Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Rix, M, Can Citizenship be Gender-neutral and -inclusive? Exploring the possibilities of social and legal citizenship, Public Policy Network Conference 2006, Perth, Western Australia, 2–3 February 2006, 1-13. Original conference information available here


This paper will consider whether extending the notion of social citizenship to include legal citizenship offers the possibility of developing a gender-neutral and -inclusive conception of citizenship. The notion of legal citizenship encapsulates the view that all people are equal before the law and have a right to access to justice. Legal citizenship extends the idea of social citizenship, first developed by T.H. Marshall, by emphasising the importance of fair, equitable and effective access to the legal institutions and processes that enable individuals to give effect to their social rights. The social rights included in Marshall’s notion of social citizenship refer to the necessities of life, without which it is impossible to participate fully in the public sphere of society. Legal citizenship is closely associated with social citizenship in that it calls attention to the importance of access to justice and equality before the law of all citizens in any conception of a just, fair and inclusive society. However, it marks an important development in the notion of social citizenship because it is neutral on the issue of gender. Unlike social citizenship as conventionally conceived, it does not regard paid employment as an eligibility requirement for admission to the public sphere and access to the rights of citizenship. Access to the rights included in social citizenship was considered to be largely conditional on the status held by an individual vis-à-vis the paid workforce. This meant that women’s traditional roles of child bearer, caregiver and homemaker were usually regarded as being inconsistent with social citizenship and full participation in the public sphere. While it is gender-neutral, legal citizenship like social citizenship points to the important role played by the institutions, practices and social support mechanisms that enable individuals to be full, active and informed members of the society to which they belong. The paper will develop the notion of legal citizenship and explore to what extent it is able to escape the limitations of social citizenship. In doing so, it will briefly consider legal citizenship’s own shortcomings in the Australian context with reference to the Federal Government’s mutual obligation regime and Welfare to Work legislation.

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