Mengali, Fabio: NEITHER CITIZENS NOR SLAVES: THE APORETIC CONDITION OF MODERN CITIZENSHIP.

17th Century England has been conventionally conceived as the cradle of Modern citizenship. In fact, the two English Revolutions (1642/1648 and 1688) freed citizenship from Medieval constraints and rigid class or rank belonging based on bloodline, as well as they established the Modern system of representation. Scholars assert that Modern citizenship was grounded upon liberal anthropology and values, which began to revolve around work ethics. It thus excluded poor, daily and waged workers from being full members of the Commonwealth inasmuch as they were exempted from political and, partially, civic rights. In this regard, intellectual history and historiography consider the successive inclusion of working class within citizenship during the 19th century as an extension of liberal values to subjects previously deprived of such rights. Although this exclusion historically occurred, I argue that in between the two Revolutions citizenship was not grounded upon liberal values, a universal human conception being at stake in the context of the fierce debate between political forces. The analyses of John Locke’s and Algernon Sidney’s texts, as well as historical sources like Putney debates, discloses the conceptual discussion marking the Century in question. The notions of natural laws, state of nature and reason were functional to the formation of a humankind adaptable to every individual. That being said, the necessity to preserve aristocratic property rights and to dispel the risk of anarchy, represented by radical popular movements, prompted thinkers to find a solution for the retention of political order and social hierarchies. Consequently, being a citizen, that is, a freeman, meant to be independent from anyone’s will and constraint: citizenship rights were bestowed only to those who were able to provide livelihood for themselves. For this reason, the concept and practice of work had to be defined as opposed to dependent activities entailing the submission to a master, for example daily and salaried workers, domestics and indigent people. Labour was conceived both as a common human activity consistent with human nature and a device of differentiation between individuals on the basis of its quality. It was thus the very tool with which citizenship could be extended and, at the same time, restricted for some subjects. Salaried workers could benefit from the principle of habeas corpus, the defence of life and the right of residence as human beings in opposition to slavish status, but they could not participate to the political life as citizens. The focus on the inclusion/exclusion mechanism takes into consideration the dependent status as an element necessary for the construction of citizenship, whose premises always entrenched the compresence of freedom and coercion for different individuals. As a result the successive extension of citizenship rights to salaried workers cannot be explained as the adaptation to liberal frame and values, since it conserved social hierarchies and the principle of temporary submission for dependent work.