Full-stack Citizenship 2028

Dieter Zinnbauer

Publikation: Working paperForskning


As of 2023 we are living with and through a very thin conception of political citizenship, where political engagement mainly means voting and a bit of volunteering.

This however is going to change.

As I argue in this short essay we are quite plausibly on the cusp of a profound transformation towards a much deeper, “full-stack” mode of political engagement where we can fully align our economic lives as workers, consumers, savers, or investors with our political values. This is made possible by the emergence of a political marketplace of companies that develop much sharper political profiles and much more value-oriented political engagement practices. They do so partly out of political conviction by their leaders, but also for several business reasons: nurturing and motivating a politically much more demanding and active workforce; strategic brand positioning and further differentiation in the consumer marketplace; expanded offerings and new fee opportunities in the investment space.

All these motives are accelerated by and against the backdrop of more polarized political environments and heightened expectations for corporate political responsibility.

I chart the contours of this possible development through a speculative scenario of what this type of political citizenship could look like in 2028 and what early signals suggest that we may be on this path. I develop the argument as follows: The introductory section (2.) re-evaluates the efficacy of political citizenship in 2023. It invites a critical look how our political convictions and the levers we have available to advance them are not aligned with and often dwarfed by our economic lives and the political consequences that we inadvertently support and produce. Section 3. contrasts this unsatisfactory status quo of what I call thin political citizenship with a plausible future scenario five year’s out, in which our political values and political engagement have become much more aligned with and expressed much more forcefully also via our economic lives. I term this speculative scenario thick or full-stack citizenship, describe how it plays out with regard to our economic actions as consumers, workers and savers /investors. For each of these three areas I draw on a deep trove of cross-disciplinary empirical evidence to lay out several current dynamics that make these trajectories possible and plausible.

Section 4. zooms out again from these three different economic dimensions and identifies a set of important societal dynamics that expedite the shift towards full-stack citizenship. These background dynamics are increasing populism, polarisation and democratic backsliding, concerns about government efficacy, the arrival of multi-level crisis points and the rise of corporate purpose.

Section 5. travels back into the present. From the vantage point of full-stack citizenship in 2028 our current situation in 2023 appears in a different light and could be characterised as an interregnum, with fragments of the old institutional order uneasy co-existing with early seeds and formations of the new. More concretely, the contemporary anti-woke backlash against all things ESG and companies engaging in politics turns out to be illogical, short-lived and likely to lead to more rather than less corporate political activism in the medium term. Yet, the idea of full-stack citizenship also means that hopes by one side of the political spectrum that ESG and corporate political engagement will help advance primarily progressive values is also misguided.

Progressive corporate activism may have had a head-start, yet the conservative side will ultimately catch up. The result, as discussed in the concluding section (6.) is a highly differentiated economic marketplace for political engagement of a highly ambivalent character. One the one hand it offers new pathways to live in sync with one’s values and also for individual flourishing and political efficacy. On the other it means a persistent politicisation of the economic lifeworld that requires the constant negotiation of difference in many more contexts and roles. The latter brings into sharp relief the need for re-energizing the pluralist values of civil discourse mutual respect, democratic process in order to keep societies together and functional in the context of full-stack citizenship.
UdgiverSSRN: Social Science Research Network
Antal sider25
StatusUdgivet - 2023