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Class and the conceptualization of citizenship in twentieth-century Britain

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This article analyses the role of ideas about class in the conceptualization of citizenship in twentieth-century Britain. It argues that the way in which citizenship was conceptualized involved a process of ideological engagement, by which a specific interpretation of the concept of class was asserted, and other possible interpretations closed off, as a result of particular preferences and priorities. The analysis is pursued through a comparative case study of the way in which two particular thinkers -- Henry Jones (1852-1922) and T.H. Marshall (1893-1981) -- developed their ideas about citizenship within two different historical contexts in Britain: the late nineteenth century through to the 1910s, and the 1940s through to the 1970s. Jones and Marshall defined their conceptions of citizenship in opposition to notions of class as a basis for social organization, and both saw citizenship as a means by which individuals could trans- cend the boundaries of class. The specific way in which each interpreted the concept of class, however, led to different conclusions as to the process by which this would be achieved, which, in turn, determined the principles upon which they based their conceptions of citizenship.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: St John's College, Oxford, OX1 3JP.

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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