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Citizenship tests in five Countries: An expression of political liberalism?


  • Michalowski, Ines


Engaging discussions on civic integration for immigrants, this comparison systematically analysis citizenship tests in the US, Austria, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands. A central question discussed is whether these tests can be interpreted as assimilation, repressive liberalism or as a neutral instrument that changes its function according to the surrounding citizenship regime as some authors argue. The analysis has the surprising result that none of the hypotheses from the existing literature on civic integration can explain the content of all five citizenship tests. In particular I find that the characteristics of the surrounding citizenship regime are not a good predictor for the content of the respective citizenship tests: countries with rather restrictive citizenship regimes such as Austria or Germany have opted for a citizenship test with a liberal content that is comparable not only to the British but also to the US-American test. On the other hand the content of the Dutch citizenship test does not fully correspond to a Rawlsian definition of political liberalism although the Dutch citizenship regime is relatively open. Therefore I conclude that the formal character of a citizenship regime is only loosely connected with the national definition of citizenship as it is conveyed by the content of citizenship tests. It is not because civic integration requirements are obligatory and restrict the free will of future citizens that citizenship itself is defined in illiberal terms.

Suggested Citation

  • Michalowski, Ines, 2009. "Citizenship tests in five Countries: An expression of political liberalism?," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Migration, Integration, Transnationalization SP IV 2009-702, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbmit:spiv2009702

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