Threats to democratic governance caused by a) the uneven distribution of power and b) the existence of potentially conflicting groups, often means that democracy cannot function in a community without a high level of active participation of its members.

A woman casting her vote in the 2008 parliamentary elections in Bangladesh.In this sense, citizenship – legal membership of a democratic society – combines holding certain rights with having some defined duties and responsibilities. For example, in a democratic state, adult citizens have the right to vote in elections. It is therefore reasonable to argue that they have a responsibility to vote, to exercise that right, because, without wide participation, it is difficult to demand that the activities of a new government should reflect the general will of the people.

But levels of voter turnout differ widely between different countries that continue to call themselves democracies. In Britain today it is the lowest it has been for many decades. In many local elections the turnout is well below 50 per cent. Clearly, voting is not seen by British citizens as the most central part of exercising active citizenship.

Given examples like this, it is clear that there is a range of concepts regarding citizenship.