How to Be a Citizen

C.L. Skach

How to Be a Citizen
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
United Kingdom
2 July 2024

How to Be a Citizen

C.L. Skach

We believe that rules and laws are in place to protect us. They are what keep our societies from descending into chaos. Without them, how would we know our right from wrong, live comfortably in our communities and be good neighbours to one another?

C.L. Skach feels differently. She always believed in the strength of the law she spent her career in some of the most fractured, war-torn corners of the world, reading and writing constitutions to help fix society. But as she sat alone in a sandbagged trailer in Baghdad after a rocket attack, she admitted what she'd been denying for years- a good society cannot be imposed from above. It comes from leaning less on formal rules, and more on each other.
Skach lays out six ideas, informed by everything from civil wars to civil rights struggles, bystander responsibility to mutual aid in the pandemic, to help us build small societies of our own. These ideas sometimes sound simple- share the vegetables from your garden, spend time on a park bench. But taken together they can amount to real, bottom-up change.

How to Be a Citizen is a hopeful handbook for a better world one we can all help build together.


C.L. Skach is a respected constitutional lawyer; she’s advised governments around the world, including Iraq, on developing their constitutions – rules-based order, if you will. Her career has been based on advising governments on how laws and constitutions could enhance and protect democracy. If these tools of democracy are so effective, why do we see a growing lack of trust in government and the rise of antidemocratic movements?

Skach argues that our reliance on rules is based on three fallacies – humankind needs authority and good order to exist; good order is imposed by authority and is stable; and constitutions give us a just order and therefore justice. She argues that these fallacies have actually withered our ability to do democracy well. Through research and case studies, Skach argues that communities naturally come together to find order that takes into account the needs of the members of those communities. By relying on arbitrary rules being interpreted by legal scholars, we lose our humanity. To overturn centuries of convention seems a very big ask, but Skach says we can start by developing our own small communities of mutual support and respect, and gradually change. I’m sure we all yearn for caring and respectful communities; is Skach’s solution the right one? You decide!

This item is in-stock at 8 shops and will ship in 3-4 days

Our stock data is updated periodically, and availability may change throughout the day for in-demand items. Please call the relevant shop for the most current stock information. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.