Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1

Marx, as is argued in Chapter 10 on Socialism, is torn between a view of
revolution simply as change, and a notion, derived from the model of the French
Revolution, of revolution as a dramatic single event. Reforms have a revolutionary
significance, and underpin the character of capitalism as ‘a self-dissolving
contradiction’. Yet it is both central to the dialectical logic of Marx’s analysis and
to some of his explicit statements that capitalism can be gradually transformed so
that, increasingly, a society develops in which freedom and individuality become
more and more meaningful.
Citizenship can only develop at the expense of capitalism. Bryan Turner argues
that while capitalism promotes early notions of citizenship, it also generates massive
inequalities that prevent the achievement of citizenship. He sees a conflict between
the redistributive character of citizenship rights and the profit motive of the free
market (1986: 38, 24). It is true that he assumes that citizenship should be defined
as membership of a state, and he takes a rather abstract view of class which means,
as noted above, that he juxtaposes class to gender, ethnicity, etc. in a somewhat
mechanistic fashion. Nevertheless, he regards the welfare state as a site of struggle,
and he stresses over and over again the contradictory character of capitalism and
its fraught relationship with citizenship.
Citizenship, Turner says, develops as a series of circles or waves (1986: 93). It
is radical and socially disruptive, moving through a number of expanding processes,
so that social membership becomes increasingly universalistic and open-ended.
Citizenship exists (as he puts it pithily) despite rather than because of capitalist
growth (1986: 135, 141). The point is that the argument that citizenship requires
a transformation of capitalism can be posed without having to make the case for
a dramatic one-off revolution.
A number of ‘issues papers’ put out by the British Department for International
Development point to the fact that the private sector can and must change. Indeed,
the argument implies that to speak of capitalist companies simply as ‘private’ is
itself problematic: the largest of these companies can – and need to – be pressurised
further along a public road so that they operate according to social and ethical
criteria. The reputation and image of companies with prominent interests abroad
are tarnished by adverse publicity around issues like the pollution of the environ -
ment; the use of child labour; and the support for regimes that have poor human
rights records. Companies should join organisations like the Ethical Training
Initiative (Department for International Development, 2002: 6). It is revealing
that some companies speak of a corporate citizenship that shows awareness that
production and sales are social processes with political implications. The link
between profit and support for ethically acceptable social practices demonstrates
that capitalism can be transformed by a whole series of ‘victories for the political
economy of the working class’ – an ongoing process which, arguably, is still in its
relatively early stages.
There are no short cuts to the transformation of capitalism. Where the market
cannot provide universal service ‘autonomously’, as it were, it needs to be regulated

  • and it is through regulation that capitalism is transformed. Adair Turner establishes
    this interventionist logic when he argues that where market liberalisation (i.e. making
    people conform to capitalist norms) conflicts with desirable social objectives,
    ‘we should not be afraid to make exceptions’ (2002: 174). If citizens desire an
    efficient and integrated transport service, then this is an objective that must be

Chapter 6 Citizenship 135
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