Varieties of Sovereignty and Citizenship

By Sigal R. Ben-Porath; Rogers M. Smith | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Immigration, Causality, and Complicity

MICHAEL BLAKE

Political philosophy has at last begun to take immigration seriously. After a long period during which most philosophers wrote as if no one ever joined a state except through birth, nor left a state except via death, we have begun to examine the morality of restrictions on immigration. We have, accordingly, begun to develop narratives of how our theories of justice would account for the rights of prospective migrants. The first and most basic question has been whether or not any state has—consistent with liberal justice— the right to exclude would-be immigrants at all.1 We have also asked how the rights of prospective members might be weighed against the distributive rights of current members, when these two stand in relationships of potential conflict.2 Further, we have asked what criteria might be used to select those who are to receive an offer of immigrant status—and just what that offer must, by right, entail.3

I do not want to claim that these topics are unimportant; they are vitally important questions we must ask as we face an increasingly mobile global population. I want to note, though, that they all point to a fairly abstract question: what must states, in general, do to be justified? This question begins with liberal theory and asks what a state would have to do to live up to the egalitarianism implicit in that theory. There are, however, questions that begin with specific states and their own particular histories, and ask how any particular state might understand the moral duties it faces. The difference between the two questions might be understood as the difference made by a particular historical trajectory of a national community. All liberal states have in common their liberal ideals; but each state also has its own particular

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