Citizenship: Relationships, Transactions and Security

Prime Minister David Cameron in his Party Conference speech this week made a powerful point that:

“….citizenship isn’t a transaction – in which you put your taxes in and get your services out. It’s a relationship – you’re part of something bigger than yourself, and it matters what you think and you feel and you do.”

I suspect for most people reading this article, whatever your politics, are likely to broadly agree. Your probable  inner directed values are very likely to make you agree with that quite reasonable sentiment. Just like me, you might also see those relationships made up of a rich mix of strong and weak social and institutional ties.

However there are some people, perhaps with more outer directed values, who will feel that a transactional approach to citizenship is actually a good thing. They may be busy people, not looking for a relationship but results,  so they can get on with the very busy lives they have created for themselves, mainly through their own efforts. The “personal choice” agenda in public services was just made for them, but too often in public policy debates it was overlooked that for others such an agenda might be seen as a threat or something they would lose out from.

Others with more security and safety values may enjoy citizenship in terms of relationships, but might not see this in terms of formal committees, big concepts, or important meetings and instead see those relationships in terms of one to one very local relationships with people they trust and are familiar with.

The point I am making is that conceptions of what citizenship actually means may differ. No concept is wrong or incorrect. All are equally valid.  They are just different and I have written both generally and more specifically as to how one can apply multi-segmented messages where there might be difference in values perception.

The conclusion from all this is that there is a need for a wider definition of Citizenship that reaches out to all values groups, whether the person wishes just to transact or indeed relate to either the local perspective or the big picture.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company.

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