New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



American Journal of International Law, Vol. 103, p. 180, 2009


In Beyond Citizenship, Peter Spiro offers a bracing account of how citizenship has lost its meaning in a globalized world, as the result of forces from within (the tolerance of dual citizenship and the ease of naturalization) and forces from without (the proliferation of transnational identities and the adoption of American culture abroad). Spiro beautifully and clearly analyzes how globalization has shaped our citizenship practices in a way that diminishes the institution's ability to define a coherent political community, but he has not made the case that U.S. citizenship no longer has great significance as a legal status that also shapes a distinctive cultural ideal. The forces of erosion Spiro describes have not displaced national citizenship as a valuable and necessary institution, even in an environment in which national identity has become fluid. But by demonstrating that people's political and social affiliations do not always map onto the formal boundaries marked by citizenship, Spiro makes clear that we must devise new ways of giving the proper weight and structure to the affiliations that matter most to people.

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