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The Concept of Citizenship

A citizen is a member of a certain society. He or she is expected to have certain qualities to be associated with a given society. The qualities that an individual possess define his or her role in the community; good qualities make citizens responsible members of the society and visa verse. The concept of citizenship is the individual relationship between a citizen and the state. The state owes protection to responsible member of the society. Citizenship involves the obligations that a citizen is entitled to as a member of the society.

According to the great thinkers of the society, citizenship has three main elements:

  1. The first element considers citizenship as the legal status a citizen is entitled to. This is defined by his or her political and civil rights. A citizen is a legal free individual who has the right to be protected by the law.
  2. Speaking about the second element, it is believed that citizens are political agents who are actively involved in the political institutions of the country.
  3. The third element considers citizens as members of the society who have a distinct identity source.

Plato's Concept of Citizenship

Plato was one of the most influential philosophers that ever lived. He was a Greek who was born around 420 BC. Plato's father was a descendant of the kings of Athens. It is believed that Plato was the eldest among the sons his father had. He was student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle. Plato was influenced greatly by the work of Socrates who was one of the great thinkers that lived in ancient Greece.

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Most scholars believe that Socrates used Pytharogas and Cratylus doctrines in his work. This helped him build the foundation of metaphysics and the study of knowledge. Plato continued the philosophy of his teacher Aristotle and was one of the writers of western philosophy. He was one of the greatest metaphysical intellectuals that the world has seen. His work on philosophy was widely known in the regions beyond Greece. Plato dealt with a broad spectrum of ideas. His work on mathematics is essential for understanding various concepts of the universe while the work on reasoning was the key in the development of democracy.

Plato's work dealt with the matters of justice and equality. He was the founder of the Academy in Athens that was one of the most influential institutes of higher learning. Aristotle was one of the students of the institution and became its supervisor after the death of Plato, which was a great blow in the field of philosophy. Plato's works had a huge effect on the social life of most citizens. His career into politics was pulled back by the death of Socrates. Plato began studying Mathematics in the Mediterranean region and also did some study of religion and astronomy in Egypt. In this period, Plato extensively wrote on ethics and politics in The Republic (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000).

The Republic of Plato, also known as a Socratic dialogue, is believed to be his longest and greatest work, and other dialogues can be centered on it. The argument of the work was the search for justice and the answer to the question whether it is better to be just or the opposite. In this work, Socrates sketched the idea that defining justice as the virtue of a city would help in defining it as a human being virtue. He linked his arguments on personal justice and on how cities are constituted (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000).

Plato defined citizens as the individuals who have the right to participate in judicial office. According to him, citizens were distinguished from other individuals inhabiting the region. Children, women and slaves were a few who were not regarded as citizens (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000). In ancient Greece, citizens had the freedom of attending the national assembly, being present in the councils and having an impact on the juries. Plato's contribution to ethics entailed the discussion of the virtue of justice and the reasons why a citizen should be just. He attempted to offer solutions to the main ethical and political issues of the republic. Hence, Plato made two assumptions that included:

  1. Ethics and politics in the republic need preliminary understanding of Socrates' question and its strategy.
  2. Moral psychology plays an important role in the development of politics in the country.

Plato's thoughts about the concepts of citizenship involved the natural and physical aspects of a particular city. This also includes the land and its people. There were small mountains in Crete, the city of Magnesia, which was located directly in Messara. The mountains separated the sea on the South East. The community of Magnesia established their settlements there.

There are three individuals named in the work of Plato:

  1. Cleinias, who was a citizen of Crete from the city of Cnossos;
  2. Megillus, who was an individual from Sparta;
  3. A stranger who came from Athens.

The stranger from Athens questioned Cleinias about the rugged fertile land. He learns that the land is fertile to comfortably hold a population of approximately 20,000 people. He also learns that it is good, but it is not fertile enough to produce large surpluses for export; the land is able to produce timber for building ships. The stranger from Athens observed that Magnesia was not meant to become a great commercial city but a modest trading place with a simple economy and some considerable wealth. Plato argued that the role of a city is not the wealth and influence but the power driving the justice in the region for the perfection of public goods. The individuals who will inhabit this land will be organized, and resources will be equitably distributed among them.


Plato advocated for the equality of women, and that no provision was to be made for matriarchal succession of land. He made emphasis on the fact that city must reflect the nature. This would help in the administration apportionment of tasks (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000).

Plato argued that one of the functions of a citizen is to protect the city. Citizens must be able to set free from farming and any other activity that will be distracting (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000). Plato argues that citizens are individuals who are not in class of leisure. They should not be enjoying themselves at the expense of others, but they are expected to be active in the guarding the city. Citizens should be performing the activities they were elected for; if not, they should keep their body and mind fit. Plato advocated for gymnasium attendance as exercising the mind and talking about political ideas helps in nation building. This brainstorming assists in the development of a city because the individuals get involved in the process of decision making.

According to Plato, there should be no concerns about fulfilling the private lives of individuals. Boundaries should be kept so that they do not exceed to the political side. He argues that when an individual lives properly, he is free and full of satisfaction.

In conclusion, the Republic characterizes citizenship to be empowered by individuals who have enough wisdom to understand the world. This helps them individual to become better citizens. Plato believes that an individual's living will depend on the culture and the individual in particular. People who do not have wisdom must live under the supervision of those who have it. The individuals who want to get wisdom should be raised well as it helps to become responsible leaders (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000).

Aristotle's Concept of Citizenship

Aristotle was an intelligent Greek philosopher and scientist who was born in 384 BC. He was among many influential ancient thinkers that ever existed. Aristotle was born in Greece, in a City called Stagira (Kraut & Skultety, 2005). His father was the physician of the King of Macedon. Aristotle studied in Plato's Academy in Athens, and Plato himself was his teacher and mentor. Leading to the death of Plato, he left Athens for Asia to do biological and philosophical research; it was extensive and involved the towns of interest. During this time, Aristotle gained knowledge and skills in the fields he pursued. The King of Macedon invited him to tutor his son Alexander the Great (Kraut & Skultety, 2005). Aristotle then returned to Athens as an alien and worked on his ideas, one of which was the Politics. Alexander the Great gained a lot of knowledge in politics which he later began using to rule his people. When Alexander died, Aristotle had to flee from the country. He feared that their connection would lead to his death as he influenced the political decision of King Alexander. Aristotle died later, and his work seemed to have influenced most people. Aristotle's involvement in biology is incorporated naturally in his political arguments because he got experience of different and diverse political systems during his tours. His work is borrowed from his teacher and mentor Plato. He harshly criticizes and at the same time borrows extensively from Plato's Republic and Laws. Aristotle used his work to guide individuals in the places he visited. He stated that distributive justice requires benefits to be equally distributed among all the citizens in accordance to their merit.

Aristotle defines the state as a body of individuals who suffice for life's purposes. He further defines the constitution as the arrangement of the state magistrates according to their ranks. Aristotle uses the government to define the constitution; he believes that the government is present everywhere in a sovereign state, and so is the constitution. Aristotle meant that arrangement of the offices in ranks determines how the government and the constitution are formed.

Aristotle argues that there has to be criteria for comparing a good citizen and a good man. He argues that a good citizen is one who upholds and honors the constitution. There are different kinds of constitutions; this means that there are different kinds of people.

Aristotle understands that politics is a practicable science that is concerned with the noble action of individuals. He compares politics to a craftsman and believes that a politician is to make the law for the citizens; making of laws will involve the making of a constitution. The constitution in place needs to guide the citizens, and politicians should work to maintain and reform it. Aristotle believed that a citizen is an individual who has shares in the administering justice and holding public office. He argues that those citizens are not defined by the places they live or the legal rights they have except the rights of suing someone. Citizens should share administrative justice in every aspect of their life (Kraut & Skultety, 2005). There are six possible kinds of constitutional forms (Kraut & Skultety, 2005).

In a broad sense, he argues that though citizenship is granted to the individuals who are born in a place where the parents are citizens, it is irrelevant when dealing with constitutional change. The so-called citizens will not be able to participate in maintaining and reforming the constitution. Aristotle argues that a city is defined in the constitution and that a change in the constitution changes the city. It is neither a commercial enterprise to make money or maximize wealth, nor an association that promotes liberty and equality (Kraut & Skultety, 2005).

Differences between Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics

Plato and Aristotle are pioneers to the development on modern politics. They are influential thinkers of the past. Their work is still evident today and is used by many scholars to analyze political situations. Both of the had different views towards citizenship.

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Plato based his ideal of citizenship on four virtues: wisdom, courage, increased moderation and justice. The virtue of wisdom makes the city to be wise, while the virtue of courage makes the city to become brave (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000). Moderation is the assumption and understanding that every individual knows his or her roles in the society, and justice is the engagement of activities for individuals to fulfill the roles peacefully. These virtues are important for the development of citizenship. The city brings together farmers, shepherds and other related individuals. According to Plato, individuals had different understandings of the city, and this determined who was to be the ruler.

In his book, Plato stated that if justice is well understood, then it will be easy for individuals to rule harmoniously. He stressed that those who wanted to rule must be physical and mentally strong. They must be wise and knowledgeable to survive in the society. Plato feels that there are no private properties to be owned. He argued that common wives and children of guardians worked to build the cities around them, And women shared their duties with the male guardians (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000).

On the contrary, Aristotle argued that a city is made of humans who are very different in kind. Plato believed that some individuals are more fit than the others thanks to nature. This gives them competitive advantage to get certain jobs. Aristotle states that each and every individual has the capacity and capability to get a job, considering he or she is well educated and follows the law. Aristotle believes that common wives and children undermine the stability of the city. He states, communism fractures the unity of the city and feels that separating the public and the private property is vital (Kraut & Skultety, 2005).

Secondly, Plato feels that individuals are qualified to become rulers because they have specials skills (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000). The more educated individuals are capable of ruling because of the wisdom and courage that they posses. The guardians have an increased attachment to justice and moderation; they are the ones with the highest education level and thus have the wisdom to rule a city. He feels that when, for example, an individual is sick, he will go to the doctor. In the same case, if an individual wants to be governed, he or she allows the people that are more capable to be leaders. Plato differentiated the four forms of government that exist. A war in timarchy is dominated by the army, and it is prized for winning the battles. The democracy of oligarchies is money driven by the rulers. The third type has no control. Plato feels that democracy is a result of the poor becoming victorious. He argues that in a democratic regime the individuals are free to do as they please. He strongly states that a government consists of only few individuals who are capable of ruling it. The guardians have a natural competitive edge over other individuals who are not capable of governing (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000). According to Plato, cities are built depending on some myth, and discovering it would lead to chaos.

Aristotle questions some of the assumption made in the Republic. He feels that citizens who have proper education and abide to the law are equipped with the skills to become rulers. These capable individuals come together to mob rule. Aristotle believes that no one individual should rule the entire population. He states that many individuals ruling together are better than a single individual ruling alone. Aristotle' s ideas differ from the work of Plato with regards to change. He argues that the law sometimes has to be changed' it should be written in terms that are universal. This helps the rulers to use them when faced with different situations.

According to Plato, there is no way that there is true knowledge of the factors that always change. There is only true knowledge of what is grasped by reasoning (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000).

How Their Definitions Compare to the Contemporary Understanding of Citizenship

The analysis of Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics is applied to most of the contemporary governments. Plato argued that a strong government is critical to preserve and protect the city. The modern government structures of most countries protect the welfare of its citizens. In this era, it has been found that most individuals are questioning the role of the importance of free markets. Many also question the best position that the government can take in an economy.

Ancient theories of citizenship have helped us understand citizenship in various ways. They are:

  1. The historical concept of citizenship helps to explain our understanding of concept. There is a liberal view towards citizenship. It emphasizes the importance of all citizens to commit to the constitution rather than our ethnical background. There has been an increase in the number of people voting. This shows an increase in the reality to most of the individuals.
  2. Social citizenship recognizes that individuals are expected to get civil and political rights from the country. The increase in the number of welfare states have let to the rise of different views from scholars. They argue that the rights of citizens should include the livelihood and the working conditions of an individual.

Active citizenship of has enabled the improvement of the lives of certain individuals. Active citizenship means improving an individual economic participation and all other related factors.. The citizens are highly motivated to participate in matters relating to their country.

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European citizenship grants the rights to the members of the European Union. It provides a sense of belonging, specifically to multiple values of systems. The multiple values systems are dynamic and inclusive of the works that are on the local levels.

Global citizenship is a concept that means that there is a need to tackle the injustice and inequality that exist in our societies. Individuals need to have the desire to actively fight them. The concept tries to value the earth as a unique component. It is a way of thinking and taking actions that will make a difference.

The ancient understanding of citizenship has helped us understand that children are the property of their parents. They lack the maturity required for the development of constructive ideas; though, it increases as most of them grow up. Children must obey the law as required by the state.

Educating the children and young people so that they can become responsible members of the society is important. Attention is paid to children's participation in creating opportunities to learn. It is advisable to teach them active citizenship to provide practical responsibilities. The involvement of practical responsibilities means that children can be educated on their rights and enjoy contributing decisions at school and at home.

Many countries have come up with different solutions to these problems. In the United States of America, it has been noted that democracy and capitalism offer the best use of government resources. Modern day citizenship requires that individuals have to be equipped with certain qualities to be associated with a certain a society. This citizen must be protected by the state if he or she abides by the law. Plato's work that was made long time ago is quite applicable to the current understanding of citizenship. In times of crisis, reviews are always made based on past assumptions. Plato provided view of the best form of government to use, and it is still practiced nowadays (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000).

In conclusion, it is advisable for different societies to practice different forms of government and citizenship. This is despite Plato's argument that only a few can rule. Plato was correct in arguing that the leaders have to be educated and informed. He was also correct in believing that masses of people make poor decisions.

It has been found that a number of political scientists use the theories of Aristotle to supplement their ideas and principles. There has been a separation of modern and classical theories of government and citizenship, And Aristotle was a major contributor to the modern politics. He shed light in to contemporary matters that were not clear to most of the individuals. Aristotle's concept of citizenship would not be applicable today. He did not value the need of a representative in the government. In our modern understanding of citizenship, a person is granted the right to vote for leaders. The leaders are the individuals who do the actual ruling in democracy.

Aristotle argues that the government works best if the masses of people are allowed to rule (Kraut & Skultety, 2005). He believed that possessions of weapon should be granted to individuals in society. It should be a condition for citizenship in a particular country. This is not a good idea in our understanding as it may lead to chaos since modern citizenship requires that the citizens have the freedom of expression. It shows the elitism in the work of Aristotle. In our understanding of citizenship, it is not a minimum wealth requirement to have weapon. The political power is reserved for the people who are wealthy, while the poor people have no say in the development of the country. It is not applicable in the modern society as it leads to discrimination against the poor people, and this is against their constitutional rights. The work of Aristotle on citizenship demonstrates the ignorance of the needs of poor people. This will definitely lead to over exploitation by the wealthy people. Modern citizenship argues that each and every individual should have equal rights and equal resource allocation opportunities. It requires justice in the government systems, which is always considered as a certain kind of equality that prevails. There is justice for all in the context of modern citizenship.

Individuals should be good citizens because there are certain expectation from them. They must follow certain rules and regulation in order to achieve a certain common goal. It is vital to know what is happening in the community. Good citizenship in our contemporary understanding requires individuals to be involved in activities of the community. Good citizenship always leads to good governance. A good citizen will abide by the law and respect people's property. This notion leads individuals to be respectable members of the society.

A good citizen is an individual who knows his rights and duties as a citizen of a particular country (Ferrari & Griffith, 2000). He or she performs his rights and duties as required by the society. In all democracies, good citizenship consists of a right to vote, the freedom of expression and the right to movement. The civic rights are vital because they enable an individual to live in a civilized way. The Government helps us to punish the individuals who do not obey the law. Good citizenship requires individuals to be citizens to be literate. The individuals must give the best to the society; this is in order to see that they are involved to the maximum in the activities of the community.

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