Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

The Ethical Principles of Citizenship

Posted Feb 10, 2013 by Marvin Brown in The Civic, No Comments

I have agreed to develop a course for Saybrook University in San Francisco on the ethics of social transformation from a global citizen perspective.  So I have been exploring the ethical principles of citizenship, which is more complex than one might think.  In any case, the following chart reflects my current thinking.

The Ethical Principles of Citizenship


 Dimensions of Citizenship

 Ethical Principle

A Common Citizen

Recognizes our common humanity as the foundation for the civic realm where we deal with our social differences



A Participating Citizen

Participates in conversations about how we should live together, and engages in concrete actions


 Moral equality



 A Represented Citizen

Pressures the rulers of nation-states to be responsive to all citizens through voting, politics, petitions, and protests.



 A Private Citizen

Obeys civic obligations in the stewardship of private goods



 A Public Citizen

Obeys civic obligations in the stewardship of public goods.



A Global Citizen

Enters into conversations (listening, questioning, learning, proposing) with all the people on our fragile planet.




Human Rights


Living like a Common Citizen

Posted Jan 18, 2013 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, No Comments

What would it be like to live the life of a common citizen?  I think it would include the following activities:


The civic is the space between our common humanity and our social differences.  We are invited by others, and by the urgency of problems, to participate in this space through civic conversations about how we want to live together.


Today is possible because others have cared for us; taken care of us.  Without caring relationships, we easily lose track of our common humanity.  To be full of care (careful) requires that all the providers of care are recognized.


What we do share (a common humanity) is the basis for what we decide to share (provisions, gifts, love).


There’s so much work to be done.  All who have the capacity to work are needed.  Work should not be controlled by the business job market, but rather by the needs of people and the planet.


We are the inheritors of the earth, of knowledge, of the arts, of all that makes the commons a resource for all of us.


Our planet—a home for all living things—is now threatened.  It must be protected.  Many of our communities—a home for families and friends—are crying out for justice and repair. They must be protected.


Together we can hold elected officials accountable to the people they represent, and we can hold all institutions accountable for their violations of justice and environmental sustainability.


Through civic conversations, we can develop systems of provision so all of us have the basic provisions for a good life, not at the expense of some, but rather at the advantage of all.


The violations of justice and sustainability, of all the “isms” that should not be practiced with impunity, must be protested against.


Without disagreement, we have no reason to engage in conversations.  We simply do what we all believe is right, not knowing if it is right or not.  Disagreement is the beginning of ethics—of a life worth living.


If we have not changed our minds, we have not been paying attention.  There is no universal site from which we can know it all, but rather only particular places where others can tell us what we do not know.   To enter into a civic conversation is to enter into a chamber of self-transformation.


Like horses and deer that existed on the savanna, we are fear-based animals.  It is part of what we have in common.  Living like a common citizen means that we try to focus this fear on real things we should be afraid of.


The struggle for moral equality and inclusion has a history.  In the short history of the U.S., it includes the struggles to expand citizenship beyond white male ownership, the Civil War, the struggles for women’s rights, for worker’s rights, the Civil Rights movement, and current struggles for justice and sustainability. The common citizen continues this tradition and passes it on to the next generation.


The Common Citizen

Posted Dec 4, 2012 by Marvin Brown in The Civic, No Comments

We are now living in the time of new thinking about our selves, our human relationships, and our relationships with the planet.   Everything that we hold dear, everything we hold in common, is threatened.  Perhaps the notion of the common citizen will be helpful.

Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

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