Marketizing Sovereign Prerogatives: How to Sell Citizenship

How is a sovereign prerogative brought to market? We know much about how states shape markets and vice versa, but less about the dynamics when states not only set market rules, but are also the sole producer of the good. This article takes up the case of citizenship by investment—“golden passport” programs that offer citizenship in recognition of an investment in a country—to unpack the challenges that appear when states commodify sovereign prerogatives. In these cases, the state holds multiple roles that generate conflicts of interest and a concern for credibility. To address these concerns, states may adopt two strategies: institute a division of labor in issuing the product, and outsource elements of supervision to third-party actors. Empirically, the analysis shows how migration service providers retooled murky discretionary grants of citizenship in peripheral countries into formal citizenship by investment schemes. The conclusion addresses how these strategies apply in markets for other sovereign prerogatives, particularly government debt, and discusses the implications for citizenship and neoliberalism.

Kristin Surak, Marketizing Sovereign Prerogatives: How to Sell Citizenship, European Journal of Sociology, 2021.