Citizenship is a contract between the individual and the state where both hold rights and responsibilities towards each other. The government implements rights that include for example, the right to freedom of speech, freedom from persecution, religious pluralism and so on. But does every citizen, universally, have access to and hold the same rights?

According to Marshall (1992), “Citizenship is based on the relationship between states and individuals”. Marshall’s view on citizenship is an idealistic one and is based upon three types of rights. These rights include civil rights, social rights and political rights.  Civil rights are based on the protection of individual freedoms. These include for example, the right to freedom of speech, the right to own property, the right to justice and so on. Political rights allow participation in becoming a member of a political party or body or as an elector of a member of a body. Social rights include that of the right to share in economic welfare and security for example unemployment benefits, student benefits, health care benefits and so on.


Figure 1: The top civil rights issues and the percentage of respondents

Source: [Image] (n.d.). Retrieved 25 May, 2014, from

Marshall’s theory is invalid in some parts as it fails to provide focus on political struggle. He does not focus on how in fact citizens had earned their rights in the past and the struggle that had taken place for these rights to be gained.  Marshall bases his theory on British ideology and fails to take into account the rest of the world. Different countries around the world are at different stages of the development of the rights of their citizens and in some places cannot be accessed as easily as they are in others. Countries around the world still withhold rights from many for example from women and the right to vote or the right to freedom.

Do all citizens have rights? Or are some rights withheld from citizens by the state? When considering Marshall’s theory it can be noted that not everyone can be covered by the three rights that he mentions. These rights may be withheld as one may not be a citizen or because their rights have been removed from them for example if one is sent to prison or sent to a hospital or mental health institution, or if someone does not have access to institutions like education, health care services and so on. Those in society, who may have received limited education or are homeless for example, may not have access to the same rights as others do especially in considering money and wealth.  Many social problems like unemployment, low education levels and drug and alcohol abuse come as a result of the gap between the low socio-economic class and the high socio-economic class (Pickett & Wilkinson, 2010). Where socio-economic class division affects the income and wealth of citizens, these citizens are left with limited access to their rights. Those citizens of a low socio-economic status are left unemployed, with little money and are sometimes left to live in poverty. Marshall (1992) believes that a just society is an equal society without class division. Some ideas he has on citizenship can include Citizenship based on displacement and dispossession, a ‘Fair go’, challenging the egalitarian myth and inequality and federation.


Figure 2: Civil rights protest

Source:[Image] (n.d.). Retrieve 24 May 2014, from



Figure 3: Rights protest for equality

Source: Crowds of people marched in San Francisco to protest the passage of Proposition 8 (Josh On | SW) [Image] (2013, March 29). Retrieved May 26, 2014, from



[Image] (n.d.). Retrieved 25 May, 2014, from glance/

[Image] (n.d.). Retrieve 24 May 2014, from

Crowds of people marched in San Francisco to protest the passage of Proposition 8 (Josh On | SW) [Image] (2013, March 29). Retrieved May 26, 2014, from

Marshall, T.H. (1992). Citizenship and social class. London : Pluto Press

Pickett, K., & Wilkinson R.G. (2010). The spirit level : why greater equality makes societies stronger. New York: Bloomsbury Press



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