Transnationalism vs. Post-nationalism

While we have extensively discussed dual citizenship and EU citizenship, we have so far neglected their relation with the concepts of transnationalism and post-nationalism. Transnationalism often refers to the practice of emigration countries to appeal to their nationals abroad as part of a national collective beyond borders for purposes of nationality unity and nationalist goals. In that sense it is closely connected to diaspora policies.



Transnational identities, as defined by Rainer Bauböck, refers to “an overlapping structure of membership in two or more polities, with significant elements of citizenship status and rights in each”. These elements would normally include local voting rights for foreign nationals, absentee voting rights for expatriates and multiple citizenship. Multiple citizenship, “denizenship” (a special legal status for long-term resident foreign nationals who enjoy among other things the same social welfare rights as nationals as well as local voting rights) and “ethnizenship” (the reverse of denizenship in that an external quasi-citizenship is granted to minorities of co-ethnic descent living abroad which includes finanancial support for mainaining, for example, a minority culture and language) are all qualified by Bauböck as modes of transnational citizenship. Both denizenship and ethnizenship often function as stepping stones towards multiple citizenship.


Migrants may establish transnational identities in liberal immigration countries if these countries do not impose on them an unconditional choice for staying or returning. Provided that the receiving country does not force immigrants into full assimilation, they can maintain bonds with their original country and develop a transnational identity. Consequently, they can also make a valid claim to dual nationality. Again according to Bauböck, “migrants who are permanent residents in a receiving society but retain strong economic, social, cultural and family ties with a sending country have a plausible claim to citizenship in both polities since they are in a position where their lives will be strongly affected by political decisions in both states and where protection of their rights may depend on formal recognition as citizens of these states”.


The idea of post-nationalism is related but different. This idea, which Peter Spiro defines as “the decline of the state as brought about by a dilution in state-based identity and the rise of non-state attachments”, predicts a weakened State owing to weakened national identities. In this context, the role of multiple nationality is considered an important one: although at first glance it may seem that multiple nationality in a way reinforces the idea of the nation-state because it expresses a legal bond with more than one State, the reverse could also very well be true. It is possible that multiple citizenship will accelerate the phenomenon of postnationalism as it lowers the intensity of the bond between State and subject. Spiro thus establishes a causality between multiple nationality and postnationalism, but only time will tell whether he is right in predicting the following consequences: “Insofar as citizenship comes to reflect less intensive communal bonds, the state is less likely to serve as a vehicle for robust redistributionist and rights-protective policies, which in turn will result in waning institutional power”.

This view of dual citizenship as a phenomenon that will undermine the state-based societal community has been called a challenge to the well-known citizenship theory developed by Marshall. After all, Spiro’s claim that dual citizenship undermines solidarity at the national level clashes with the Marshallian idea that citizenship has the capacity to unite individuals in a transcendent community. In T.H. Marshall’s definition, “citizenship requires … a direct sense of community membership based on loyalty to a civilisation which is a common possession”.


Others voice a different opinion and stress that the toleration of multiple nationality is accompanied by different, often contradictory, trends. While Spiro establishes a causal link between the weakened nation-state and multiple nationality, they emphasize that multiple nationality has been used by emigrant sending countries to advance nationalist goals and identities – as we have seen in relation to Mexico and Turkey. This use of multiple nationality can be interpreted as an attempt to strengthen the position of the State.


Author: Dr. Olivier Vonk

Amsterdam | London | Luxembourg

contact@futurecitizeninstitute.com 

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