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Citizenship, a Dangerous Western Concept

Institute of Indigenous Science and Culture

Quito, Ecuador

Agustí Nicolau i Coll

In the process of redefinition of a renewed culture of citizenship, one must ask what is the place of the community dimension, in that this is the constitutive dimension of identity for every single human being. Without community, human identity is non-existent, as it lacks its foundation and reason for existence. The human being is from emergence a creature of community, and we can say that this community dimension is trans-cultural: i.e. it is present in all cultures.

This is the fundamental and vital reality through which as always and even now, the members of the most diverse cultures share and construct social life together with other human beings, with the cosmos, and their respective divinities.

Rather, the concept of citizenship within a state is a relatively new reality, which appeared at a particular moment of time during the history of modern Western culture, namely the French Revolution. We also note that in the very bosom of Western cultures the emphasis on citizenship can vary greatly from one culture to another. It has become a major reference point in French culture but it is much less, for example, in Catalonia. Outside of the context of western political space we also note that the importance of citizenship, as a reference point for organizing the lives of people is very relative, and even clearly harmful.

Without denying the positive impact that the concepts of citizenship and citizens have been able to contribute to society, we are forced to accept that these are not the only valid parameters to ensure a life of dignity and fulfillment for human beings.

It seems therefore that a renewed culture of citizenship should not forget the community dimension, wanting simply reduce the “canon of community” to a “canon of citizenship”. Indeed, the first precedes and forms the base for the second. Such a change in perspective is required bring a reawakening to the reality the constitutive nature of community.

In this regard, let us indicate how alongside the abstract modern concepts of the individual, the collective and public culture in terms of state citizenship, the vital and existential experiences of the person and community culture are core dimensions of the human being and social reality. At the same time, we can address the issue of cultural pluralism and social cohesion from the perspective of community culture. Finally, we will explore some tracks of action moving towards empowering the spirit of human community as the heart of our social life.

Read more at Comités de Defensa del Barrio.