New Forms of Citizenship Pose Challenges for Established Democracy



Online Political Debate, Unbounded Citizenship, and the Problematic Nature of a Transnational Public Sphere
Political Communication
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The authors argue that the combination of the effects of the internet, globalisation, increased people movement and the rise of a global civil society over the past two decades is creating new forms of what they describe as 'unbounded' citizenship.

Unbounded citizens are charactertised as those who are global in outlook and have multiple and shifting perspectives about politics and policy.

This transformation in the concept of citizenship creates major challenges and problems for traditional political systems, such as liberal democracy, which depend on 'bounded' citizenships to function.

Bounded citizens, according to the authors, are those who see the nation-state, political parties and their encompassing policy and political programs as the basis of their political identity and voice.

The authors summarise the change and contrast in the two forms of citizenship in the following way: 'Many citizens see direct action, their activism within or support of social movement organizations, as more gratifying and politically effective than being a member of a hierarchical (national) political party. Civic engagement has, in other words, largely shifted from the formal democratic level ... this can be explained in part by the fact that involvement and engagement are less defined in terms of ideology and the formal, representative, political process'.

The authors use three case studies of citizen and civic organisations with a transnational focus to highlight the tensions emerging between 'bounded' and 'unbounded' forms of citizenship.


Thumbnail image: Lena Vasiljeva/Flickr

Bart Cammaerts

London School of Economics and Political Science

Leo Van Audenhove

Free University

Published Date
April 1, 2005