Essay on Citizenship


The state exists to promote the welfare of the individual. The individual members of a state have been called, in recent times, its citizens. Etymologically considered, ‘citizenship’, implies the fact of residence in a city (i. e., a city-state). A ‘citizen’ means one who lives in a city. But, now-a-days, the world has come to have a much larger meaning. We say ‘a citizen of India’ although India is not a city. So a citizen means member of a community, or a State. Just as a man owes a duty to his father and mother, so a citizen owes a duty to the State. For the State is more than father and mother. When one is young one goes on making demands on one’s parents. But when one grows up one realizes that one owes service and sacrifice to one’s parents and elders. It is the same with a citizen. When a citizen is young in citizenship, he makes a demands on the State and expects everything to be done for him.

Citizenship consists not merely in enjoying certain rights and guarantees, but also in discharging one’s obligations conscien­tiously. There should be a desire to contribute one’s mite to the welfare of society manifested in an active participation in public affairs for the improvement of cultural, political and material aspects of social life. Without such participation citizenship is meaningless. It aims at the common good as distinct from exclu­sively sectional good. It depends not only upon enlightenment but also on a high average of character—a character essentially social in its make-up, a spontaneous regard for the happiness and welfare of others as Laski puts it, “the contribution of one’s instructed judgment to public good.”

One’s right implies, another’s duty. If I want to go out at night and blow a trumpet at my neighbor’s door, I should remember that he has a right to sound and undisturbed sleep. Because he has the right to sleep undisturbed it is my duty to see that I do not in any way infringe it. The principle works in his case with equal efficiency. If and when I sleep, he will be careful not to make any untoward noise. In this way, both of us will live amicably and decently, in the co-operative spirit that should bind man and man.


A good citizen should ail the time keep thinking of what he owes to the State and not of what the State owes to him. If he fulfils all his duties to the State he will find that the State is automatically fulfilling its duties towards him. Take a very minor example; we all love to get things without paying for them. There seems a thrill in traveling in a railway carriage without a ticket. So many students do it whenever they can. At the same time we blame the Government for not improving railway traveling. If we cheat the Government of money we make the railways a little poorer. A poor railway administration cannot provide comforts for its travelers. So we see at once that if we do cur duty to the State as its citizens, the State has not option but to do its duty for us.

Civic life consists in that harmonious living in which the expression of personality and social life are fused together. A citizen must be impartial, liberal-minded and ready to make sacrifices for the common good. In short, he must be a ‘Clubable man’. But unfortunately human beings have not yet learnt the art of living in peace and goodwill. From one world war we are being buried on
to another. Science has proved to be a double edged weapon as destructive in war as it is useful in the development of the arts of peace.

And we must never forget; even for a moment, that there is a larger citizenship than the citizenship of one’s country. Each one of us is a citizen of the world, whether he is conscious of it or not. If we do not produce enough our poverty reacts on other countries. We have to bay wheat and other items from America or Australian or other countries of the world. The world is knit together in unbreakable bonds. While we serve in our small sphere of a town or a State let us not forget that we are citizens of the world and owe it service. There also we have no right but only respon­sibilities.

It is therefore, worthwhile to consider whether human rela­tions in this world cannot be improved. It may be possible to find a cure in a changed mode of thinking, and a new direction to human conduct in a deeper sense of civic duty. The present turmoil is to be attributed to the fears and passions and appetites of men. The malady is not entirely economic but chiefly moral and political. Great care is needed in deciding upon a line of conduct. One path may lead to peace and security, the other to war and destruction.


Man is a social animal and it is only through a life passed in a common-wealth or society that he can use his gifts to the best advantage, and develop them to perfection. There is such a thing as ‘morality’. It consists in ‘the disinterested performance of self-imposed duties’. Such ‘morality’ forms the core on a true civic life. Thus, citizenship implies ‘other-regarding action’, not so much as ‘self-regarding action.’


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