Last Updated 25 May 2020

A Discourse Theory of Citizenship

Category Citizenship, Theories
Essay type Process
Words 1156 (4 pages)
Views 385

A Discourse Theory of Citizenship This article discusses the concept of citizenship and how citizenship as a form of public engagement is crucial to democracy as a whole. The author, Robert Asen, presents a new view that citizenship is a dynamic mode of public engagement. The first section of the article discusses questions about public beliefs and perspectives. The second section of the article discusses how citizenship is a mode of public engagement. The third section discusses how public engagement must be examined and what can be learned from that analysis.

The final section discusses how the concept of citizenship can be extended through the author’s Discourse Theory. The first part of the article begins by explaining how within the public and even within groups all sets of views or values are not universal. This means that it is a challenge to represent the views of groups. This also means that members of groups need to stand up for their views. For example, if you are part of a human rights organization, but do not approve of their stated views on a particular country, you should make your voice heard.

This presents a challenge to group leadership because they have to make the group’s stated views more general in order to not alienate any of the participants. In addition, people do not have a general view on how decisions should be made. For example, the article mentioned how the activist AIDS organization, ACT UP, had a great deal of trouble coming up with a consensus about whether or not they should testify in front of Congress. These facts mean that the views and perspectives of a group of people, their subjectivity, is more of an ever-changing process than a static group of opinions and should be treated as such.

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This idea is significant to communication as a whole because it helps understand why it is important to constantly make sure that no one’s views in a group are being marginalized. The next section discussed how citizenship is a mode of public engagement. It explains that citizenship is not a group of well-defined privileges that come with legally living in a country, but instead it is much more. It is a way of getting involved with the world around you. Citizenship is a process of dealing with the world that influences the views and beliefs of the public. It does not have to come from only voting; it exists in multiple modes.

Some of these modes include consumer choices, work habits, and volunteer work. These sorts of actions could be more important than voting alone. This is because voting does not show your views in great personal detail and therefore does not always help advance your personal beliefs into public discussion. Voting only ascribes your views to one of two general view sets, which most people do not generally agree with completely. The other forms of citizenship, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, can more accurately represent your views and ideas of how the world ought to be run.

This is because the public sees how you are acting to directly make a change in society and may decide to join you in your cause. As the article says, “ Democracy’s heart does not beat in the halls of Congress or in the voting booth, but in everyday enactments of citizenship” (Asen, 197). The important communication concept that can be taken from this section, is that the power of democracy rests on normal people and not on elected officials or bureaucrats. This makes it extremely important that one’s views are expressed both in public discourse and in the way one lives their life.

The responsibilities of living in a democracy do not only come once every two years for elections, but are present every day during human interactions. The next section discusses how public engagement in the form of citizenship must be examined. Public engagement is not a static set of concepts, but instead a fluid, dynamic process of interaction that occurs at a personal level. Consequently, it is different from person to person and must be treated specially. The dynamic nature of citizenship makes it impossible to make specific theories of how the public engages in citizenship.

This means that there cannot be true experts in the analysis of human-to-human interaction. It does not, however, prevent qualitative analysis of public engagement in citizenship. This section also discussed how it is inherently risky to engage in citizenship. The risk occurs when an individual’s views are known and the public becomes aware of one’s beliefs. For example, participating in a Pro-Choice organization could lead some of your Pro-Life neighbors to dislike you for your views. On the other hand, there is a social benefit to this risk because it can expose you to people who share similar views to you.

This common bond of risk unites organizations and makes them stronger over time. The important communication topic in this section is that communicating your views involves risk, but that risk is worthwhile because it can lead to stronger social ties. The last section focused on how the definition of citizenship is expanded when the author’s Discourse Theory of Citizenship is applied. The definition of citizenship is traditionally limited to the rights and privileges that are granted to individuals who are legally living in a country.

With the application of this new theory, the definition can be expanded in a few ways. First the, relationship between the citizen and citizenship has been reformulated. No longer is citizenship just the product of being a citizen, but instead it is a way of acting. Second, citizenship is not something that all citizens have equally. While every citizen can vote, the affect he/she has on public discourse also depends on power and money. For example, a rich individual can attend special interest meetings that require large donations in order to participate.

This makes these people more capable of influencing what laws are ultimately passed. Another example is how in the past and still to a certain extent now, race can either help or hinder one’s level of citizenship. The third expansion of our understanding of citizenship is through the analysis of hybrid cases of citizenship. Hybrid cases of citizenship are instances when normal everyday acts are also forms of citizenship. One example of this is if an individual spends more money at an organic food store because they want to support the organic food industry.

The expansion of the definition of citizenship through the Discourse Theory of Citizenship allows for a better understanding of citizenship and how public communication in many different forms is responsible for maintaining an effective democracy. When communicating through citizenship, it is important to understand that the citizenship includes more than just voting. It also includes everyday person-to-person interactions, buying choices, and group memberships. By understanding citizenship through this expanded definition, it is possible to better focus public discourse in ways that can advance one’s personal beliefs and goals.

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A Discourse Theory of Citizenship. (2018, Oct 14). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-discourse-theory-of-citizenship/

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