This paper explains
the concept of a citizen using Marshall’s as a touchstone. There is a focus on
the ‘ideal’ aspect of his definition and how it sets the standard of what a
good citizen is. There are political, institutional and legal ideals of what is
considered a good citizen, as well as a personal, intersubjective dimension of citizenship.  Finally, it explains how the social norms
underpinning the “good” citizen is reproduced and enforced through an interaction
between citizenship practice and citizenship institutions.


Citizens are generally defined as
nationals of a state that enjoy certain rights and privileges. However, the concept
is much more complex. It is a dynamic concept and as a result it is difficult
to pin it down and summarise it in one definition. However, T.H Marshall gave
the most accepted definition of what a citizen is and he creates a good
standpoint from which a good citizen can be defined as well as the principles
that under pin the idea.


T.H Marshall defined citizenship
as a status “bestowed on those who are
full members of a community. All who possess the status are equal with respect
to the rights and duties with which the status is endowed. There is no
universal principle that determines what those rights and duties shall be, but
societies in which citizenship is a developing institution create an image of
an ideal citizenship against which achievement can be measured and towards which
aspiration can be directed.”1

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Marshall explains the fluidity of citizenship and how it empirically shifts
and forms to fit into the society in which it is present. Ergo, citizenship is constructed
around the ideologies that are prevalent in a society. These ideologies are
encompassed by a range of principles and ideals, that are used to create an abstraction
of an archetype citizen, that is used as a yardstick, setting the standard for
all other citizens. Citizens can thus be measured against this abstract citizen
in order to examine whether they should be attributed the title of a “good


Citizenship is underpinned by social norms and the welfare state places
its attention on the political and legal elements of citizenships. The concept
of what a good citizen is, has continued to change through the years as
politics and the law shifted. A series of British legislation formulated the welfare
state and this led to the creation of the welfare citizen. In the 1940s, Beveridge
imagined the ideal citizen as a white male working to provide for a wife and
This archetype citizen reflected the exclusionary ideals that were held in
society at the time. It told citizens that were not white, male or straight,
that they were second class and not deserving of the full yard of citizenship.
This citizen reflected white supremacist, patriarchal ideals that were present at
the time. For instance, women were not thought of as possessing the capacities
required of “citizens”. 3


However, this white male was thought of simply as a passive rights-bearer.
The state saw citizens simply as passive receivers of welfare, that were
accepting of whatever decisions the states made concerning the type of services
provided. Welfare citizens were ordinary users of welfare, with no say in the
way that services were purchased or delivered. It was the 1940s the post war
times, there was hope that following the triumph there wasn’t going to be a
return of pre-war time conditions4


Twenty years later, in the 1960s, welfare users had now shifted from welfare
citizens to welfare users. Postwar welfare reforms urged that universal social
rights become a part of citizenship. These welfare users challenged the idea
that the central government should decide who received services and what types
of services were provided. Jimmy Carter’s adoption of neo-liberal reasoning,
that welfare should be provided by the private sector5
 in 1970 influenced the design of the
welfare state. By the 1980s the emphasis was on encouraging both private and
volunteer workers into the welfare market. This shift was as a result of huge
social change in the United Kingdom, there were a number of social drivers like
an ageing population, increased female employment etc. that resulted in the
development of new needs and demands that the states were not equipped to
decide on. Welfare users preferred to go through their range of option and
decide what type of welfare best suited their needs. Disabled people and users
of mental health services were at the fore front of this challenge by the 80s,
pushing for an ability to make decisions for themselves.


The conservative government began the process of marketization, that
stimulated the shift from welfare citizens to welfare users. A number of mechanism
were put in place to achieve this, the NHS underwent market research and
consumer satisfaction became a priority and by 1990, the NHS operated in an
internal market, thus health authorities could manage their own budget, reflecting
the pull away from a central control over decision making on welfare provision.


The identity of welfare users has continued to shift and it moved from a
welfare consumers, shopping around to commissioners; using the money that has
been allocated to them to commission the type of support that they prefer. This
shift was characterized by a feeling of powerlessness, that the users of
welfare were feeling. Welfare users, felt that they had no ability to influence
the decisions made concerning welfare service provision and were at the mercy
of professional assessment and decision-making.


At present, citizenship is based on the idea that citizens should be
active and engage in their society. An “active citizen” was another idea that both
the labor and conservative government promoted. This active citizen took
responsibility for the welfare of his community, family and himself.  Albeit, the labor government developed their
idea around the idea of communitarianism. The labor government that the agreed
that the initial approach did not give enough room for individual choice,
however, it solely focused on rights to welfare and disregarded the responsibilities
and duties that citizens had in the welfare system. 7


Thus, the labor party developed the concept of civil renewal to effect
the changes that he envisioned. This agenda campaigned for the significance of
discipline, family life, strong communities and relationships based on rights
and responsibility8  and this program became the touchstone of the voluntary
sector and averted full dependence on the welfare state9.
It incorporated a widespan of social groups including inward migrants, who
David Blunkett believed owed a duty to their host countries. This active
citizen has manifested in the welfare system and can be seen providing the
larger percentage of welfare to relatives who are ill or disabled.


The labor government continued to promote the involvement of volunteers
into the welfare market, through the late 90s and into the mid 2000s. This
third sector was to provide welfare services, to social groups that had been


In liberal welfare regimes arguments about dependency culture led to
tight-purse-string policies that provided the least welfare benefits11,
it retracted the reach of social citizenship from an increased number of people
as access to welfare shrunk. It is argued that these regimes commodified the rights
and status of social citizenship, and citizens that were less wealthy felt as
though they did not measure up to the standard of the archetype citizen and
were second class citizens.


The welfare state takes preventive steps against actions that were
previously used in determining welfare user’s rights and this majorly applied
to individuals who were not eligible for the equivalent welfare entitlement12.
Therefore, there was a growth in paternalistic policies. These policies regarded
the behavior of poor citizens as problematic and reshaped their status from
right bearing citizens to state subjects.


The archetype citizen became the active citizen who could fend for
themselves without government assistance. This became the standard and citizens
who could not measure up to the standard did not meet up to the idea of a good
citizen. The characteristic of a good citizen, was reflected in their market
value and in Edmonton’s research the “good citizens” linked their status as
social citizens to their financial contributions to the state for example
through tax. This neo-liberal formation of a good citizen excluded citizens who
did not have a source of income, they could not contribute and as a result did
not reach the standard of the active citizen.13


The mechanisms responsible for the production and enforcement of social
norms that underpin the idea of a good citizen, can be divided into two;
static institutions and dynamic processes and practices. These static institutions
are institutions of welfare and the dynamic processes and practices are engaged
in by citizen. There is an interaction between citizenship practice and
citizenship institutions and this interaction is responsible for the
reproduction of socio-political life. These social and political factors are
underpinned by the same social norms that underpin the idea of a good citizen.


It is argued that Citizenship is conferred, the
status is often thought of as being presented to individuals by the government.
Thus, the government is the decision marker that decides how things are done. The
ideologies that they choose begin to create social norms that characterise the “good
citizen”. For instance, neo-liberal arguments for self-sufficiency14 were
replicated in the archetype – good – citizen. The government uses the law as a
tool of enforcing these norms and ideals. They set out in law, what the terms
of being a citizen are, the duties and standards expected of a good citizen.
For instance; they expect that tax be paid and you avoid crime. With increased paternalistic
policies, more invasive policies have been created.


Bourdieu argued that citizens internalise social
order and through this process, order is reproduced. This concept is known as
the habitus15.
Citizens unconsciously assimilate and become a constituent part of the social
order and the way that they interact within the status of citizenship continues
to be repeated. This process is the way that the social norms underpinning a “good”
citizen continues to be repeated. Citizens continue to strive to become the
archetype citizen, in a neo-liberal world that is the self-sufficient citizen
that does not need government assistance, paying taxes and contributing their
fair share. It continues to regenerate the terms on which citizenship is
granted. This citizenship habitus does not stop in our interactions with the
welfare state. It extends to the way that we communicate with ourselves; market
ideologies weigh citizens by their market value and this norm becomes a part of
our lives and the way we interact, using social leverage as an enforcement mechanism.


Citizens are also responsible for the production of
some of the social norms that underpin the idea of a “good” citizen. Acts of
citizens, widen the boundaries of what the archetype citizen is developed
around. Citizens become political agents carrying out political revolutions and
asserting the legibility of a marginalised group, to be conferred the whole
status of citizenship. For instance, feminists, who continue to fight for the
fair and equal treatment of lone mothers in the welfare system16


A citizen is fluid
and dynamic concept, T.H Marshall however created a touchstone from which the
concept can begin to be unraveled. In his definition, he spoke of an ‘ideal’ and
this ideal acts as a yard-stick for other citizens. This ideal sets aspirations
and these aspirations answer the questions of what a good citizen is, the
closer a citizen come to meeting the standard, the better a citizen they are.  Furthermore, these ideals are influenced by
the ideologies that are the most popular; welfare states often place their focus on legal and political
dimensions of citizenship and these are underpinned by social norms. There are political,
institutional, legal ideals of what are considered a good citizen, as well as personal,
intersubjective dimension of citizenship
and they are underpinned by a variety of social norms. The interaction
between citizenship practice and citizenship institutions reproduce
socio-political life. The socio-political life at the time, is also set by the
same ideologies against which a good citizen is set and as a result they are
underpinned by the same norms. These mechanism that carry out the reproduction and
enforcement can be divided into two; static institutions: institutions of
welfare and dynamic processes and practices; citizens engage in.  They reproduce and enforce social norms by
bestowing citizenship, habitus and acts of citizens, themselves.


1 T.H Marshall, Citizenship And Social Class And Other Essays (The Syndics of the
Cambridge University Press 1950).

2 Pete Alcock and others, The Student’s Companion To Social Policy (2012).

3 Christopher Pierson, The Welfare State Reader (Polity Press 2006).

4 ‘What Life Was Like In Britain
During The Second World War’ (Imperial
War Museums, 2018)

accessed 14 January 2018.

5 Stephen Driver and Luke Martell,
‘New Labour’s Communitarianisms’ (1997) 17 Critical Social Policy

6 ‘NHS Choices – History Of NHS’ (, 2018)
accessed 15 January

7 Stephen Driver and Luke Martell,
‘New Labour’s Communitarianisms’ (1997) 17 Critical Social Policy

8 Pete Alcock and others, The Student’s Companion To Social Policy (2012).

9 Véronique Jochum, Belinda Pratten
and Karl Wilding, Civil Renewal And
Active Citizenship A Guide To The Debate (NCVO 2005).

10 Jeremy Kendall and Martin Knapp, The Third Sector And Welfare State Modernisation:
Inputs, Activities And Comparative Performance (14th edn, 2010)
accessed 15 January 2018.

11 Christian Albrekt Larsen, ‘The
Institutional Logic Of Welfare Attitudes’ (2007) 41 Comparative Political
Studies .

12 ‘The Welfare State And The Rise Of
Paternalism | Gilles Saint-Paul’ (, 2018)

accessed 15 January 2018.

13 Daniel Edmiston, ”How The Other
Half Live’: Poor And Rich Citizenship In Austere Welfare Regimes’ (2016) 16
Social Policy and Society

accessed 15 January 2018.

14 Investopedia Staff,
‘Neoliberalism’ (Investopedia, 2018)
accessed 15
January 2018.

15 Roger Baars, ‘Social Reproduction
Through Citizenship Education: Performing The Habitus Of Pragmatic Compliance’
2015 Labouring and Learning.

16 Wendy McKeen, ‘”Welfare Mother”
Activism, Mainstream Feminism, And The Cunning Of History In Ontario’S 1970S
Welfare Debate’ 2017 Journal of Women, Politics & Policy.

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