Citizens opens up a new way of understanding ourselves and the intensely challenging time in which we live. More than that, it shows us exactly what we must do to survive and thrive—as individuals, as organisations, as nations, even as a species—and equips us to do it.
In its pages, we come to see that we are living deep inside the Consumer Story, a foundational story of humans as inherently self-interested and competitive. This story has shaped not just individual behaviour but organisational design, economic theory, the role of government, morality—indeed all of culture and society. We learn that this is not as inevitable and inescapable as it feels, for stories do change. Indeed, the Consumer Story has been in place for less than a century. Before this, we lived inside the Subject Story—as in “subjects of the king”—which lasted centuries, casting the majority of us as infantlike and dependent, with just a superior anointed few capable of deciding and leading.
And now? Now the Consumer Story is failing. The Subject Story is resurgent. But at the same time, there is widespread evidence that a new story—the Citizen Story—is emerging across the world, and in every aspect of society. In the Citizen Story, we see ourselves as the creative, capable, caring creatures we are. We realise that all of us are smarter than any of us. We get involved.
Reclaiming the future
Seeing and stepping into the Citizen Story will reshape the way politics is practised. It will revitalise our communities. It will transform the way organisations across sectors are structured, and the way they engage on all sides—with employees, customers, suppliers, communities. When our institutions see people as citizens rather than consumers, and treat us as such, everything changes.
By embracing, enacting, and fortifying the Citizen Story, we will be able to face the challenges of economic insecurity, climate crisis, public health threats, and political polarisation. We will be able to build a future. We will be able to have a future. That is how vital a contribution this book makes.
Leaders, founders, elected officials—and citizens everywhere—will find this book an upbeat handbook, full of insights, clear examples to follow, and inspiring stories.
THE AGE OF CITIZENS
Jon delivers his Opening Provocation to the Athens Democracy Forum, the world’s most influential conference on the future of democracy, in 2020.
Killing the Consumer
Jon argues that the Consumer Story has, from parenting to politics, come to dominate and now destroy our society.
Three Post-Covid Futures
Jon and the New Citizenship Project team use their Subject-Consumer-Citizen framework to set out three possible futures for humanity.