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Citizenship, past and present

Essays bring a broad vision of arduously won conquests

What is citizenship today?  What is it to be a citizen in Brazil? These basic questions are addressed in the work A History of Citizenship, organized by Jaime Pinsky and Carla Bassanezi Pinsky, which has just been published by Editora Contexto. Starting with the assumption that citizenship consists of a historically situated construction, the selected texts cover the long route from Antiquity to the present, showing reflections about the establishment of social, political and civil rights that constitute its foundation.

The result is a magnified vision of the course of the conquests sometimes hard to achieve, both in the sense of making it possible for individuals and groups to be included in the exercise of their rights, and in the broadening of the density and range of the citizen’s statute. The questionings that are present in the reflections that pass through the work arise from the classic by T.H. Marshall, Citizenship and Social Class, expanded in the dialog with the present.

However, it is the adherence to the demands of contemporary society that makes the work relevant and makes it possible to map the impact caused by globalization and by neoliberal policies on the outlines of citizenship and, by extension, on democracy. The economic, social, political and cultural transformations, which reduce the role of national states in the determination of rights and checkmate collective identities, are counterbalanced by the need to redefine the relations between the State, society and nation, struck deeply into the practices of citizenship.

These started to compete with the consumer culture, which is expanding from durable goods to the latest idea launched and placed in evidence by the media. Questionings like these are present in the approach to themes like the struggles for getting rights by women, by ethnic groups, by social classes, and notably by the workers, in search of an affirmation of worthy conditions for existence. In this journey of social, political and cultural history, the starting point of the emergence of democracy and of its underlying concept, citizenship, is situated in Antiquity.

The second and decisive moment of reference is located in the political philosophy of the bourgeois revolutions that provided theoretical support to the English Revolution, to the American one, and to the French Revolution, redefining the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which still today constitute the basis for the contours of democracy. The respect for individual rights and the valuing of freedom as a collective goal passed, at these landmarks in the history of citizenship, from discourse to social practices.

Such a premiss does not renounce the historicity of practices and theoretical projects in the political field. As Jaime Pinsky endorses in the introduction to the work: “One cannot therefore imagine a single, determinist and necessary sequence for the evolution of citizenship in all countries”. Advances and retreats constitute current movements in the achieving of citizenship, which, in its broadest sense, is “the concrete expression of the exercise of democracy”.

Written by researchers, intellectuals and human rights activists linked to various academic institutions, of nationwide importance, the work presents a varied range of approaches in the field of human sciences and of literature. Amongst the authors, there is the presence of Norberto L. Guarinello, Pedro Paulo Funari, Eduardo Hoornaert, Carlos Zeron, Marco Mondaini, Leandro Karnal, Nilo Odália, Leandro Konder, Paul Singer, Joana Maria Pedro, Osvaldo Coggiola, Peter Damant, Wagner Costa Ribeiro, Mêrcio Pereira Gomes, Flávio dos Santos Gomes, Tânia Regina de Luca, Maria Lygia Quartim de Moraes, Letícia Bicalho Canêdo, Maurício Waldman and Rubens Naves.

The collectanea also include an unpublished tale by Moacyr Scliar, who contrives in the fragile person of Josê da Silva the tragic birth of a citizen.

Teresa Malatian is a lecturer at Unesp, from the campus in Franca, the author of Os Cruzados do Impêrio [The Crusades of the Empire]; Oliveira Lima e a Construção da Nacionalidade [Oliveira Lima and the Construction of Nationality]; and Impêrio e Missão: um Novo Monarquismo Brasileiro [Empire and Mission: a New Brazilian Monarchism].

A History of Citizenship
Organizers: Jaime Pinsky and Carla Bassanezi Pinsky
Editora Contexto
592 pages
R$ 59.90