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Reading: Informal World Citizenship: The Debate Between Statist Republicans and Cosmopolitans


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Informal World Citizenship: The Debate Between Statist Republicans and Cosmopolitans


Jasper Bongers

About Jasper

Rather broadly interested, Jasper Bongers (1991) has studied journalism, international relations, modern history, and political science. The concepts and theories discussed in the author's article have been put forth in his University of Amsterdam Bachelor thesis “Informal World Citizenship”, in which he combines insights from all four disciplines. In his current RMA History at Utrecht University, Bongers studies American history between 1865 and 1877. His research focuses on the political success of Southern white supremacist terrorism. 

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In recent decades, citizenship theory has seen fierce debates between statist republicans and cosmopolitans. Statist republicans hold that citizenship can only exist at the national level, when it has a direct connection with the state and popular sovereignty. Cosmopolitans, on the other hand, claim that states are an important cause of global inequality, but fail to produce a fulfilling account of cosmopolitan or global citizenship. In this article I coin the notion of informal world citizenship, in an attempt to add a new perspective to the debate. Arguably, world citizenship is already exercised in practice, although it lacks the formalization of current accounts of cosmopolitan citizenship. To illustrate this point, I provide three examples. (1) In France, illegal immigrants have demanded inclusion and legal rights, arguing that although they lack formal documents or ‘papers’ (calling themselves sans papiers) they are not illegitimate people and should not be treated as such. (2) In their contesting of an unfair distribution of wealth, the Occupy movement – whether you like them or not – has aimed to influence worldwide politics, rather than individual states. (3) The same can be said about people protesting against nuclear weapons, mostly active in the Seventies and Eighties. Oftentimes these people were not members of the political entities they tried to influence, laying their claims before the world community rather than national governments. Combined, the three examples illustrate how people can exercise political power as global citizens, in a way that bears no direct connection to the popular sovereignty that is central to current cosmopolitan propositions. The concept of informal world citizenship broadens the debate between statist republican and cosmopolitans by showing that global citizenship is not only an ambitious proposal, but to an extent it already exists. 

How to Cite: Bongers, J., 2016. Informal World Citizenship: The Debate Between Statist Republicans and Cosmopolitans. Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 1(1), pp.22–36. DOI:
Published on 01 Mar 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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