Citizenship and immigration: Pathologies of a progressive philosophy

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Abstract

Across Western Europe and North America, ideas about citizenship have become central to understanding the problems involved in immigration and the inte-gration of ethnic minorities and likewise to formulating their resolution in public policy. Academics for their part have reflected this growing political interest by rediscovering citizenship as a theoretical concept, going well beyond its formal legal meaning into discussions about its symbolic, affective and moral dimensions: citizenship as member-ship or belonging; citizenship as participation or duty. The present article attempts to bridge the gap between the two arenas of policy and theory and to show how abstract, normative discussions of citizenship can bear a relation to immigration questions in practice. The scene is set with a theoretical discussion of the role of normative ideas and values in explaining the policy process and the emergence of institutions for dealing with specific public problems. This theoretical model is then applied to France (1981-1995), where a strong, abstractly formulated frame of citizenship enabled a new policy response to the growing political problem of immigration and integration in the country. A number of adverse and restrictive effects have become evident. The French scenario is then compared to other national cases, namely Britain, other West European states, and Canada and the USA, where a similar concentration of interest in the issue has resulted in somewhat different responses. The account moves towards the establishment of a single explanatory framework that may account for national variation in policy-making, and address the issue of whether cross-national convergence is occurring. The relationship between debate on citizenship and the apparent end of equality as a policy goal is discussed, and finally the article moves on to suggest a comparative research agenda. The strong re-emergence in recent years of problems pertaining to immigration and the integration of ethnic minorities has brought with it a revived interest in the notion of citizenship across Western Europe and North America. In public debate, ideas about citizenship have become a central frame for understanding the problems involved and formulating their resolution in public policy ('frame' is here understood as an encompassing set of normative concepts and linguistic terms, used by actors and commentators on all sides of the political spectrum). Academics in various countries have reflected this growing political interest by rediscovering citizenship as a theoretical concept in political science and political sociology, going well beyond its formal legal meaning into discussions about its symbolic, affective and moral dimensions: citizenship as membership or belong-Adrian Favell was a researcher at the Centre d'étude de la vie politique française (CEVIPOF), Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Paris and has recently joined the European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations as a Research Fellow.

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Authors

  • Adrian Favell

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