‘The green and pleasant land’. Cultural citizenship: Social welfare, law, and identity in contemporary England
Citizenship is an important social status that indicates a person is a legitimate member of a nation. Citizenship thus exists in a very specific relation to State power; ideally, citizenship protects the rights of an individual. T. H. Marshall's influential 1949 essay “Citizenship and Social Class” proposed a linear, historical model of citizenship: an expansion of rights paralleling the growth of the Welfare State in England. To be a citizen was synonymous with the ability to make claims (i.e., regarding health or education) upon the State. As Marshall describes this complex dynamic, citizenship appears inevitable and unproblematic.
My analysis of citizenship both builds on and departs significantly from Marshall's classic formulation. I argue that many individuals and groups in contemporary England are not treated as full citizens. Increasingly, exclusion or inclusion in the life of the nation is determined by cultural practices. Citizenship serves as a boundary delineating acceptable behaviors from unacceptable ones in English society; it draws a line between moral and immoral activities, as if an essential ‘British-ness’ is being attacked. Once individuals and groups living alternative lifestyles are marginalized and declared deviant in this fashion, they may find their rights encroached upon and welfare services difficult to access.
This book explores three English alternative lifestyle and political groups in depth: New Age Travellers, hunt saboteurs, and the Exodus Collective of Luton. All resolutely practice their own versions of what it means to be English, and all have been subject to police harassment and legislative control. Subcultural members express themselves by adopting unconventional manners of living, or otherwise creatively voicing their dissent. When the State provision of welfare services fails them, people may devise their own survival solutions rather than conform.
Constructing citizenship also constructs criminality, and so citizenship serves as a hegemonic device that promotes a singular definition of peace and order within civil society. My exhaustive examination of the social processes that laud or assail pluralism in English society brings together cultural studies and criminological analysis to make a major contribution to the sociological literature in both fields.
0335: European history