In the last twenty-five years, nationality laws have been the subject of polarizing debates. The first set of disputes concerned the content of these laws: scholars have emphasized several ‘structural’ oppositions (ascription vs. consent, jus soli vs. jus sanguinis) that reflect different national identities or meanings of citizenship. The second and more recent set of debates has arisen from a crisis of legitimacy of “nationality.” Nationality is said to have been undermined both by external competition from other affiliations and by its own inegalitarian qualities.
The presentation will show how old debates over the differences in the content of various states’ nationality laws have become irrelevant. Nationality laws based on jus sanguinis (a French invention) or on jus soli (a tradition maintained by the British) have their own history developed independently of conceptions of national identity. The second set of debates has exaggerated the crisis of citizenship. In fact, far from being dépassé, National State citizenship has developed a new vitality. Once based, before the American and French Revolutions, on allegiance to v. protection of the King and transformed in the 19th century into a conditional status based on rights but also on duties, citizenship has recently reached a new stage of its development as an element of an unalienable sovereignty. Therefore, in the context of globalization and the development of high technology, a new strategic collaboration between the individual and the state has emerged as their interests have converged.
Senior Research Fellow, French National Center for Scientific Research
Director, UNU Office at the UN, New York
Conference Room 7, Temporary North Lawn Building, United Nations Headquarters, New York