Israel/Middle East (News & Politics)/Citizenship


David, thank you for your previous answers. I am reading a book by Peter Spiro called "beyond citizenship' and article by John Rawls, who I believe is a liberal philosopher, my question to you is , do we as Americans have special obligation to one another? If so, what are those obligations? I.e helping those less fortunate amongst us, social programs, etc. I like to see these things from different side as well. What is the difference between thin and thick conception of citizenship in your opinion? And finally, what must citizens have in common in order to sustain a political community, on your view? Does citizenship entail an obligation to participate in politics? Why? I would truly appreciate your insights and thoughts on these questions as I continue to read!  Thanks

Hi Abdi,

I think I owe you an explanation as to why it took me so long to answer your question. I simply had no idea that there was a question for me until AllExperts notified me. There must have been a problem with the site's digital connection because I never received an email or anything. Anyway, I'm here now and I'll now answer you're question ASAP.

I honestly haven't read either Peter Spiro or John Rawls so I really can't comment on what they wrote. However I can give you my personal opinions on what you are asking. The short answer to your first question about obligations is "yes". There is an old Jewish saying: "All Jews are responsible for one another". This same saying could also be applied to any nation in the world, e.g. "All Americans are responsible for one another". Just think, if Americans weren't responsible for one another, this country would end up like Syria. Some examples of this responsibility would be after the 9/11 attacks. The entire country rallied behind New York and the other places that were attacked. There were fire teams and other aid teams from other states like Texas and California which came to New York to help in which ever way they could. When there are massive forest fires in the western states, firefighters from other states journey west to fight dangerous fires and save lives at tremendous risk to themselves even though they didn't have to take the risk. (And sometimes, even Canadian firefighters join them.) And of course the social programs that are on the state and federal level that help so many people who are going through tough times.

The concepts of Thin and Thick citizenship can mean different things to different people. From what I understand of these concepts, the idea of Thin citizenship vis a vis the United States, has to do with States' Rights over that of the Federal government and each individual's legal rights inside those states. People who hold to this concept tend to range anywhere from the extremist racist white supremacists like the Ku Klux Klan to those of the more mainstream who say that anyone can be American as long as they're in the country legally and assimilate into the population so that they are as close to mom and apple pie as possible. Donald Trump might fall into the latter category. Thick citizenship is perhaps more socialistic in nature where civil rights fall less on the individual and more on the group. Thick citizenship emphasizes group participation in everything in the community from social activities to political participation. The Swiss are actually a lot like this group. Everybody participates in everything from the local to the national level. To be sure, the camaraderie sense of being "responsible for each other" can apply to either concept of citizenship but in different ways.

As for your question on the commonality of citizens to sustain a community, actually, every country has their own definition for that. For the US, one must keep in mind that this country is made up of 50 autonomous states. But most Americans know that in order to have a united country free from inter-state conflict, everyone must share certain values and goals that are distinctly American. Politically, every state has their own representatives to the Federal government and they all have equal clout as lawmakers. Whether or not citizenship entails that citizens must participate in politics is really a matter of debate. In some countries, participation in politics is mandatory like in Australia or Switzerland. In others, like the US, it is not. And generally speaking, on the international level, corruption and/or incompetence can discourage many from participating. So there is really no concrete answer to that question. I think it all depends on who you ask.  

Israel/Middle East (News & Politics)

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




I am an expert in Middle Eastern history, and Israeli history in particular. My main focus is Biblical analysis, the origins of Islam, and medieval and modern historical events in Israel. Everything you see happening in the world today, has a history.


I am a free-lance writer who has previously lived in, and studied the history of, Israel.


©2017 All rights reserved.