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The Birthright Lottery

The Birthright Lottery

Citizenship and Global Inequality

Ayelet Shachar

ISBN 9780674054592

Publication date: 08/30/2009

The vast majority of the global population acquires citizenship purely by accidental circumstances of birth. There is little doubt that securing membership status in a given state bequeaths to some a world filled with opportunity and condemns others to a life with little hope. Gaining privileges by such arbitrary criteria as one’s birthplace is discredited in virtually all fields of public life, yet birthright entitlements still dominate our laws when it comes to allotting membership in a state.

In The Birthright Lottery, Ayelet Shachar argues that birthright citizenship in an affluent society can be thought of as a form of property inheritance: that is, a valuable entitlement transmitted by law to a restricted group of recipients under conditions that perpetuate the transfer of this prerogative to their heirs. She deploys this fresh perspective to establish that nations need to expand their membership boundaries beyond outdated notions of blood-and-soil in sculpting the body politic. Located at the intersection of law, economics, and political philosophy, The Birthright Lottery further advocates redistributional obligations on those benefiting from the inheritance of membership, with the aim of ameliorating its most glaring opportunity inequalities.

Praise

  • An exceptionally important work from one of the leading theorists of citizenship law. Shachar is the first scholar to put the rich theory of property law to work in the realm of citizenship. Taken on its premise, it is a highly successful effort. Citizenship theory is ripe for destabilization, and The Birthright Lottery delivers on its promise to shake up our thinking on the question.

    —Peter J. Spiro, author of Beyond Citizenship: American Identity After Globalization

Author

  • Ayelet Shachar is Professor of Law, University of Toronto, and Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and Multiculturalism.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press

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