The Future of Liberal Citizenship: The Script of Agentic Individual, Its Comparative Enactments and Contestations


The post-war liberal world order, and a triumphalist neoliberalism since the 1990s, transformed citizenship whereby an increasingly agentic and right-bearing individual gained prominence across a wide-range of policy and institutional domains. The script of agentic individuality, a core precept of liberal citizenship, unfolded and became standardized through interacting dynamics between national and transnational courts (e.g. the European Court of Justice), instruments of international organizations (e.g. the International Conventions on Human Rights, the UN’s Human Development Index), the expansion of education and particularly the higher education worldwide, and the growth of scientific and professional authority and expertise. The script projects empowered individuals who are adaptable in a globalized knowledge society and have the virtue and capability of participating and contributing at local, national and transnational levels.  Yet, the script also foments its own contradictions.  Agentic individuality disembeds persons from collective categories and renders them as universally equal and virtuous subjects in line with liberal ideals. On the other hand, it invites new moral boundaries and divisions: those who are capable of exercising their agency (in line with now-globalized scripts) are worthy individuals and citizens. This is much facilitated by the proliferation of evaluative technologies since the turn of the new century, which enable increasingly digital ways of measuring and benchmarking the performance of agentic individuality.

The project is structured around three analytical nodes: a) the processes and agencies of the diffusion of the global script of agentic individuality in an increasingly fragmented and multi-polar world order; b) the scripts and institutions of agentic individuality and its societal underpinnings and contradictions in comparative (and beyond Western) contexts; c) the paradoxical implications and challenges of the increasing gap between the globalized script of agentic individuality and its realization.


Main content

Ausgewählte Publikationen

2024 “Postnational Citizenship: The Entangled Trajectory of Citizenship and Human Rights.” In the Encyclopedia of Citizenship Studies, M. Garcia and T. Faist (eds.), Edward Elgar.

2023 “Comparing Agentic Meritocratic Citizenship in Europe and China: A Research Note” (with H. Cebolla Boado). WZB Discussion Paper SP IV 101.

2023 “What is the relationship of meritocracy and the liberal script?” SCRIPTS Arguments

2022 “What is the relation between collective and individual self-determination in the liberal script?”  SCRIPTS Arguments

2021 “Institutional Underpinnings, Global Reach, and the Future of Ordinal Citizenship” British Journal of Sociology 72 (2): 174–180

2021 “Citizenship’s Double-edged Sword: Locating Liberalism and Illiberalism in Citizenship” The International Journal of Constitutional Law 18 (4): 1519–1522 

2021 “Who Needs Mobility Without Human Rights?” Global Citizenship Observatory, EUI

2012 “Citizenship, Immigration, and the European Social Project: Rights and Obligations of Individuality” The British Journal of Sociology 63 (1): 1-21

2012 “Individuality, Sociological Institutionalism, and Continuing Inequalities: A Response to Commentators” The British Journal of Sociology 63 (1): 47-53