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Distinguishing Characteristics Of Active Citizens

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 2357 words Published: 3rd May 2017

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This paper focus on citizenship, based on political theories known as advocates of intensification of citizenship, participation(passive and active) and ground cultivation of social solidarity and civic virtue, in line with empirical and theoretical paradigm, practical skills and social change had been discuss with constrain. Social change activities and local government attempt to mobilize citizens and method of involvement and challenges and mobilization in accordance with idea about local Democracy.

What is citizenship?

The idea of citizenship has been the history of citizenship in North and South, a history of struggle on how it is to be Define, and who to include. A great debate about citizenship has been taken place in an “empirical void” (Kabeer, 2005:1).

Modern democrats define citizenship as the of individual and freedom from constrain of the state, the idea of citizenship as “autonomous”, on the other hand, Social liberalist/democrats view citizenship with the right as a precondition for political equality and democracy, emphasis was given to social equality, common bond between citizens which bridge differences of class, religion and culture, (Siim 2000:24-25). On the same vein, Chantal (1992), view Radical democrats citizenship has participatory roll at centre and need to re-establish the link between social and political citizenship, she defined citizenship as “the political identity that is created with identification with republica”. While contemporary theories both globalization and nationalist, xenophobia was influenced by Immanuel Kant, due to his interest on international relations theory and Montesque’s commitments for his cosmopolitan, looking for alternative to racist and inward looking tendencies,(Carter, 2006:34).In Marshal’s three elements, UK citizens are subject of the crown and no written constitution, which established any formal rights of citizens, but has three elements which constitutes political components; social components and civic components.(Stone frost, 1994, in Steel, 1994:278), lastly, Delanty(2007), views notion of citizenship as critic of liberal concept as “abstract right” but come up with substantive bearing of citizen as an “active and engaged member of society”.

What is Active citizen, and who is an active citizen?

The late 1980s and early 1990s have seen increased debate about the responsibility of citizen; most of the commentators have focus on social responsibility and is linked to the debate on the nature of Active citizenship (Steele, 1997:279). Citizen action is broadly known as part of discourse and practice of democracy, politics and social change to some extend at and beyond local level, through community association, social movement, issue movement and policy advocacy, citizen voices were heard and found ways of influencing decision and practice at larger institutions that affect their lives,(Baker 1999 in Edward et al 2001:275).however, participation differs, this alter the way theories view and evaluate it in practice. Theorist have the consensus that participation is “a process by which people, especially disadvantage people, influence decisions that affect them”(World Bank, 1992:177 in Brett 2003:5), weak participation involves “consulting or informing” strong participation means “partnership or ceding control”(Brett 2003:5).

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Active citizen is been define as “the voluntary condition by individual citizens to the common good through participation in, and the exercise of civic duty and engagement of such activities by public and private institute as part of citizenship”(Steele, 1997:279). Republicans cited J.S.Mills describing transformation of people who engaged in public affairs “He is all upon, while so engaged, to weigh interests not his own; to be guided, in case of conflicting claims, by another ruler than his private partialities, to apply, at every turn, principles and maxims which have for their reason of existence the common good”(Mill, 1991:255 in Segall, 2005:365), many writes have similar views that political participation helps to fight “atomistic individualism” and integrate individuals into the community(bid.:366). Reticulist are with the view that citizens can be improved through state or local government if all incumbents were to “spill” from position are reassigned at random. Therefore, the benefit will flow at randomizing operation “softening many traditional gerontocratic and sexist rigidities” according to grapevine. Those with reticulist skills will be opportune greatly in new meadow, which will be throw to decentralization department and whose member is formally been organized, the outcome will be well developed new town scheme, it will also provide new path for development for those cruelly denoted by the process of randomization (Power, 1972:3-4).In addition, Tocqueville (1988), poster on the importance of participation in voluntary association as a training-ground for active citizenship. This nature of participation moved the 20th century decline in political parties and church attendance to membership in clubs and communal associations (Putnam, 2000 in Milligan et al.2005:417). The third sector and more especially voluntary organizations provide opportunities for social participation, for democratic involvement at local level for active citizenship (Tuner, 2001:200 in Milligan et al, 2005:417-18). These associations are seen to be vital in the advancement of citizen participation in the community because they nurture trust, reciprocity, solidarity and co-operation (Bellah et al. 1985 in Milligan, 2005:418), is also view as creating networks of relations favorable to civic engagement and involvement for the common good. Giddens (1998) went further and claim that “voluntary organizations represent the organized vanguard of a revived “civic society””. There is belief that voluntary activities is crucial in promoting active citizenship which also became point of discussion in neo-liberal political discourse, emphasis have been given to involvement in local community network, voluntarism and private contributions (Heater, 1990 in Milligan et al. 2005:418). Therefore, empowering citizens within Grass-root organizations involves creating space which individuals can frankly influence decision affecting their lives (Pimbert and Wellford 2001 in Milligan, 2005:424). The sense of ownership and provision of services, and the scheme will be provided to meet the need of the particular client group. The nature of empowerment involves competition between service providers and means of participation is through choice, product and information while role of public function is participation of citizens (Callan, 2005:912).

Some constrains associated with development of citizen’s opportunities, through voluntary associations appear to decrease as they seek to professionalize and meet the acceptable and accountability procedures lay down by the government. The complex welfare services are provided and delivered by professional and trained volunteers, therefore eroding space within the organization (Milligan et al, 2005:431).

Although, most entrepreneurial government encourage competition among service providers. They permit citizens control by stridden control from the bureaucracy into the community, they measured the agency’s performance not on input rather on outcomes, they driven by their goals (mission) not by rules and regulations. They decentralize authority and accepting participatory management, they prepare market mechanism to bureaucratic ones, and lastly, the focus is not only on provision of public services but catalyzing all sectors (public, private and voluntary) into accomplishment in solving their community’s problems, this can be achieved by “privatizing public enterprise, reform the civil services by reducing over-staffing, introducing budgetary discipline, decentralize administration, and make greater use of non-governmental organization”(Rhodes 1996:655-56).

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We came to understand that a system not only mobilize 1% of citizens involvement alternatively in governance, but also more effective, legitimate and promising that will improve the one we have now and build future by participating in wider rhythms and everyday community life, in addition, 1% formal participation, aims at liberating and use the potentials in getting things done in society, “we should recruit a different kind of community elite by breaking more social entrepreneurs to act as the vehicles for local change”, by doing so we will substitute societal participation structure with “community interest companies”(Skidmore 2006:xii-xiv). This will enable local people sharing, enhancing and examine their knowledge and skill of life and conditions, the processes will also leads to programmes which “take better account of local realities and need” than those prescribed by the state agencies (Brett 2003:6). Local people are conscious about their technical skills and knowledge they acquired in solving many problems, this will involve them into many development projects and programmes, this gives an impetus for better understanding of local needs than traditional survey (bid:.9). Therefore, to empower citizens there is need to involves the creating room which individual can directly influence decision affecting their lives, by providing services to specific client group, these form of engagement with service users and promotion of volunteering will help develop passive citizen from the grass-root to active citizen who is more productive and participant (Milligan et al 2005:424-427). At this stage involvement and patriotism will manifest itself by better participation which gives room for new form of participation seen as “offering a mechanism to re-energize our public institution, and as creating new tools for democratic renewal”, need for change come from those that recognized participation effectively (active citizens) which give them room for more powerful voice in issues affecting their lives (Mulgan et al 2005:23), in addition, distinctive effort to involved and encourage excluded or “hard to reach”, the use of handset also helps in cooperating, organizing and involves these particular group, therefore, different individuals can effectively involved in the process most relevant to them (bid:.36). However, for social change to be effective there must be direct participation by citizens in decision making “this is the only credible basis on which democratic renewal will take place” also elites from different kinds have always been fundamental in creating social change(Skidmore 2006:xii).

The challenges in accordance with the idea of local democracy scholars such as Rawls, Sen, etc and most premeditated democrats, political and economic, social power is unequally distributed in the world, this unbalanced power afflicts groups at international, national and local level to ascribe unconstrained agency, freedom or self-determination to groups themselves is to ensure unequal reproductive group decision act, rather than justification, let alone exclusion, this unequal balance of power purposeful institutions and procedures have no effect at worst stress unacceptable inequalities, “unconstrained democratic bodies will perpetuate and even deeper minority suppression or traditional practices that violate human right” (Crocker 2007:444) the danger of top down (hierarchy) aims at inclusion is that involvement is seen as being “imposed” from the above (Lowndes and Wilson, 2001 in Akkerman et al 2004:87), this impact manifest in Great Britain where people readiness to involvement in local project is very poor or low, due to this the British local project Act 1999, which “introduce the obligation for broad consultation and community involvement, has turned out to be difficult to implement. In pilot communities” (Foley and Martin, 2000 in Akkerman et al 2004:87).Therefore, the drop of social capital is one of the major index of erosion of citizenship (Putnam 1993 and 1995 in Turner 2001:198).


Citizenship and rationale behind it seek to create system which allow people to influence decision that affect their lives, this inspires and shape citizenship skills and participation, the process normally involves different methods and pattern of civic engagement have changed for social reasons, government influence on civic engagement differs in many ways; measuring the role of government in outlining civil engagement became more important than government, by engaging or involving citizens in the process of policy making mainly in an informal way, this gives room for development in fields of strategic planning, services provision, sustainable development and controlling crime (Akkerman et al 2004:83).

There is significant expansion evidence shows especially in voluntary organizations and other welfare sectors in the last twenty years, this growth characterize the decline of state activities in welfare; this role of state “appears to have created a social vacuum in which the third sector has expanded to satisfy communal needs” (Turner 2001:199).

Lastly, lack of clarity caused participation failure between participatory activities and representative democracy (lacking mutual understanding) this problem or tension among elected, co-opted and representatives in local strategic partnership made many participants to risk their reputations in designing and delivery participation exercise, and even if there is significant participatory exercise nothing would change no matter the result of participation due mismanagement, corruption and improper accountability by these voluntary associations and welfare groups.


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