Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 January 2022
In fordist industrial society, the term ‘citizen’ was constructed as employed citizens who, by virtue of their relatively strongly standardised employment biographies on the basis of full-time employment, received social rights that were connected to the cultural concept of ‘decommodification’, that is, rights to maintain a reasonable standard of living during periods beyond employment, including unemployment, retirement and illness (Esping-Andersen, 1990, 1999). The ‘worker citizen’ was, in many societies, also defined as the male breadwinner who, through his employment income and social security claims, was able to support a financially dependent wife and children. Housewives were seen as ‘non-working’ and therefore did not have their own social rights. Their citizenship status was indirect, meaning that it was derived from the employment position and citizenship of the male breadwinner (Lewis, 1992).
During the transition to a post-fordist service society, this basic cultural construction of citizenship has changed. The development can be characterised as a shift from a notion of citizenship as passive towards a model of active citizenship (Pfau-Effinger, 2003; Jensen and Pfau-Effinger, Chapter One). The main features of ‘active citizenship’ include autonomy, self-responsibility, flexibility, geographical mobility, a professional education and the ability to engage in civil society to fulfil one's own interests. In this context, claiming responsibility for one's own life and well-being is not seen as merely an option; to a increasing degree it also represents an obligation. At the same time, the active citizen is also the ‘Sozialcharakter’ (societal character), who is expected to be particularly able to deal with the demands of a globalised and highly competitive European knowledge society.
The traditional model of the housewife family, where care was allocated to the group of housewives who stayed outside the employment system and provided hidden and unpaid care in the family has fundamentally eroded. By integrating themselves to an increasing extent into waged work, women have individualised themselves and have come to behave as active citizens whose main social integration is via the labour market. In this context, their social rights as family members have been increasingly individualised, whereas their derived social rights – for instance on the basis of survivor pensions – are losing importance (Lewis, 2002).