Academic journal article Migration Letters

Securitisation, Economisation and the Political Constitution of Temporary Migration: The Making of the Austrian Seasonal Workers Scheme

Academic journal article Migration Letters

Securitisation, Economisation and the Political Constitution of Temporary Migration: The Making of the Austrian Seasonal Workers Scheme

Article excerpt


Temporary migration has recently received considerable attention from migration researchers. This article shifts the analytic focus from migration practices to migration politics and enquires into the logics and processes underlying the formulation of temporary migration programmes. Based on Foucault's analysis of liberal governmentality and Jessop's strategic-relational approach, it is argued that the governing of temporary labour migration by nation-states requires sophisticated political technologies. These technologies entail the differentiated deprivation of fundamental rights and are therefore neither unproblematic nor self-evident. Developing and establishing the necessary legal categorisations along skill levels, nationality, employment status, and so on, requires a complex interplay of two political rationalities that are often conceived of as contradictory: the securitisation and the economisation of migration. Once established, differentiations and measures introduced under securitised conditions can be invested in utilitarian migration policies. The interplay of these two rationalities depends on and is mediated by wider political-economic and societal transformation processes. This general argument is illustrated by the example of the Austrian Seasonal Worker Scheme, which shows significant parallels to policies introduced in other nation-states over the past two decades.

Keywords: temporary migration; securitisation; economisation; strategic-relational approach; liberal governmentality; Austria

Introduction: The contradictory regulation of temporary migration

Temporary migrant worker programmes (TMWPs) are back on the political agenda and they play a crucial role in structuring global labour migration (Ruhs, 2005; Castles, 2006b; Martin et al., 2006; Vertovec, 2007; Stasiulis, 2008). Scholarly discussions of recent TMWPs emphasise resemblances to guest worker programmes of the post-WWII period (Plewa and Miller, 2005; Castles, 2006a; Menz, 2009). However, there are important differences. Besides sectoral shifts and changes in the political-economic context, the new frameworks entail a far more complex differentiation between migrant groups entitled to different sets of civic, political, and social rights. While some Voluntarily' temporary migrants enjoy far-reaching freedom of mobility, such as within the European Union, the temporariness of other migrant is enforced by sophisticated state regulations. The following discussion mainly refers to these enforced forms of temporariness that mosdy affect third country nationals or migrants from new member states who until recendy were subject to labour market restrictions.

The central problem this article is concerned with is the relation between economic and security politics in the development of such temporary migrant worker programmes. Several authors have pointed to the functional fit between restrictive, securitised control policies and the use of labour migration regarding the effects of migration policies as well as concrete regulatory practices. Harsh migration control policies and the resulting precarious legal status of temporary migrants are constitutive of their specific utility as labour power (Ander- son, 2010) - thus mirroring the structure of former guestworker regimes in relevant regards (Casdes and Kosack, 1973). De Giorgi (2010) points to how the pardy militarised security-driven re-bordering of Western states and the general punitive turn1 against migrants from the global South go together with the need for highly precarious workers in post-Fordist segmented labour markets.

Turning from the effects of policies and regulatory practices to the realms of political discourse and policy formation, however, the interplay between economic and security approaches becomes more troublesome. The securitisation and the economisation of migration are usually conceived of as contradictory policy approaches (Buonfino, 2004). …

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