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Citizenship and immigration: pathologies of a progressive philosophy

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:24 authored by Adrian Favell
Across Western Europe and North America, ideas about citizenship have become central to understanding the problems involved in immigration and the integration 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 membership 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.


Publication status

  • Published


Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies




Taylor & Francis





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Department affiliated with

  • Geography Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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