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Citizenship in a Global Age: Society, Culture, Politics

Gerard (Series : Tim May) Delanty (editor)
Open University Press: Buckingham
0335204899 (pb); 0335204902 (hb)
15.99 (pb); 50.00 (hb)

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The Transnational Villagers

Peggy Levitt
University of California Press: Berkeley, CA
0520228138 (pb)
x + 281

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Front Cover
Front Cover
Delanty gives a comprehensive analysis of theories of citizenship in the light of global change, understood as the transformative effects of capitalism and democracy unleashed from the crumbling nation-state project. The first three chapters outline his engagement with and critique of liberal, communitarian and radical democratic models. He gives greater credence to a radical democratic version, arguing that it theorises the postnational condition of citizenship more adequately than the others, which are state-centred.

For Delanty though, this is only a starting point, since radical democracy often pitches itself at the 'meso' level of politics rather than a broader cosmopolitan one, unnecessarily limiting its grasp on changing circumstances. The argument is pursued for a post-national model of cosmopolitanism, and Delanty articulates the advantages this has over legal and political cosmopolitanism and transnational community approaches: it focuses clearly upon transformations of the communicative public sphere, and avoids anchoring its conceptions narrowly in state, territory, or cultural community. He further makes the point that the postnational approach has as much impact specifically within the nation state as beyond it (65).

In addition to arguing for a particular model of cosmopolitanism Delanty deftly outlines the complex connections between the discourse and practices of human rights and citizenship. The focus on human rights challenges national sovereignty whilst rights discourse itself becomes concrete and differentiated compared to its abstract universalist origins. With regard to the details of the transformation and decline of the nation-state, Delanty convincingly claims that popular movements have become powerful articulators of democratic claims, that multiculturalism no longer provides a form of discursive containment for the nation, that the state is increasingly a regulator rather than a provider, and that the citizen is no longer defined in terms of birth but rather residence. These issues come to the fore, he continues, in European citizenship in particular. As a postnational polity, Europe, not only plays a powerful role in confirming citizenship by residence, it also encourages the development of politics at multiple levels rather than one focussed on the national-state.

These debates and transformations, Delanty argues, provide the framework and context for the reconfiguration of citizenship and the citizenship-democracy relation. There is a need to respond to the internal fragmentation of citizenship and the different models and frames for democracy at each of the levels of the polity.

In concluding Delanty argues for a civic cosmopolitanism responsive to the pluralist world of political communities but avoiding the false universalism of liberalism and the retreat to the particular embedded in communitarian responses. This produces both an engagement with the transformations of globalisation, and a critique of neoliberal forms of globalisation and romanticist responses against it. The aim of the critique of communitarianism is to explore the necessity both to be part of cultural orders but to allow them to mutually critique and complete each other. What this requires, Delanty contends, is a cosmopolitan, though not necessarily global, public sphere, rooted in a civicism able to respond to diversity but also able to critique and mediate homogenising forms of globalisation.

Whilst Delanty's book is a considered attempt at a Habermasian sociology of postnational citizenship (xiii) Levitt's is a superb theoretically informed, empirical sociology of transnational relations. Levitt very carefully distinguishes transnational practices and social groups, as the multiplex linkages between, in this case Miraflores in the Dominican Republic and Dominicans living in Boston, and globalisation as a more general interregional interaction and interconnectedness between states and societies (6, 14). The study details the different grounding and consequences for Boston based, Miraflores based and in-between Dominicans, of transnational domestic, religious and political relations. The specific transnational links differentially involve social remittances of ideas, behaviours, identities and social capital. Levitt carefully outlines different responses to migration and links to home producing a typology of recipient observers, instrumental adaptors and purposeful innovators. Levitt's analysis is particularly illuminating when considering exchange of ideas about gender roles arising out of experiences in Boston and differentially imported back to Miraflores (97-106).

Levitt is very good at locating her transnational villagers against the background of other migrant groups and their different production of transnational relations. The orientation to the empirical leads her to conclude with a series of questions and the bold statement: "There is much research to be done".

How do the two books connect? I want to briefly outline this with regard to two components of their arguments. The first is with regard to globalisation theory, the second with regard to sociology. Concerning globalisation theory Levitt's account clearly distinguishes globalisation from transnational linkages even though the latter use some of the resources provided by the former. Delanty's account is convincing and personally congenial but he does not define the contemporary period at all adequately. Although he uses the term 'global age' in the title of the volume and on numerous other occasions (1, 2, 6, 11, 66, 83-87, 89, 90-91 etc.) he does not explain what he means by it and, sometimes confusingly, he uses other labels for contemporary period such as postindustrial society, information society, postmodern age (1, 59, 61, 75). It would be very useful to know, for future readers, just what version of societal analysis his 'global age' referred to.

With regard to a sociological approach to analysis of citizenship it is instructive to compare Delanty and Levitt on dual citizenship. Delanty is closer to the normative models of political scientists in his argument for civic cosmopolitanism in that though he traces a general filiation between contemporary circumstances of the world and the civic cosmopolitan model, he does not provide enough empirical material for us to begin to adequately assess it prospects. Delanty merely mentions dual citizenship (23) whereas Levitt details it as an important source of encouragement to transnational linkage as it opens up important ways for states and their migrant citizens to mutually benefit culturally, financially, and politically (213). It is partly in the world of dual citizenships that we start to specify the future role of the state in being a more or less a key regulator of the world.

What the do I conclude? Delanty gives a sociological garnish to a useful and thoughtful introduction to a complex, but largely normative literature, whereas Levitt gives a deeply informed sociological account of the way structures of society mediate and are mediated by active agents in transnational settings.

The Delanty volume will be of use to third year students of contemporary citizenship on politics and social science courses whilst offering food for thought for academics more generally whilst the Levitt book will be highly illuminating to all seeking to think about contemporary social life in relation to globalisation and postnational social forms.

Neil Washbourne
Leeds Metropolitan University

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