citizen rights

citizen rights

the rights which CITIZENS are entitled to, or may lay claim to, especially in modern states.

Following T. H. MARSHALL (1950,1963), three sets of rights can be identified as significant:

  1. civil rights, the right to freedom of expression and access to information, and the right to freedom of association and organization and equality before the law;
  2. political rights, the right to vote and to seek political office in free elections;
  3. social and economic rights, the right to welfare and social security, and perhaps full employment, but usually stopping well short of the right to share in the management of economic organizations, to break the prerogative of managers to manage and of capitalists to own and direct the use of their capital.

The granting of citizen rights in modern societies in part reflects the fact that, as the result of changed expectations, violence can be used only as a last resort by governments in these societies. Accordingly, populations must be mobilized and culturally and ideologically won over and brought to regard these regimes, at least to some degree, as politically legitimate (see also LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY (or POLITICAL LEGITIMACY), INCORPORATION, WELFARE STATE). At the same time, however, such rights had also to be won, by political activity and social and class conflict.

Whereas some theorists, such as Marshall, present the expansion of citizen rights as undermining, or at least ‘domesticating’ and institutionalizing, class conflict, other theorists prefer to emphasize a continuing role for class conflict in preserving such rights, and in seeking to extend these beyond the limits usually placed upon them in capitalist societies. See also CIVIL RIGHTS, CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, ENTITLEMENTS, SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY, DAHRENDORF.

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