Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future

Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future

Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future

Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future


Throughout history, migrants have fueled the engine of human progress. Their movement has sparked innovation, spread ideas, relieved poverty, and laid the foundations for a global economy. In a world more interconnected than ever before, the number of people with the means and motivation to migrate will only increase. Exceptional People provides a long-term and global perspective on the implications and policy options for societies the world over. Challenging the received wisdom that a dramatic growth in migration is undesirable, the book proposes new approaches for governance that will embrace this international mobility.

The authors explore the critical role of human migration since humans first departed Africa some fifty thousand years ago--how the circulation of ideas and technologies has benefited communities and how the movement of people across oceans and continents has fueled economies. They show that migrants in today's world connect markets, fill labor gaps, and enrich social diversity. Migration also allows individuals to escape destitution, human rights abuses, and repressive regimes. However, the authors indicate that most current migration policies are based on misconceptions and fears about migration's long-term contributions and social dynamics. Future policies, for good or ill, will dramatically determine whether societies can effectively reap migration's opportunities while managing the risks of the twenty-first century.

A guide to vigorous debate and action, Exceptional People charts the past and present of international migration and makes practical recommendations that will allow everyone to benefit from its unstoppable future growth.


We live in a dynamic age of global integration, where the reconnection and mixture of the world’s people is challenging dominant norms and practices in many societies. Disintegration and integration are simultaneous and interwoven. Cultural codes adapt. New economies emerge. Innovation prospers. Social institutions struggle to keep up.

To many, the challenges associated with migration are characteristic of our age of postmodernism, multiculturalism, and aspiring cosmopolitanism. Some are nostalgic for an illusory past when people had more in common. While the scale, pace, and intensity of human movement may be greater today, the habits of migration and its disruptive effects are as old as humanity itself. Outsiders have always encountered opposition from their adoptive societies. Nevertheless, the direction of history points to the persistent expansion in the boundaries of community. Our cultural and political frontiers have gradually receded.

In most parts of the world, the old distinctions between clans and tribes are now of less significance than are national boundaries. Whereas at one time a “migrant” may have been one who married into a neighboring village, “migration” now generally refers to moving across a national border, often with the purpose of settling for a period of time. The names “immigrant” and “asylum seeker” have acquired negative connotations in many societies, echoing the ancient fear of the “barbarian.” Our governments and societies retain an antiquated suspicion of outsiders, who were born in one nation-state and seek to make their life in another one. The result is a conventional view that a high rate of international migration should be prevented.

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