Privilege and wealth-based citizenship acquisition

Date: January 05, 2021

By: Jelena Džankić

The notion of “privilege” is central to understanding wealth-based citizenship acquisition. The latter is at the core of my research, recently published in the form of a monograph The Global Market for Investor Citizenship. I look at how states open up their membership boundaries to individuals who make a pecuniary contribution to their economies, strategies and interests of individuals for acquiring a “golden passport”, as well as the problematic aspects of the different types of investor citizenship programmes.

We often see the notion of citizenship as a privilege-free relationship of equality. Yet, this historically has not been the case, and since Ancient Greece, inclusion into a community of membership was based on different aspects of ‘privilege’ including gender, class, age, or race. Nowadays, the definition of citizenship seems to be disconnected from these markers; they no longer create the internal hierarchies of citizenship – at least not formally, and at least not pervasively. While we cannot absolutely say that all citizens in all states are equal, citizenship denotes a claim to such an equality. However, more importantly, citizenship – in the legal sense – is linked to the territorial notion of the sovereign state. Given the fact that not all states are equal, possessing the citizenship of one, rather than another, provides an individual with better opportunities in terms of health, education, business, or mobility. This inequality of wealth among states, and enhanced opportunities that a ‘better ranked’ or a ‘privileged’ passport would afford, are the main drivers of investor citizenship.

Notwithstanding, investor citizenship is not a panacea for global inequalities of wealth and opportunity. It is rather an indicator of how ‘privilege’ results in further privilege. Most of the beneficiaries of investor citizenship programmes are high net worth individuals (normally, net worth of several million USD) coming from countries whose passport offers lower mobility, education or other opportunities. In other words, they are the rich from the poor countries. Within those countries, such individuals are already very much privileged. Obtaining further privilege at the global level on the basis of wealth does not merely imply a ‘spill-over’ of a culture of advantage beyond the borders of countries, but also brings about a reinforcement of the existing architectures of privilege and disadvantage within them.  


Džankić, Jelena (2019) The Global Market for Investor Citizenship. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham


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