Is there a metric that could "measure" the value of citizenship? Should there be?
A fascinating exercise from the New Citizenship Project - founded by brand purpose experts Jon Alexander and Irenie Ekkeshis, who use "creative strategy to promote the role of the citizen and encourage better participation in society".
The blurb is below:
What we measure, we maximise. This is the simple truth at the heart of an exciting new partnership. We’re collaborating with social psychologist Amy Cuddy and behavioral science researcher Jack Schultz to look at how we can enrich political conversations and policy generation at all levels of society through what we choose to measure.
The aim is to expand how we evaluate success and, as a result, how we seek it. When we think of people as Consumers, what we measure becomes limited to economic production and consumption; but if we think of people as Citizens, we see the importance of tracking and encouraging engagement and participation in ways that run far deeper.
Our aim in this work is to create a measure that reflects and predicts healthy economic, political, and community behaviors and outcomes at a national level. The approach we are developing will have clear links to prosperity as we currently understand it, but also challenge what we mean and understand by prosperity.
A cautionary note, though, on these last lines. How close should "prosperity as we currently understand it" - often characterised as "neo-liberal", or a particularly deregulated form of capitalism - even get to citizenship itself?
Wendy Brown's Undoing the Demos (book site and pdf scan of book) makes a very strong case that the former could very well be the enemy of, and already hollowing out, the latter. From the MIT press blurb:
Neoliberal rationality—ubiquitous today in statecraft and the workplace, in jurisprudence, education, and culture—remakes everything and everyone in the image of homo economicus. What happens when this rationality transposes the elements of democracy into an economic register?
In Undoing the Demos, Wendy Brown explains how democracy itself is imperiled. The demos disintegrates into bits of human capital; concerns with justice bow to the mandates of growth rates, credit ratings, and investment climates; liberty submits to the imperative of human capital appreciation; equality dissolves into market competition; and popular sovereignty grows incoherent. Liberal democratic practices may not survive these transformations. Radical democratic dreams may not either.
In an original and compelling argument, Brown explains how and why neoliberal reason undoes the political form it falsely promises to secure and reinvigorate. Through meticulous analyses of neoliberalized law, political practices, governance, and education, she charts the new common sense. Undoing the Demos makes clear that for democracy to have a future, it must become an object of struggle and rethinking.
So what rational "measure" should citizenship be under? Can citizenship change "prosperity as we currently understand it"? Questions we hope to hear Jon and Irene grapple with in their project.