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American Citizenship by Judith Shklar

In American Citizenship, Judith Shklar identifies the right to vote and the right to work as the defining social rights and primary sources of public respect. Shklar has produced a compelling argument that the right to vote and the right to a job, neither of which was written into the constitution, are nevertheless necessary for full and equal American citizenship. In a country of heterogeneous composition the issue becomes more pronounced.
In the very beginning, Shklar quotes Judge Learned Hand. He shares his views about the worth of his vote by saying that it may not be his vote that determines anything, but on the polls, at least he has a sense of belonging and has a satisfaction of being part of a great venture. As mentioned above, to Judith Shklar, among all the components of citizenship, there are two that are most important – the right to vote, and the right to earn. The author makes the distinction between “working” and “earning,” because people can work, but not be paid for their labor. The book has a very liberal slant. In regards to the former, in her mind, the act of voting is much less important than having the right to vote, a belief starkly contrasted by Tocqueville. By earning, she means being remunerated for labor. She says that by this definition, aristocrats and beggars cannot be true citizens because they to not earn based upon their own labor; aristocrats – based upon the efforts of others, and beggars – based upon handouts from the money of others. At times, her point is very hard to find, and at other times it seems like she just goes on and on. But overall, I know more for having read it.
In this illuminating look at what constitutes American citizenship, Judith Shklar identifies the right to vote and the right to work as the defining social rights and primary sources of public respect. As far as the vote is concerned, the turnout remains a subject of controversy. Some find fault with the system of registr…

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