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Občanské a proletářské

Joseph Grim Feinberg (Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences)

Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought III, no. 1 (2019): 65–91

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Keywords: Civil society, citizenship, civil rights, Marxism, the notion of the proletariat

What is the notion of citizenship that reveals itself in such varied and successive appearances as “civic” participation, “civil” society, and “civil” rights? The law provides us with positive defi nitions, defi ning individuals’ relationship to given states, which grant rights to participate in civil society. But such defi nitions conceal as much as they reveal. The full meaning of citizenship comes out only in relation to other categories which citizenship excludes. This is true not only because all categories of meaning are defined against their opposites, but also because citizenship as a specific category is characterized fundamentally by the principle of exclusion. Citizenship, typically conceived as a bundle of rights, functions de facto as a bundle of privileges, that is to say, of rights that must be granted, rights which (in spite of universalist justifications) are always granted to some and not to others, and which are granted on the condition that right-holders renounce their claims on other rights. The non-citizen tends to become not only uncivil but also uncivilized, deprived not only of specific civil rights but also of human dignity. The citizen is civilized while the non-citizen is made barbaric. It becomes necessary therefore to develop the following thesis: that the essence of the citizen is the proletarian tramp. So argues Joseph Grim Feinberg in this Czech translation of an article published in English as “The Civic and the Proletarian,” in Socialism & Democracy 27 (2013), no. 3.

doi: 10.46957/con.2019.1.4

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