Dieter Gosewinkel is head of the Center for Global Constitutionalism at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB) where he has been leading research projects on "Civil Society, Citizenship, and Political Mobilization in Europe" (with Dieter Rucht) and "Zivilgesellschaft. Historisch-sozialwissenschaftliche Perspektiven" (with Jürgen Kocka). His research fields include innovation, knowledge, and culture, as well as the history of citizenship and civil society.
An individual’s affiliation to a politically constituted community is decisive for his or her opportunities in life and often vital to his or her survival. This contribution argues that the primary signifier of political membership in 20th century Europe is “citizenship.” The prominent importance attached to citizenship is what distinguishes the 20th century significantly from previous historical periods and other forms of political affiliation, namely, religious affiliation, political party affiliation, ethnic and nation-state affiliation, and, finally, social class. The dominant position of citizenship grew out of its politicization, resulting from the democratization of political regimens, the expansion of participatory rights and the development of social welfare rights. Even the present processes of transnationalization can bring on only gradual and non-essential changes to the preeminence of citizenship as a status of political membership.