Harry Potter and Shklar(reformatted)


Before anyone reads this I am completely aware of what a nerd I sound like.
That being said- As I looked at the former Bruce Willis post, I was
inspired to write about a favorite book of mine. While thinking about
Shklar in office hours, the first few books (not the last two) of Harry
Potter came to mind. I tried to place him into Shklar’s view of
citizenship and found myself drawing a blank. First I thought that he
would absolutely be considered a vital member of society because he is
always selflessly putting his life on the line. But then I remembered how
withdrawn he is from the wizarding world-how while he constantly is
fighting for the greater good, is looked upon as strange amongst his peers
and was often considered an outsider, confiding in only Ron and Hermione,
if even that in some cases. Harry represents a type of individual that
Shklar does not address in her writing. While Shklar lays out what is a
citizen but she doesn’t really address the outcasts-an individual that
could potentially fit the mold but is on the edge of the circle.
Shklar’s version of citizenship rests on the fact that an individual is
earning and working-essentially that the individual is contributing to
their community. Well,while Harry does not have a steady income like the
professors at Hogwarts, I would argue that Harry Potter certainly does
contribute to society. I would consider his heroic actions (saving the
wizarding world from the wrath of Voldemort) a method of earning and
working. However, where I think the issue of being an outsider comes about
is Harry’s disconnect from society. While Harry does much good for his
society, it is largely unrecognized by his peers and is an unconventional
method of contribution. Does the act count if no one notices? Shklar’s
reasoning of citizenship also seems to consider the fact of if other people
believe you are contributing to the community-which would prove to be an
issue in Harry Potters case. What do you think?

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8 Responses to Harry Potter and Shklar(reformatted)

  1. Andrew Mack says:

    I thought that this was an interesting and comical look at the connection between Shklar’s view of citizenship and Harry Potter. Although Shklar obviously was not considering Harry Potter and the wizarding world when she was defining citizenship, there certainly are real-life characters who positively contribute to society, even though it goes unnoticed. In my opinion, the main criteria should be whether or not you contribute, not whether it is noticed by the community. Therefore, in that sense, Harry Potter is clearly an integral part of the community, as he saves the
    “wizarding world from the wrath of Voldemort”. This was an unconventional, but, in my opinion, effective example of a class of citizens that Shklar fails to discuss in her definition of citizenship.

  2. Kirsten Meeder says:

    I also liked this Potter post and it raised a particular question in my mind. Harry Potter fulfills a definite role in wizard society (a role that makes him an integral part of it) but this role is also forced upon him by his lightening scar and connection to Voldermort. He is an important member of society not because he chose that role, but because it was thrust on him by external circumstances. Without getting too deep into details, he grew up outside the wizard world until he was “claimed” by them when he got older.

    I wonder what Shklar would say about coerced inclusion in society and what types of rights it gives you. Harry has a type of coerced inclusion that grants him both the the same rights as others and includes more benefits than regular citizens. However, Harry Potter is also someone who is granted a special place in society without regard to his personal interests. If a person does have earning and standing within a group, but chooses not to identify completely with said group are they still citizens?

  3. allisonrd says:

    This might be a kind of strange comparison to draw but Harry seems to be a lot like the Stay at Home Parents we talked about it class today (10/27). Like Harry, Stay at Home Parents aren’t paid for their efforts although no one would argue that they don’t contribute to society. In this sense maybe the alternate definition of citizenship (performance and action) would be more applicable to both Harry and Stay at Home Parents.

    As a side note, I also think it’s interesting how you considered being a social insider (or on the flip side, outsider) as criteria for citizenship. While Schklar doesn’t include that in her two requirements, it is something to consider.

  4. kaschuma says:

    This post made me think about a huge exclusion in Harry Potter- That between those with magical powers and those without. The muggles were looked down upon as helpless people who did not have the sophistication of those with magic (like the attitude southern slave-holders held toward blacks). Even the status of being half muggle, half wizard was looked down upon, like the attitudes toward half-black half-white persons. However in the case of Harry Potter, those two groups were inherently unequal — nothing will give muggles magic. Regardless, Schklar stands out to me in the interaction between muggles, mud-bloods , and pure-bloods

  5. krisskrosswillmakeyou says:

    I think if we were to compare the Harry Potter world and Schklar’s views on citizenship, it seems most accurate to compare Harry Potter to any other underage person in the world. There are many students who are too young to vote, but certainly contribute to society. Its interesting to think that in Schklar’s eyes, citizenship begins at the age of when people can vote. But why do we have a voting age restriction on voting? Most people would argue that in order to vote, you should be of the age where you can make educated decisions on the government. That you are to a certain degree “smart enough” to vote. Therefore, is Schklar indirectly claiming that citizenship also requires a certain degree of intelligence and maturity?
    In regards to Harry Potter, I think that in the beginning of the story, Harry Potter is not a citizen. As his life becomes more dramatic and the ramifications of his decisions become more important, we see Harry “become a man” and if the novels more thoroughly investigated the Wizard governments, it would be my guess that around this time, Harry would be given the right to vote.

  6. jakmel says:

    Going along with the previous post I agree that Harry was not a citizen in the beginning of the book. Also, i would extend that to say that anytime Harry was not in Hogwarts and back at home he he wasn’t a citizen either. When he was home he was treated akin to slave, being constantly told what to do and how to act. However, when he at Hogwarts he was a normal contributing member to the community, who is free to make his own choices and is responsible for his actions.

    In regards to Shklar, the original post mentions that she does address people like Harry, especially since he contributes to society but does not earn. However, I think Shklar would definitely consider Harry to be a citizen. Even though Shklar states earning as one of her qualifications of citizenship, she also mentions that its the ability to actually get a job and thus be able earn . When Harry was not in Hogwarts he did not have this ability, but in Hogwarts he has that option. All in all, i think an important point that Shklar is trying to make is that, the opportunity to be able to get and job and earn is just as important as actually doing it. Since, Harry is afforded such freedom as a member of Hogwarts , he is considered a citizen according to Shklar.

  7. davidkoz says:

    As far as Shklar’s definition of citizenship goes, Harry Potter technically doesn’t qualify; he doesn’t have the vote and he doesn’t earn. But who’s to say that Shklar gets to determine whether a person (wizard, muggle, or otherwise) is a citizen? Upon reading jtgilb’s post, I immediately thought of our discussion in last Thursday’s class about the citizenship status of Frederick Douglass. We obviously know that African Americans weren’t given citizenship until the passage of the 14th amendment in 1868, seven years after Douglass wrote his narrative.

    So, according to Shklar, Douglass was not a citizen during the abolitionist movement; but his contributions to society made him more than worthy of the citizen status, as discussed in lecture. Potter is similar to Douglass in this respect. He, too, doesn’t possess Shklar’s qualities of citizenship but he contributes more to society than those who do earn and have the right to vote.

    Harry Potter and Frederick Douglass may not be citizens as far as Shklar is concerned, but my concern with Shklar is that those who make such a profound impact but don’t possess her necessary qualities of citizenship are excluded.

  8. hadasbrown says:

    Firstly, I am so happy that you wrote this. I am a proud and unashamed HP nerd.

    Moving on, there are many considerations to draw upon regarding Harry’s citizenship or lack thereof. He does not earn a steady paycheck, nor does he vote. However, are we ever made aware of anyone voting throughout the series? As far as I’ve gathered, the Minister of Magic is either appointed, or elected from some sort of tribunal; there is no mention of elections from the Weasleys or any other adults (teachers would not likely discuss such subjects with their students). Thus, it becomes extremely difficult to place Harry with that regard.

    With regard to earning – Harry is a student, and thus is not employed. However, he was left a great deal of wealth by his deceased parents. This would potentially classify him as one of the “idle” members of society that Shklar speaks of, if it were not for his constant struggles against the Dark Lord on behalf of the Wizarding World. This makes us more than aware of Harry’s sense of responsibility, thereby dispelling any potential claims that he could be idle.

    So how can we account for Harry’s citizenship? If I were to pick two sort of “stand-in” elements to replace Shklar’s as best as possible, the pair would be as follows:

    (1) Earning and standing are not difficult to account for. In the Wizarding World, there are wealthy and non-wealthy wizards. There are wizards with extreme political and social influence. There are also those who are known to be neither of the two. This element of Shklar’s theory can be extended into Harry’s world, and perhaps we can discard Harry’s nonemployment status during the books (apart from the epilogue).

    (2) Voting is more difficult to contend with. The right to vote is the acceptance of one’s voice in society; it is inclusion based on recognition that one is capable and worthy of being involved in a process that launches the political leaders of the future. Perhaps the “right to vote” in Rowling’s books can be represented by the right to attend a wizarding school. The letter that a soon-to-be Hogwarts student receives signifies to him that he is about to enter a world where what they learn will shape the future of their world, as they identify and cultivate leaders, and discourage others. So, perhaps this letter is like voter registration, and arriving and succeeding at Hogwarts (or any other of the schools mentioned) is the act of voting.

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