Refugees in International Relations

By Alexander Betts; Gil Loescher | Go to book overview

14
Forced Migration in the International
Political Economy

Sarah Collinson


ABSTRACT

Explanations of forced migration typically focus on the description of the prox-
imate triggers of flight or displacement. This chapter considers whether, using a
political economy lens, it might be possible to strengthen interrogation of the
deeper drivers and displacement and protection failures and so achieve a better
explanatory understanding of forced migration processes in the international
political economy. In both academic and policy circles, understanding of crisis
situations still remains largely stove-piped into particular channels of concern
with, for instance, poverty, violence, food insecurity, corruption, extremism, or
displacement. A major impediment to improving understanding of forced
migration is the tendency to isolate migration or displacement as a distinct
phenomenon for analysis. This chapter draws attention to the diverse, complex,
and ‘embedded’ nature of forced migration, and to the analytical challenges
that this implies. Mainstream approaches within traditional international
political economy are insufficient on their own: not only are they generally
wedded to a particular ‘grand’ (usually neo-liberal or neo-Marxist) theory but
they also fail to link to the local level or take sufficient account of social institu-
tions and processes. A more ‘eclectic’ and locally connected political economy
approach is needed which is concerned with the interaction of political,
economic, and social processes in a society. Yet a question mark remains over
how far one can remain agnostic as regards deeper theory: choices between
competing theories may have to be made. The question of whether capitalism is
inherently violent and exploitative is particularly important for understanding
processes of forced displacement. Whatever the theoretical lens used, it is criti-
cally important to appreciate the centrality of processes of deep historical,
social, economic, and political change. Are analysts asking not only ‘what’
displacement is taking place but also what processes and associated relation-
ships and interactions of actors and institutional factors are involved? This form
of analysis will lead to more satisfactory answers to the ‘why’ of forced migra-
tion at all levels, from global down to local. The chapter concludes with a

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