We inhabit a thoroughly globalized world. People are increasingly and visibly connected by a “World Wide Web,” by a world market, and by universalist discourses of human rights and democracy. At the same time, full citizenship in a political community—and the rights conferred by such citizenship—is an exclusive status that remains, remarkably, tied to accidents of birth and historical circumstance. And what one has a right to—gainful employment, education, health care, political voice, mere presence—is largely a function of whether one has the precious status of citizenship or is, alternatively, regarded as an alien. Ayelet Shachar's The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality is a compelling account of the moral arbitrariness of this state of affairs. A study in “normative political theory,” it is a work of political science that incorporates legal theory, moral philosophy, political economy, and public policy. The author tackles issues of increasing global political importance—global disparities of wealth; unequal access to clear air, water, and a secure place to live; and the increasingly contentious politics of immigration and immigrant rights.
So it seems fitting to invite a range of political science scholars who work on these topics to comment on the book. The basic editorial charge of this symposium is thus straightforward: How do you assess Shachar's arguments and the attention she focuses on the phenomenon of “birthright lottery”? How does this argument bear upon the topics and approaches that characterize your own scholarship? And how do these topics and approaches shed light on the book and its arguments? While the focus of the symposium is this provocative book, the discussion of it should also be regarded as an opportunity to address the question of whether or not the bases of citizenship need to be fundamentally reconceived, and in what ways political science can and should contribute to such a rethinking.—Jeffrey C. Isaac, Editor