Newman, Janet and Tonkens, Evelien (2011). Introduction. In: Newman, Janet and Tonkens, Evelien eds. Participation, Responsibility and Choice. Amsterdam University Press, pp. 9–28.



New formations of citizenship occupy a central place in the modernization of welfare states across Europe and beyond. A range of governmental and political projects swirl around the remaking of citizenship: the restoration of national identity, the responses to the challenges of social cohesion in a globalising world and the attempt to reinvent relationships between people and the state. But at the centre of these struggles are notions of the ‘active’ citizen: one who is no longer dependent on the welfare state and who is willing to take a full part in the remaking of modern societies. The active citizen is invited, cajoled and sometimes coerced to take on a range of responsibilities for the self, for the care of others and for the well-being of communities. S/he is offered a range of opportunities to participate in a devolved and plural polity as well as to exercise choice in the expanding marketplace of care and welfare services. And s/he is expected to take up opportunities for self-development and paid employment in order to contribute to national projects of survival and success in a globalising world. While there is now an extensive body of work on the encouragement of citizens to be active in the labour market, our focus is on three related but distinct dimensions of activation that focus respectively on:

– ‘choice’ in the marketplace of welfare services;

– extended responsibility for individuals, carers, families and communities; And

– ‘participation’ in service delivery, policymaking, governance and the polity.

These three comprise a new policy focus on ‘active citizenship’ in many nations – a focus that transforms older meanings of citizenship and that seeks to incorporate (or at least rework) older struggles.

The paradoxical rise of active citizenship

How can we understand this rise of policies directed towards the active citizen? On the one hand, it can be argued that this is a triumph of the new social movements of the later decades of the 20th century. The women's movement, movements of patients and carers, disabled people's movements and the gay liberation movement, amongst others, all claimed more citizens’ rights, both in terms of the redistribution of power and resources and in terms of recognition and voice.

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