Ethical Borders: Citizenship as a Partial Relationship

In our theoretical moral decisions, we usually uphold the value of true equality. In practicality, however, we frequently make moral decisions based on a partial consideration for the wants and needs of ourselves and those important to us. Many people feel that we should be allowed to refer to some degree of partiality– I should be able to, for instance, spend $100 buying my own child new clothes instead of donating that money to famine relief efforts. Common moral intuition holds that there are certain relationships that warrant partial consideration. The problem for the proponent of partiality is maintaining a framework that only allows a permissible level of partial consideration in order to avoid forms of harmful “othering” (like racism, sexism, etc.).

In my honors thesis, I examine the question of whether or not citizenship is the kind of relationship that warrants partiality, and to what degree partiality is permissible based on the bond of citizenship. In order to answer this question, I examine three other questions. First, what grounds permissible partiality? Second, what does it mean to be a citizen of a country? And finally, does the answer to the second question fulfill the requirements set out in the answer to the first question? My aim in this project is to articulate a clear and acceptable framework for understanding partiality and to fully explore some of the complexities involved in the concept of citizenship.