Books in Dialogue: GLOBALCIT Review Symposium on Yossi Harpaz, Citizenship 2.0 and Jelena Džankić, The Global Market for Investor Citizenship


The Different Sounds of ‘Instrumental’ Citizenship

Ashley Mantha-Hollands, WZB Berlin Social Science Center and European University Institute

States have always instrumentalised citizenship for various goals, such as creating stratification within communities, expanding the overseas citizenry, or excluding certain groups from accessing citizenship. What has mushroomed in recent years is the rise of individual instrumentalisation of citizenship for personal goals, such as increased mobility or as an insurance policy. In Citizenship 2.0, Yossi Harpaz conceptualises this phenomenon as the ‘sovereign individual’, where citizenship is a burgeoning space for free choice and utility maximisation. Harpaz examines the notion of ‘compensatory citizenship’, the practice where an individual seeks out a second citizenship to ‘fill a gap’ where the current citizenship is deficient. While Harpaz focuses on this trend from the demand side of citizenship, in The Global Market for Investor Citizenship, Jelena Džankić looks at a particular strand of ‘compensatory citizenship’ largely from the supply side: that of investment-based citizenship programs. Džankić surveys how citizenship has evolved in an age of largely unregulated capitalism and provides a revealing and balanced analysis of the ethics of ius pecuniae. Placing these two books side-by-side zooms the reader in and out of the current conversations around citizenship while offering a meditation on the different functions, uses, and values of citizenship for both individuals and states.

Putting these two texts in conversation raises several questions on one of their shared themes: the concept of ‘instrumentalisation’. What is instrumental citizenship? How is it measured? And is it harmful or beneficial? There are several ways of interpreting the ‘instrumental turn’ of citizenship. One way is to view the ‘instrumental turn’ as synonymous with the ‘thinning’ or ‘lightening’ of citizenship (Joppke 2010). Here, the sacred value of citizenship as a benchmark for collective identity has deteriorated to give way to ‘citizenship lite’, where there are few duties and rights are diffused between international and national regulation (Joppke 2010). Another way is to say that citizenship has always been subject to instrumentalisation; however, the ‘turn’ represents a shift in the balance of power from states to individuals. In this case, citizenship has never been so sacred for states, and now individuals are jumping on the bandwagon to instrumentalise citizenship for their personal advantage.

Using the case studies and arguments put forth by the two authors, in this review I explore the concept of instrumentalisation, asking whether there is a way to ‘draw a line’ in cases of acquiring or granting citizenship for ‘instrumental’ motivations for individuals and states?  Does it depend on why, how, and who is instrumentalising? And what is the value of citizenship if it is subject to instrumentalisation from both sides?

Instrumental function and use?

Džankić unpacks the concept of ‘instrumentalisation’ by splitting citizenship according to its function and use (p. 143). The instrumental function corresponds to the rights associated with citizenship, whereas the instrumental use relates to how a particular citizenship (as a status) is employed by the holder. This distinction is important in order to understand the motivation behind ‘compensatory citizenship’. As Harpaz shows through a series of vignettes on three case studies (Serbia, Mexico, and Israel), participants point out the instrumental use of their second citizenship in cases where the instrumental function of their original citizenship has, or potentially will fail.

Thus, in order to fill these gaps in function, participants look to access a second citizenship (instrumental use), drawing on three different pathways – ancestry, ethnicity, and cross-border birth. These pathways are distinctive from those governing investor citizenship programs, which base membership on pecuniary contribution. Džankić shows that citizenship as related to a person’s property or contribution to the polity date back to Ancient Athens (ch.2); however, using money to purchase membership blatantly is a model that was developed during the latter 20th century. In today’s world, there are three sorts of regimes states employ: discretionary, investor residence, and investor citizenship programs (p. 93). Each of these programmes aims to increase the value of the state’s citizenship through competition for people and commodities (p. 97). While both books demonstrate cases where there is limited or no connection to the polity, are any of these channels more or less legitimate in cases of personal or state side instrumentalisation? For Džankić, when citizenship is acquired/granted through ancestry, ethnicity, or territorial connection, there is a presumed link between the individual and society based on how that society conceives of its membership (the content of the citizenship) and not solely based on investment in the state (p. 71). This may be a point of disagreement between the authors, as Harpaz states that all ‘compensatory citizenship’ is ‘yet another way to the dilution of the sacred character of national membership’ (p. 139). Or perhaps, as Džankić shows in her historical chapter (ch. 2), the sacred character of national membership has already long been undermined by states.

Instrumental or sentimental value?

Another way to consider these questions is through the concept of value. Harpaz illustrates how, from the perspective of the individual, citizenship can hold two types of value: instrumental and sentimental. The instrumental value consists of the opportunities (economic, political, or social) with that citizenship based on a calculation of the instrumental functions and uses. The sentimental value is not intrinsic to citizenship’s status or rights but, instead, is based on subjective criteria (identity or attachment). These values are not necessarily mutually exclusive; however, in cases of ‘compensatory citizenship’, there is a strong duality. Here, individuals consider their original citizenship to have a sentimental value whereas their second citizenship has a purely instrumental value. While the instrumental value is often considered to be based on objective attributes of the state (e.g., the corresponding rights package), for the individual, I consider the instrumental value of a second citizenship to also be subjective. This subjective value is based on the gap in functions of their original citizenship, which is dependent on their social citizenship, i.e., class, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. (Young 1990). The greater the gap is in the functions of a person’s social citizenship, the greater the value a supplementary citizenship can bring.

Peter Spiro (2018) has pointed out a paradox with dual citizenship, specifying how its rise has both an equality enhancing and equality reducing function whether put in national or global context. Both Džankić and Harpaz pick up on this phenomenon. Instrumentalizing citizenship offers a similar paradigm, while in some cases, using citizenship as a tool for personal gain can increase inequality within a state, it can also reduce inequality for individuals between states.[1] Džankić shows that global equality arguments are sometimes used in support of investors who have also not won the global ‘birthright lottery’ and the sale of citizenship ‘will eliminate some of the injustice inherent in the concept itself’ (p. 69). However, for investors, the instrumental value of a second citizenship is calculated from a smaller pool of offerings from the new state, since, as Džankić points out, the ultra-rich do not need a second citizenship for better health care or educational opportunities (ch. 5). In the cases described by Harpaz, individuals basing the second citizenship on ancestry, ethnicity, or loose territorial connections, the subjective instrumental value the second citizenship brings is higher than in the case of the ultra-elite who are not limited by their economic class.

A case for instrumental citizenship?

There is a buffet of ‘food for thought’ in these two books, which inspires many questions and avenues for research. How does instrumentalising citizenship effect the relationship between states? If citizenship was designed from the beginning to be instrumentalised by states, was its value ever so sacred? On what grounds can we accept some instrumentalist approaches to citizenship acquisition/granting while rejecting others? I present two arguments based on the contributions of Harpaz and Džankić where instrumentalising citizenship is perhaps more permissible; first, pathways to citizenship based on (presumed) links to society, rather than links to the state; and second, in cases where the subjective instrumental value of citizenship for the individual is high, which is as much dependent on the original citizenship and the social variables that go along with it, as on the second. I hope to have shown that the instrumentalisation of citizenship does not seem black or white.

[1] Or increase the inequality between states, as Džankić points out in the case of investor citizens moving wealth from low income to high-income countries.