Immigration and the Nation-State: The United States, Germany, and Great Britain

By Christian Joppke | Go to book overview

8 Conclusion: Resilient Nation-States

Nation-states may be looked at in two different ways. In a particularizing view, a nation-state is a thing with a name that does not happen twice in the world. In this view, nation-states, each with its distinct history and identity, are bedrocks of particularism in a world that is undergoing economic and cultural homogenization—which is, perhaps, why people cling so desperately to this antiquated thing. In a generalizing view, nation-states are the same everywhere, characterized by 'structural isomorphism' despite differences in resources and traditions (Meyer et al., 1997). In this view, the world is divided into like units, nation-states, each characterized by the same structural features, such as sovereignty and citizenship, and legitimized by the same narratives of progress and rational action.

Depending on the view taken, this book can be summarized in two ways. From a particularizing view, it has revealed sharply distinct immigration experiences, conditioned by the particular nation-state undergoing immigration. In this view, the nation-state figured as independent variable, with particular nationhood conceptions and nation-state problematiques channelling immigration in distinct ways.

The United States, under the impact of the domestic civil-rights revolution that outlawed racial discrimination, reopened itself to the outside world as a universal 'nation of immigrants' that welcomed newcomers not just from Europe, but from all parts of the world equally. As I have pointed out, this has not been the only concept of American nationhood, but the one that has come to prevail since the 1960s. America's self-description as a nation of immigrants, which is now shared across the political élite spectrum, has allowed it to remain expansive toward immigrants even in times of economic contraction and domestic backlash. So powerful is the hold of this national self-description that even the political movement to restrict immigration has generally not dared question it—its mainstream, represented by the 1990s Federal Commission on Immigration Reform, opposes only

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Immigration and the Nation-State: The United States, Germany, and Great Britain
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Immigration and the Nation-State iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1: Immigration and the Nation-State 1
  • Part I Embattled Entry 15
  • 2: A Nation of Immigrants Again 23
  • 3: Not a Country of Immigration 62
  • 4: The Zero-Immigration Country 100
  • Part II Multicultural Integration 139
  • 5: 'Race' Attacks the Melting-Pot 147
  • 6: From Postnational Membership to Citizenship 186
  • 7: Between Citizenship and Race 223
  • 8: Conclusion 260
  • Appendix: Interviews 319
  • References 322
  • Index 349
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