Apr 03 2015

DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP: FROM LIBERAL PRIVILEGE TO DEMOCRATIC EMANCIPATION

On the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta in England, Richard Barbrook calls for a new debate on the conception of citizenship.

Richard Barbrook, lecturer at University of Westminster

Richard Barbrook, lecturer at University of Westminster

 

“Government founded… on a system of universal peace, on the indefeasible hereditary Rights of Man … interests not particular individuals, but nations, in its progress, and promises a new era to the human race.”

Tom Paine, Rights of Man

 

In the second decade of the 21st century, citizenship is defined not just by the people being able to choose the political leadership of their nation through regular elections, but also by the legal protection of their human rights, such as media freedom, personal privacy, fair trials and religious toleration. Enshrined in both national constitutions and international treaties, these democratic precepts ensure that individual citizens can express their views and campaign for causes without fear of persecution or discrimination. Yet, when they were first codified during the 17th and 18th centuries’ modernising revolutions which overthrew aristocratic and priestly despotism in Western Europe and North America, these fundamental freedoms were initially restricted to a minority of the population: white male property-owners. Despite the universalist rhetoric of the English 1689 Bill of Rights, the French 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen and the USA’s 1791 Bill of Rights, men without property, all women and the African slaves who were property remained outside their constitutional protection. In this pioneering liberal iteration, political and civil freedom was founded upon economic exploitation. Human rights were the privilege of the few not the emancipation of the many.

Continue reading “DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP: FROM LIBERAL PRIVILEGE TO DEMOCRATIC EMANCIPATION”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,