While talking about Shklar and how she would describe someone as being a citizen, I don’t think she thought about all the ways that someone could be a citizen but not have the actual title of ‘citizen’. The one example that sticks out to me is homeless people. Homeless people have one of the two things that Shklar attributes to citizenship- voting. I don’t think you can count earning as people giving you money while they pass by you. So the question would be, are homeless people considered citizens even though they are not being active participants in society and earning a wage?
Shklar says, “Voting is an affirmation of belonging.” Even though many homeless people don’t vote they still have the right to vote, which according to Shklar means that you belong. It doesn’t matter if you vote or not, that is not what citizenship is about. Just having the right to vote and not exercising it, makes you a citizen.
The argument of earning and being a citizen is where she contradicts herself. Her conclusion of American citizenship entails a “comprehensive commitment to providing opportunities for work to earn a living wage for all who need and demand it.” Homeless individuals are another prime example of people who need work to earn a living wage but are unable because injury, discrimination, illness, or a bad economy. The division among men in society isn’t between the rich and the poor; it is between the “do somethings” and the “do nothings.” People who are homeless are looked down upon because they sit on the street and beg people for money, they are the “do nothings”. People who have an office job and input numbers in a computer all day are seen as active participants in society, they are the “do somethings”. Shklar points out that the “do somethings” are individuals who are independent from others, although, the earners (“do somethings”) are dependent on their employer for their wage. Even with this contradiction she has made it clear that independence has replaced honor as the objects of social aspiration.
So because homeless people are dependent on the generosity of others to give them money or to give them shelter for a night, Shklar would say that in this aspect homeless people are not citizens. She talks about how the very word of slavery struck fear into the hearts of workers. Most people don’t want to be homeless, so when being homeless becomes a threat people start to work much harder for what they have because they know being out on the streets comes with disgrace.
If Judith Shklar was here in the present, I believe, that she would not consider homeless people to be citizens. She clearly states that citizenship is obtained by independent individuals who sell their labor, not themselves, to earn a wage that allows them to spend and save and give as they choose. And when people cease to earn they lose their standing in their community. Homelessness, because of all the ins and outs of it, was the best way to bring Judith Shklar’s citizenship perspective to current social standing issues.