, underscoring the book's ultimate theme: we have entered a new era likely to be marked by instability and conflict over questions of belonging, which will require, in turn, that scholars and statesmen adapt the "lessons and virtues" of citizenship to structure emergent forms of association." —American Journal of International Law

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195152180
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/1/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 919,390
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter J. Spiro is Charles Weiner Professor of Law at Temple University. A former State Department lawyer, National Security Council staff member, and U.S. Supreme Court law clerk, he has written on international, immigration, and constitutional law for many of the nation's top law reviews as well as such publications as Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

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Table of Contents

Introduction     3
Born American     9
Made American     33
Not Only American     59
Take It or Leave It American     81
American Defined     109
Beyond American     137
Conclusion     159
Notes     165
Selected Bibliography     179
Index     183
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