by Nicholas De Genova
Citizenship, as we know it, is a technology of modern state power. It is the elementary political form by which people—embodied persons embedded in dense and complex webs of social relations—are reduced to “individuals” who may be abstractly figured as “equals” before the law. The modernity of this form of power derives precisely from the notion that the rule of man (as in a monarchy or an aristocracy) has been irreversibly replaced by the rule of law. As abstract individuals, therefore, all citizens are ostensibly equal, commensurable, effectively interchangeable, as the law is supposed to apply uniformly to all, and no one is supposed to be enduringly subjected to personalistic and hierarchical forms of domination and dependency. Citizenship therefore corresponds to a social order in which everyone is presumed to voluntarily and “freely” engage in exchange, whether it be the exchange of goods for money, or much more commonly, the exchange of the capacity to labor for money wages. In short, citizenship is a political form that abides by the abstract rules that govern the capitalist marketplace.