Martin Powell (Stirling University), Shane Doheny (University of Stirling) and Ian Greener (Manchester Business School) Martin Powell
Department of Applied Social Science
University of Stirling
Scotland FK9 4LA
Tel: 01786 467693
Paper presented at Conference on ‘Citizenship and Consumption: Agency, Norms, Mediations, and Spaces’, Thursday 30 March – Saturday 1 April 2006,
Trinity Hall, Cambridge.
Introduction Both the citizen and the consumer have been the subject of a considerable investment of time and energy over the past three decades. Indeed, many writers observe an increase in interest in these concepts. The citizen has become important in view of the rise of a neo-liberal ideology, increased population flows, the fragmentation of national polities and so on (see Heater, 1999: 2, 3, Hall and Held, 1990). The broad contours of the consumer has been associated with the focus on an individualised subject (Bauman, 2000), a ‘rational actor’ (Aldridge, 2003) or ‘choosing self’ (Slater, 1997), which accompanied the rise of a consumer culture (Gabriel and Lang, 1995, Zukin and Maguire, 2004). Both the citizen and the consumer have become increasingly important in health, education, local government and so on. However, the concurrent employment of these concepts in such services is neither without implication for these concepts nor without a basis in the policy discourse employed by both Conservative and New Labour governments. It is precisely these implications that we are interested in here. Specifically, many commentators have pointed to a hybridisation of the citizen and consumer to explain both how these concepts are deployed in practice, and systematically to specify the meaning attached to these concepts by both Conservative and New Labour governments.
Combinations of citizen with consumer have been used in a variety of ways by policy commentators. For instance, Harris (1999: 923) sites the ‘consumer citizen’ [all renderings of this combination in this paper, for example to include or exclude the hyphen, to position one before the other, or to use as a verb or the noun, are wholly deliberate] as a subject created by the New Right to form some kind of equivalence between the active citizen in the community and the citizen in receipt of social services. According to Harris (1999), this consumer-citizen is subsequently promoted in John Major’s Citizen’s Charter (Prime Minister, 1991) which formed “a set of proposals to advance the interests of the individual consumer-citizen in accordance with the principles of liberal economics”. Thus, it appears that the consumer-citizen is understood as some kind of individual who acts within the environs of a liberal economic theory, and is created for the political purposes of forming a citizen who at least mimics some of the features associated with the active citizen (on whom Harris, 1999 cites Lister, 1990). But Harris (1999) does not specify which kind of consumer is associated with which kind of citizen, or why we should speak of a consumer-citizen and not a consumer citizen or citizen-consumer.
The link between a combined consumer and consumer and the active citizen is repeated by Symon and Walker (1995) who cite Pollitt (1988) as discussing a consumer-citizen. Curiously, in Pollitt (1988) we find a short discussion of the citizen-consumer (in reverse order) begging the question whether Symon and Walker (1995) see both of these combinations as equal. Such confusion may actually be caused by Pollitt (1988) who first points out that the “linking of consumerism with citizenship prompts a further question as to what kind of values might drive a distinctively public service model of consumerism” (1988: 122) and goes on to say:
… the dominant value of private sector consumerism, is important but, by itself, inadequate. The concept of the citizen-consumer suggests additional values, such as equity, equal opportunities and, of course, representation and participation themselves. (1988: 122)
Therefore, on the one hand, Pollitt (1988) points to a combination of consumerism with citizenship and then talks about the citizen-consumer suggesting that the citizen-consumer somehow represents the subject that emerges from the combination of consumerism with citizenship.
More recently still we find both reference to the citizen-consumer as a product of New Labour thinking, alongside some discussion of the context in which this concept may make sense, but little work on the concept itself. For instance, under the heading “Creating the citizen-consumer”?, Clarke (1998) discusses how New Labour has gone about forming a new kind of citizen/consumer through relations with local government, but does not actually engage with the concept of the citizen-consumer. Lister (2001) cites New Labour as highlighting “the rise of the demanding, sceptical, citizen-consumer” (DSS, 1998a: 16), but goes on to say that New Labour’s:
proposals for ‘an active modern service’ appealed to a consumer rather than a citizenship ethos, ignoring the ‘citizen’ in the ‘citizen-consumer’. (2001: 104)
Thus Lister (2001) connects the citizen-consumer with government discourse and then retains this ordering of concepts while arguing that the couplet actually involves a suppression of the citizen. Williams (2002) points out that:
New Labour’s central welfare subject is the sceptical citizen-consumer who acts in the pursuit of enlightened self-interest, expecting value for money and quality services tailored to individual needs. Crucially, however, this citizen enacts his/her responsibilities of citizenship through paid work. Where the principle of the market was central to the New Right’s agenda, the principle of paid work articulates New Labour’s. It is the first duty of citizenship, rather than one of its central rights (with the exception of disabled people for whom it is both a duty and a right). (2002: 504)
Thus, Williams (2002) associates the citizen-consumer with the values associated with the consumer and the responsibilities of the citizen, but provides no reasons for this particular order of the couplet. Needham (2003), who provides an extensive commentary on the citizen-consumer, constructs this couplet as articulating how the “citizen is being treated as a consumer” (2003: 14) and contrasts the citizen-consumer with the participatory citizen associated with civic republicanism. But if the citizen-consumer articulates how the citizen is treated as a consumer then perhaps this subject may better be called a consumer-citizen? Indeed Dagger (2002: 153) similarly discusses the “citizen as a consumer” but then retains some of the logic of this formulation by talking about the consumer-citizen adding that, for many republicans, the “consumer-citizen is a citizen in name only” (2002: 153).
In this paper, we set out to critically and systematically examine the subject generated by combining the citizen and the consumer. We begin with the assumption that, given the extensive body of thought associated with both concepts, they cannot be combined in an obvious and unproblematic fashion. Instead, we hypothesise that their amalgamation must, perforce, change either or both by accentuating some aspect of both concepts, or contribute to the formation of a wholly new concept. To investigate this, we first look at the hyphenated citizen consumer as a member of a class of hyphenated citizens. Thus we start by examining the hyphenated citizen as a type of creatively reconstructed citizen, but one who is fractured and recombined with other concepts. The hyphen is simply a punctuation mark used to separate some compound words, or to link other words. Here we focus on the hyphen in its function as a mode of combining words. Significantly, the hyphen is not a subject of academic debate within sociolinguistics or linguistics and no definition of the hyphen appears in The Linguistics Encyclopedia (Malmkjaer, 1991), or The Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics (Bussmann, 1996). Nevertheless, we focus on the hyphen as a way of signalling a deliberate and meaningful combination of terms. By focusing on the use of the hyphen, we look closely at modes by which the citizen is combined with other terms with the intension of situating its combination with the consumer. Thus we ask whether there have been changes in the use of the hyphenated citizen, whether the hyphen is being used creatively to construct new subjectivities out of the combination of the citizen with other terms, and how combinations of the citizen with the consumer is situated within these uses. We go on critically to investigate the hyphenation of citizen with consumer using two linked approaches. The first draws a simple distinction between the citizen-consumer and consumer-citizen that hypothesises that a deliberate ordering of these concepts would place the conceptual repertoire that is of greater importance in front. Using this hypothesis we can examine whether the way these terms are combined using the hyphen is at all meaningful. Following on from this, we seek to determine the dominant way in which these terms are understood. Thus, we set out a conceptual grid of eighteen variations on how the hyphenated citizen consumer may be understood, and examine the uses of these terms to see if they can be categorised in terms of this grid. As it turns out, the hyphenated citizen consumer is associated with weak conceptualisation where the ways in which the two may be combined appear to make little impact on the intended meaning.
The citizen and the hyphenated citizen In order to situate the hyphenated citizen consumer, we first look at how this hyphenation compares with other hyphenations of the citizen. To begin, we look at the frequency with which the citizen is hyphenated in books and articles on citizenship. To do this, we constructed the universe of documents defined as articles that appear on the Social Sciences Citation Index in which the title, abstract or keyword contains a truncation of the term citizen, and books that appear on the British Library catalogue whose titles contain a truncation of the term citizen. The universe was circumscribed to documents published after 1981. This final definition was made necessary by the fact that neither database supports a search which includes a hyphen, and therefore all relevant documents needed to be downloaded into a form of bibliographic management software (in this case, Endnote). Briefly, the procedure used here was as follows: firstly, both the Social Sciences Citation Index held on the Web of Science, and the document supply of books held by the British Library, were searched for the truncated term citize*. Hence, any document that contained any of the terms citizen, citizenly, citizenry or citizenship were identified and downloaded into the bibliographic programme Endnote. In the case of the articles held on the Social Sciences Citation Index, the search included the title, abstract and keywords whereas the search of the Document Supply Books was restricted to titles only and not including chapter titles. This provided us with a total universe of 9,961 articles. Finally, given that the Social Sciences Citation Index only extends from 1981, the search of the British Library was also restricted to those published after the same year providing us with a database of 3,281 books. Thus, any potential source of key terms in books and articles were included while titles of book series and of authors were excluded from the search of books. This procedure was carried out in January 2006, thus a small number of documents published in 2006 were included in the database.
From the search of the Social Sciences Citation Index we can assert that 3.4% of citizenship articles use a hyphenated form of citizen in their titles’, abstracts or among keywords. That is, 377 articles contained a hyphenated form of citizen (excluding 25 uses of a hyphen to create a name such as “Methow-Valley-citizens-Council”) within a total database which contained 9,961 articles. The proportion of uses of hyphenated forms of citizen within the titles of articles drops to 3.3% (98 of 2,925 articles – employing similar exclusions as above). In effect, hyphenated forms of citizen are employed in a very minor proportion of articles. Turning to the situation in books, out of the 3,281 books containing the truncated term citiz* and published between 1981 and 2006, only 38 or 1.1% contain hyphenations of the citizen. Thus the citizen is hyphenated in a very minor proportion of the citizenship literature.
Graphs 1 and 2 below present the analysis of the relative use of hyphenated forms of the citizen within the total universe of citizenship articles and books. Significantly, graph 1 shows that there has been a large amount of variation in the relative use of these terms in the 1980s, and a levelling off of hyphenations at around 4% of articles published after 1995. but little sign of a settled trend in books. The situation in books, however, is altogether more varied with 0% of hyphenations appearing in fully eight years (or in six periods of time), and a peak of 5.6% in 1987 with the next peak of any significance not occurring until 1999 at which point hyphenated forms of citizen were employed in 3.7% of book titles.
In absolute terms, the number of hyphenations has increased significantly in articles. For instance, the 3.8% of hyphenations appearing on graph 1 in 1985 involved just two occurrences, in 1998 4% of hyphenations involved 24 occurrences, while in 2003 4.2% involved 41 occurrences. The relative value reflects the changing number of journals included in the Social Sciences Citation Index together with the decision made by the database managers to include abstracts in citation details after 1993. Even so, both graphs demonstrate that hyphenated forms of the citizen are used a small minority of documents whose number tends to vary over time.
Hyphenated terms Having established that the citizen is hyphenated in only a small minority of documents, we can look more closely at the terms joined with the citizen using the hyphen. However, given that our focus here is on the subjectivities generated by hyphenating the citizen, we include only those hyphens that refer to nouns. Therefore we exclude uses that refer to processes or procedures like citizen-initiated, citizen-centred, or citizen-based. In each of these cases the citizen is clearly the subject and the term combines some form of verb with this subject to render the citizen active in some way. As tables 1 and 2 show, a number of terms and their variations are linked with the citizen using the hyphen. Table 1 presents the number of articles in which particular terms were connected with the citizen, and presents this data as a percentage of the total number of hyphenations.
Table 1: Hyphenations of the citizen in articles on citizenship
Variations of hyphenations
% of hyphenations
As table 1 shows, only the non-citizen comes close to accounting for 10% of articles, police-citizen and senior-citizen are each used in roughly 7% of articles, while the terms state, subject, soldier, government, consumer and candidate are each connected with the citizen in between 1.5% and 4% of articles. Curiously, the term worker-citizen occurred just three times (or 0.8% of occurrences) in this database and so does not appear in table 1 above. Table 2, however, is both made up of far fewer terms and shows that the citizen-soldier is by far the most important of the hyphenated forms of citizen.
As these tables show, a wide variety of terms are linked with the citizen using the hyphen. Only in the titles of books does any term emerge as more important – the citizen-soldier – but this same term appears in less than 2% of the titles abstracts or keywords of articles. Indeed, in the titles, abstracts and keywords of articles a wide array of terms are linked with the citizen using the hyphen. The implication of this is that there is no term whose link with the citizen is more important than any other. Thus, between the fact that hyphens are used in a small minority of documents on citizenship, and the array of terms linked with the citizen by a hyphen, we may infer that a hyphenated citizen bears little impact on our understanding of the citizen.
Table 1 can be used to make the point that the terms consumer, government, subject and state can be placed either before or after the citizen. Indeed, the appearance of terms like citizen-as-consumer or government-and-citizen indicates that more complex relationships are also possible. Given that no reverse orderings appeared in relation to the remaining terms we may conclude that the order of terms does play some role at least where the citizen is related to these four terms.
The conceptual work of hyphenated terms Thus far we have established that a minority of documents link terms with the citizen through the hyphen but that a number of such terms are linked. At this point we may investigate the effect that these terms have on the citizen. In specific, we seek to identify terms that effect a change on how the citizen is conceptualised. To identify such terms, we read the title and, where possible, the abstract in which the term appears, looking for situations in which the hyphenation conceptualises the citizen in some way. We isolate non-conceptual work as those where a hyphenated citizen is merely referred to in a list, as an example, or as a way of identifying a person. For example, Ellis and Allaire (1999) report on a study in which “[a] sample of 330 older adults from local senior-citizen apartment buildings completed a survey …” Here, the senior-citizen is used simply to refer to a kind of dwelling and no inference is made on this subjectivity. We isolate conceptual work as those situations in which the hyphenated citizen is subject to some kind of qualification, discussion, or who is described in some way and so has characteristics or dispositions. For example Pastello and Saxton (1996) state that “[c]itizen-scholars integrate their academic activities of teaching, research and service into a coordinated whole”. Here, the citizen-scholar is presented as one who integrates certain activities, and therefore is a subject who possesses certain skills.
The most hyphenated form of citizen was the non-citizen. Fully thirty six of the thirty seven uses of this citizen was to a person who does not have citizenship status (the asylum seeker, alien, refugee, economic migrant, undocumented workers, immigrant or emigrant). These uses situated the non-citizen as an individual who did not need any conceptualisation. For instance, Fujiwara (2005) discusses the ‘counter-rhetorical’ strategies present with the discourses used by immigrant rights groups and how “[t]hese strategies invoked a rhetoric of moral reasoning in order to promote the entitlement of non-citizens to remain eligible to public benefit”. Fujiwara (2005) does not subject the non-citizen to any further qualification, but uses this term within a discussion of immigration and therefore, to refer to immigrants who do not hold citizenship status. A interesting variation can be found in Wallerstein (1997) who takes the category of citizenship as referring to a status to which value is ascribed within the world-system: “Once there were citizens, there were non-citizens as well.” But Wallerstein (1997) does not conceptualise the non-citizen, does not ascribe qualities, capacities or resources to it, but views the non-citizen as a by-product of citizenship. Only Maletz (2003) conceptualises the non-citizen. This is already indicated in the title of Maletz’s (2003) paper – “Making non-citizens” – thus alluding to the idea of the non-citizen as a construct which Maletz (2003) then associates with an individualism made possible by the centralisation of government administration. In a sense, what Maletz (2003) offers is a radical version of this gradated view of citizenship wherein certain individuals are positively disinterested in political matters and may be conceived of as non-citizens.
Senior-citizen emerged as the second most hyphenated version of citizen, but was only used to refer to older people in general. The term police-citizen was used twenty-eight times. This term was used to refer to a variety of contexts – police-citizen encounters/relations/violence/killings/interaction/contact/injuries/conflicts/ traffic stops and to a police-citizen partnership (Cheurprakobkit 2002) and a police-citizen association (Neliba, 1992). Of these, the ‘police-citizen encounter’ accounted for half (fourteen) of the uses of this hyphenation. Nevertheless, this hyphenation was structured to make reference to various situations while the combination of police with citizen does not involve the qualities, capacities or roles of a subject.
The citizen-candidate was used fourteen times to refer to the citizen as a candidate in democratic elections/democratic decision making. All of these fourteen hyphenations referred a citizen-candidate model of electoral competition (see Osbourne and Slivinski, 1996, Besley and Coate, 1998). As a model, the combination of citizen with candidate involves drawing on certain qualities attributed to the citizen. Specifically, this model beings with the citizen’s choice of whether to run as a candidate, and therefore involves the use of a number of citizenship rights (to act as a representative, to vote, to form political parties and so on). In addition, precisely because this combination specifies a model of action, it identifies roles that this subject may play, resources he or she may wish to draw on and so on. Therefore this combination draws our attention to how a hyphenation can articulate a highly managed conceptualisation which draws on certain qualities of the citizen and deploys them within a specified action context.
The consumer and citizen were put together using a hyphen in three different ways in the literature. Together, they account for twelve of the three hundred and seventy seven hyphenations of the citizen. Like the citizen-candidate, the combined citizen and consumer was used to refer to an action situation or social process. For instance, both the consumer-citizen and citizen-consumer can be understood as an actor who can make choices or decisions (Dowding 1992) or who can form opinions using the media (Iosifides 1999). Munson (2000) argues that the language of consumer-citizenship has been used to justify the public presence of women thus enabling a certain kind of action situation. Moreover, the citizen-consumer is presented by some writers as an increasingly important actor who has been brought into being by the individual’s ability to harness their consumer power to political ends (Scammell, 2000, see also Keum et al. 2004). Here, the hyphenation is used to refer to a discourse, topic or actor therefore attaching certain roles or qualities to the combined citizen and consumer, while the combination citizen-consumer does not equal the combination consumer-citizen or consumer-citizenship.
Like its hyphenation with consumer, the combination of citizen with soldier serves as a method of identifying the specific qualities or roles associated with a subject. On the one hand, the citizen-soldier was mentioned in relation to a specific ethos (Frank, 1991), but such ethics are culturally and historically located (Grollyaari, 1994). This link between the citizen-soldier, ethics, and responsibilities implies an isolation of certain characteristics that may be accompany different ethics. However, while this may be implied, it was not clearly connected with the citizen-soldier. The situation becomes more uncertain in a “of attitudes that bear on the way citizen-soldiers are likely to play the role of peacekeeper” (Segal and Tiggle, 1997) because here the citizen-soldier is used to refer to soldiers, and not to any quality that is imputed to a specifically citizen-soldier. Finally, the reverse form of this combination, the soldier-citizen, was used just in one article, and used interchangeable with the soldier citizen, the military citizen, and the soldier (Cowen, 2005). Hence the citizen-soldier is loosely associated with some specific qualities, while the soldier-citizen appears as but one among a number of ways of referring to the soldier without associating any specific qualities with this term.
The citizen-subject was used to refer to view, or quality, of the individual whish is promoted by the governing ideology of the state. Thus Balagopalan (2003a, b) associated the citizen-subject with a rational outlook while Jamieson (2003) and Korteweg (2003) use this term to refer to the open and undefined subjectivity promoted by ideology. However, the one use of subject-citizen was made by Sioh (2004) but in the same fashion as the above combinations. Shaprio (2000), by contrast, discusses the citizen-subject as a temporally located citizen, and so in a completely different way but without associating any further qualities or roles with this subject. Finally, the hyphenation of state and citizen refers to relationships and interactions between the two, and therefore refers to a situation or process and does not carry out any conceptual work. Thus, as table 3 shows, only five combinations of terms involve some conceptual work and, of these, the citizen-candidate receives the most conceptualisations, followed by the citizen-consumer and citizen-subject.