In the classical Marshallian framework, citizenship was visualized in terms of a contradictory relation to capitalism. The three components of citizenship, under the scheme Marshall espoused, referring to civil, political and social, were coterminous with the expansion of the right to free speech, right to participation and economic welfare. Marshall believed that the progressive interlinkages between these three aspects of societal dynamics would provide an effective check, if not overcome the growing inequalities and displacements that accompany the rise of capitalism. However, this capacity of progressively linking the economic, political and the social has been accrued more effectively by and in the course of the movement of capital, as against those resisting it. Capitalism over the last few decades has developed an uncanny ability to combine micro-management visible in the unprecedented growth and reach of its technologies of governance, with the capacity to keep the borders porous enough for the purposes of mobility of capital in search of new avenues of investment and plundering of raw material/natural ‘resources’.
The idea of ‘good governance’ precisely encompasses a minimalist state that is interventionist. The ‘grave-digging’ crisis under capitalism (with an immanent sense of inevitability for Marx) has not been so much overcome, as being internally displaced. It has managed to shift contradictions, as Habermas puts it (not necessarily from economic to political to cultural—it is infinitely more complex and quick in the simultaneity of its shift), whereby new conflicts emerge that entail not resolving but dispersing the old contradictions. Consider, as Bryan Turner argued, the shift from the thrust on social security to ‘ontological security’ that emerges as a conflict between livelihood and environmental concerns, or the growing conflicts within and between the working-classes that get expressed as those between worker-citizen and the migrant/immigrant (‘sons of soil’ versus the outsider). Similarly, the shift from redistribution to the struggles for recognition were celebrated as the arrival of conflicts that were ‘post-material’, without necessarily having addressed (leave alone resolving) the question of ‘bare’ economic inequalities. Capitalism survives not in spite of but precisely because of crisis (something akin to how risk has become an inseparable aspect). Crisis, therefore, is not external, or an event that can be mapped, but a modality through which capitalism, not merely survives but in fact thrives. Citizenship, far from standing as a ‘constitutive outside’ or a contradictory, or even a counter political project to capitalism as Marshall had imagined it for its capacity to augment ‘class-abatement’, has been or become an integral part of this constitutive process of internalized displacements of social and political conflicts. This in effect is also the crisis of citizenship.
Anupama Roy’s book attempts to grapple and come to terms precisely with this residual history of citizenship. The thrust of the book is to unravel the ‘inherent paradox’ where closure ‘is a simultaneously differential experience of citizenship which accompanies each liberating moment of encompassment’ (p. 6). Roy further argues that, ‘the legal-constitutional language of citizenship in India and the manner in which it has unfolded in practice shows that citizenship oscillates ambivalently between encompassment and closure’ (p.7). It is both a ‘momentum concept’ as well as a political project that reinforces old hierarchies and inaugurates new cleavages. It holds out a promise of universalism but again as Roy puts it ‘even among members’ or those who legally ‘belong’, socio-economic and cultural contexts would ultimately determine the terms of inclusion so that even as citizenship makes claims to being a horizontal camaraderie of equal members, in actual practice, it embodies a range of graded and differential categories and corres-ponding lived experiences of citizenship (p.11). Citizenship, when viewed not as a static framework of rights and obliga-tions but as a process—’historically emergent diachronous strands’—then we witness moments where it is both inclusive and exclusionary; its dream project of achieving equality by abstraction converts into a hegemonic project but becomes a political space to moderate conflicts when identity shifts from being a source of dignity in democracy to resource for claiming and regulating authenticity; it protects citizens on the basis of formal rights, not just in conditions of ‘exception’ but even against routine and insidious violation of rights, but at the same moment can mask inequalities, rob the right to protest in the name of civility, and enforce political obligation in the name of history; in essence it opera-tionalizes the difference between formal and substantive empowerment.
It is this labyrinthine terrain that Anupama Roy meticulously traces in Mapping Citizenship in India. As citizenship is compulsively dependent on reconfiguring a process of othering, historically it enacted this in the liminal space created with the partition and thereby the story of the eligible Indian citizen began to be written through and as against a series of ‘invented’ categories that Roy very closely examines, including those of ‘registered/Pakistani wives’, ‘alien women’, ‘minors’, and ‘displaced persons’. The second chapter of the book examines the IMDT Act of 1983, from its enactment to the point it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005. Here she traces the subtle shift from immigration being a merely illegal entry to how it gets inscribed in legal interpretation and public domain as an ‘act of aggression’, resignifying the notion of national security as those of Hindus, and illegal immigrant as a euphemism for Islamic Fundamentalism. The third chapter chronologically moves to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 that introduced the category of Overseas Indian Citizenship (OCI), wherein the emphasis on citizenship by birth gave way to one by descent. The final chapter takes a look at the possibility of citizenship practices being appropriated by the ‘insurgent citizens’ who find ways of destabilizing the sanitized civic spaces, and introduce elements of illegality that disturb the notions of ‘civility’ conventionally attached to citizenship. Here Roy looks at cases dealing with eviction of slum dwellers where the promise of universal inclusion in the liberal project of citizenship conflicts with the ‘pre-existing limit’ enframed in ‘the procedure established by law’, reminding us of the politics within the ostensible neutrality of procedures.
While these shifts are comprehensively mapped and the interface between politics and law is brought into relief, one glaring omission made in terms of capturing the history of the project of citizenship in the post-Independence period has been the impact that has been made since the 1990s with the inauguration of what has been often referred to for purpose of brevity as the process of LPG. The neo-liberal reforms and the opening up of the economy have impacted the modalities of governance and in turn the very project and potential of citizenship.
“As citizenship is compulsively dependent on reconfiguring a process of othering, historically it enacted this in the liminal space created with the partition and thereby the story of the eligible Indian citizen began to be written through and as against a series of ‘invented‘ categories that Roy very closely examines..”
Governance, correspondingly entails and envisions the conversion of the citizen in civil society into a consumer in the market, and thereby collapses the distinction between the two. To put it differently, citizenship itself comes to be defined, not in terms of negotiations with the state, but consumption of goods and ‘services delivered by a plethora of agencies’. There is an attempt to link the rationality of consumption to the constitution of the altered forms of citizenship, where, as the Latin American Scholar Garcia Canclini effectively argued, ‘for many men and women…the questions specific to citizenship, such as how we inform ourselves and who represents our interests, are answered more often than not through private consumption of commodities and media offerings than through the abstract rules of democracy or through participation in discredited political organizations.’1 How then has this impacted the project of citizenship, especially when read along with the growing phenomenon of what David Held refers to the ‘strategic legitimacy’, where citizens are engaged in quid pro quo game with public representatives? The political economy of citizenship cannot be adequately captured within the insularity implicit to law. This, perhaps, is as much of a methodological challenge as a daunting task for political analysis as to how to avoid our own analysis getting legalistic when analysing the myriad trajectories of law itself.
While engaging in a deeper analysis on the methodological traps in working at the interface between law and political analysis, and assessing the impact of new post-liberalization governance on the project of citizenship could be the subject of further research related to citizenship, this is a comprehensive work that resolutely, if tempered, argues for a more just realization of the promise of universalism, without shying away from glaring at the double moment of expansion and inclusion itself presenting new modalities of exclusion and hierarchy. This process is, perhaps, at the very heart of the transformative process of our times.
Nestor Garcia Canclini, Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts (Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2001, p.5)