The Ethics of Immigration symposium: Is Carens still advocating open borders?

by Speranta Dumitru on June 2, 2014

Political theorists are much indebted to Joseph Carens for his 1987 article “Aliens and Citizens: the Case for Open Borders”. Written in a period of increased restrictions on migration, Carens’s article was pioneering in two ways: it introduced the migration question to political theory’s agenda and set the terms of the debate from the free movement side. Carens’s recent book, The Ethics of Immigration, is less pioneering. It explicitly aims to engage with the “conventional view of immigration” and to show that it can accommodate some measures which improve citizenship and admission policies. The open borders argument is not abandoned but is left to only one of the twelve chapters. Carens’s main concern, however, is to show that the open borders argument does not conflict with the measures he proposes.

It is possible to have the opposite concern: are the proposed measures a way to advance towards a  world of open borders? In other words, is Carens still advocating open borders? My analysis here will be limited to the first measure he proposes in the book, this is that “justice requires that democratic states grant citizenship at birth to the descendants of settled immigrants” (p. 20). Whether justice requires this or not, many “democratic states” already conform to this principle and my argument is not that they should stop. Rather, my worry is that such an argument is not a way to advance towards an open borders world.

To give a brief overview of my position, an analogy may help. Imagine that we live in the United States during the time of racial segregation. Homer Plessy, who is of seven-eighths Caucasian descent and one-eight African descent, has just sat in a “whites-only” car. To do this is legally forbidden. We have two argumentative options. One is to go to the Supreme Court and argue against the Segregation Act. The other is to go to the Congress and argue that the law should be changed so that people like Plessy can travel in whites-only cars: on the grounds that, after all, they are white. We don’t know how convincing our arguments will be and given the political context, we may lose in  both cases. But is a change of law a step towards the abolition of racial segregation?

My view is that by advocating some “true criterion” of whiteness we reinforce the power of those who believe that racial distinctions are relevant. In the same way, advocating “true criteria” about who “deserves” to be citizen or cross a border is a means of reinforcing the power of those who close the borders.

In what follows, I analyze on a parallel basis the idea that “justice requires that democratic states grant citizenship at birth to the descendants of settled immigrants”. I argue that by its justification, scope and method of implementation method, this idea moves us away from, rather than get us closer to, an open borders world. But before this, I will briefly present an epistemological problem that social scientists call “methodological nationalism”.

What is methodological nationalism?

“Methodological nationalism” is an assumption which equates “society” with the nation-state. In the 1970s, sociologists were the first to realize that regardless of their theoretical orientation, their work was tarnished by this assumption (Martins, 1974: 276). When they talked about “society”, they had in mind either a particular national object (“French society”) or a more general concept of a society that was necessarily bounded. In both cases, they took for granted a category imposed by political power. They thereby endorsed the view of nation-states  that “humanity is naturally divided into a limited number of nations, which organize themselves internally as nation-states and externally set boundaries to distinguish themselves from other nation-states” (Beck & Sznaider, 2010: 383).

The problem with methodological nationalism is not only that it transforms social sciences into a discourse that legitimizes particular political actors (i.e.nation-states). It also biases our descriptions and understanding of social phenomena. For on the one hand, “society has never been the isolated, the ‘internally developing’ system which has normally been implied in social theory” (Giddens, 1973: 265). And one the other hand, society may not even be a system, closed or open, at all. Some sociologists insisted that “we can never find a single bounded society in geographical or social space” and urged that we study societies as “multiple overlapping and intersecting sociospatial networks of power”. If we change the paradigm, we view states as only one of the major types of power networks (Mann, 1986: 1 subseq.).

Since the 1970s, these critiques of the methodologically nationalist assumptions have spread to all the social sciences, except political theory and philosophy. In political theory and philosophy, the three main versions of methodological nationalism are largely unquestioned and indeed often fully endorsed. Political theory and philosophy are:  (1) state-centered, often arguing that the state is the natural locus for the realization of justice, democracy, freedom, rights etc.;  (2) “groupist” (Brubaker, 2002), assuming that people living within the borders are homogeneous groups, even endowed with collective intentions, projects, cultures, values etc.; and (3)  “methodologically territorialist” (Sholte, 2002) analyzing the spatial dimensions of human actions and phenomena according to the divisions imposed by political power.

Carens’s proposal according to which “justice requires that democratic states grant citizenship at birth to the descendants of settled immigrants” is clearly based on methodological nationalist premises. Not only does it assume that what “justice” requires is that the states and their attributes (citizenship) be at the center of the stage, but also that “belonging to the political community” should be assigned from birth.

The argument from social connections

Carens argues that citizenship should be granted on the basis of de facto “belonging” to the “political community”. Such a proposal has been defended, among others, by Hammar (1990) and more recently, by Shachar (2009) who argued in favor of a jus nexi. The idea is that those who de facto reside in a country should be recognized as members of the “political community” and granted citizenship.

The argument’s aim is to extend people’s rights. But methodological nationalism makes the argument vulnerable. Its strategy is to infer from a descriptive premise (de facto social connections) a normative conclusion reframed in national terms (“political community”, “citizenship”).

Both the premise and the inference are questionable. They are all the more questionable in the case of newborns. Carens suggests that when born, a baby “enters a social world” and that “she is connected to people”, while recognizing that this is  “most intimately to parents and siblings, and through them to friends and more distant family members” (p. 23). It is however difficult to affirm that newborns have a social life in the sense the adults have one. Newborns cannot make associations or be in conflict with other people; they don’t have friends, cannot help anyone in difficult situations or invite them to dinner. Their “social membership” is at most a form of “belonging” not “membership”. Is it not strange to think that newborns have a social life? By contrast, children have a rich social life and their social connections are important in number and in types. Yet, it is newborns, not children, who are assumed to be members of a political community.

This inference from “social membership” to “political community” appears to be even more bizarre in the case of newborns. Not because newborns cannot vote or pay taxes.  Rather, because it is difficult to see how their “social world”, populated with as many parents and siblings as you wish, can be equated with the “political community”. Likewise, although young children have a rich social life, sometimes richer than ours, it is difficult to see how their “social connections” can be translated into “political membership”. Is your child becoming a member of some community because she innocently plays Lego with mine every day? Of course, our children are part of the “Lego community”, but only in a metaphorical sense. We would be surprised if one day, the Lego Group sends us a certificate of membership and some of us would squarely refuse to “belong” to Lego. Yet, we find normal to translate concrete social life into political membership and none of us reject the idea that our babies belong by birth to some nation-state.

In a sense, nation-states have acted just like the Lego Group, as the history of the nation-state testifies. For instance, Mann (1993) showed how in the nation-state building process, states succeeded in “caging” social activities within themselves; Torpey (2000) described how states grasped or “embraced” the population which happened to live on a territory, by censuses, birth registration and an increasing bureaucracy. In his book, The Invention of the Passport, Torpey analyzed the process by which the political power came to monopolize the legitimate means of movement: birth certificates, identity cards and passports became the mobile version of the administrative files through which the states kept their power over people.

One might think that we now live in a world of nation-states and that even if we were to assume that, by some kind of magic, our children’s birth and social connections would transform themselves into political membership, it would still be in children’s best interest to maintain this assumption. Nation-states give children protection, rights and opportunities. Citizenship is what gives our children rights to better schools and playgrounds and protect them from being expelled when they play Lego together. But is citizenship the solution, rather than the problem? If we are concerned by the children’s best interests, can we accept that, by birth, some children have rights that others do not? Is the children’s best interest to be assigned, at birth, to one national category?

Citizenship and sedentarism

Carens argues that descendants of settled immigrants should be granted citizenship at birth automatically. In a world as it is, where rights are granted by nation-states, this principle appears to be a clear extension of rights both in scope (immigrants’ children are given citizenship rights) and in procedure (citizenship is granted without application). Our methodological nationalism prevents us from seeing the blind spot in this principle. I would argue that conceiving of this principle as limited to “settled” immigrants and as an “automatic” grant of citizenship raises some problems.

Methodological nationalism views people as settled by default. Elsewhere, I have called “sedentarism” the assumption that it is normal or preferable to stay rather than to go. Sedentarism is a bias which implicitly dominates the social sciences (they most often explain, analyze and classify mobility, not sedentary conduct) but is overtly defended in political philosophy (dominated by “normative” accounts). In political philosophy, spatial mobility is not an object of conceptual analysis. While sometimes philosophers mention that (internal) free movement is a primary good (Rawls, 1993), a basic right (Shue, 1980) or a central human capability (Nussbaum, 2000; Robeyns, 2003; Kronlid, 2008), almost no book in political theory is dedicated to analyzing what freedom of movement is and what is it good for. International mobility is always distinguished from internal mobility and analyzed as a kind of huge jump from one national container to another, a short and exceptional event in an otherwise sedentary life.

However, if we did not assume that social connections project us, by magic, into a community, we might pay more attention to how social connections are actually created. Spatial movement is a necessary condition for meeting people, and meeting people several times (that is, repeated movement) is a necessary condition for establishing durable social connections. The ability to move depends on wealth, infrastructures, health condition, gender and political power. The most privileged groups spend their lives moving back and forth, coming and going, on longer and shorter distances, for longer and shorter laps of time. Movement is intrinsic to our lives and to economy. To take only one example, in 2012 tourism accounted for 9% of the global GDP; the number of international tourists was more than one billion, whereas internal tourists accounted for 5-6 billions.

So, who are the “settled” immigrants whose children should be eligible for citizenship rights? In the 1793 French Constitutional Act, one year of residence was enough for a foreigner to acquire citizenship (cf. art. 4) and in many states nowadays five years of residence is the legal requirement (but as citizenship cannot be claimed as a right, many long term residents die without acquiring citizenship). How many years are enough to be qualified as “settled”? Should declarative statements count? What if we visit another country and change our minds? It seems to me that the only proof of being “settled” for sure is death. It would be, of course, unjust to grant citizenship only to children of dead immigrants.
The second blind spot is that citizenship should be granted automatically at birth.  We should remember, however, that jus soli was invented in France as a coercive tool to enable the state to conscript people of foreign descent (Brubaker, 1992). Nowadays, to methodological nationalists who sees people as settled, automatic citizenship is a good. But in a world where people move and nation-states view themselves as entitled to decide to exclude foreigners from citizenship and other rights, such an automatism creates problems. Numerous states do not recognize dual citizenship or recognize it only for some countries. Sometimes, for children who have been granted citizenship by jus soli in another country a divestiture procedure is available at majority and they can choose a single citizenship. But sometimes, they can simply lose the parent’s citizenship. If people renounce a country’s citizenship, they are  sometimes obliged to apply for visa to visit that country, and when accepted, to spend a limited time with their siblings and friends, to renounce inheritance, to be excluded from jobs and ownership rights, sometimes to pay a different price for the market goods. Those rights and rights denials hugely vary from country to country and depend on their agreements. But differential treatment of foreigners and citizens is thought to be a sovereign right of states.

What is the solution? Should people be “settled” and give their allegiance to a single country to have their human rights recognized? Or should countries automatically protect the human rights tout court without calling them citizenship?

To conclude, I would like to come back to my initial example of racial segregation. If we are happy that racial segregation came to an end, we will have difficulty in accepting that Homer Plessy should have been the only person to obtain the right to travel in a whites-only car. Homer Plessy’s appearance was “white” and this is why he was chosen by the activists to defy the segregation law. They didn’t succeed in that, but their intention was not to obtain rights only for those whose appearance was “white”. Analogously, immigrants who became indistinguishable from natives by their social connections should not claim rights only for themselves.

The example of Homer Plessy is useful in showing not only that anyone is entitled to travel in any car, but also that traveling is important for all of us. It is a pity that political philosophers do not use their conceptual abilities to understand mobility and what it is good for. To understand freedom of movement and the consequences of its denial, scholars are obliged to refer to works in economics (e.g. Lant Prichett, Michael Clemens, Bryan Caplan among many others), in social sciences (e.g. John Torpey, Oliver Bakewell, Antoine Pecoud among others) or even in the grey literature (see e.g. UNDP Overcoming Barriers). When states open their borders regionally and international organizations envisage putting migration on the development agenda, political theorists mark themselves out by an obsession with states’ “rights”.


Beck, Ulrich and Sznaider, Nathan. 2010. “Unpacking cosmopolitanism for the social sciences: a research agenda” British Journal of Sociology, 61: 381-403
Brubaker, Roger. 1992. Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany. Harvard University Press.
Brubaker, Roger. 2002. “Ethnicity without groups” European Journal of Sociology, 43(2): 163-189
Carens, Joseph. 1987. “Aliens and citizens: the case for open borders” The Review of Politics, 49(2): 251-273
Hammar, Tomas, 1990. Democracy and the Nation-State: Aliens, Denizens, and Citizens in a World of International Migration. Aldershot: Avebury Publishing
Kronlid. David. 2008. “Mobility as Capability” in Uteng T. and T. Creswell (eds.) Gendered Mobilities, Ashgate, 15-33
Mann, Michael. 1986. The Sources of Social Power. A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Mann, Michael. 1993. The Sources of Social Power. The Rise of Classes and Nation-States 1760-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Martins, Herminio. 1974. “Time and theory in sociology”, in Rex, J. (ed.) Approaches to Sociology, London Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Nussbaum, Martha.2001. “Capabilities as Fundamental Entitlements: Sen and Social Justice” Feminist Economics, 9(2): 33-59
Rawls, John. 1993. Political Liberalism. NY: Columbia University Press
Robeyns, Ingrid. 2001. “Sen’s Capability Approach and Gender Inequality: Selecting Relevant Capabilities”, Feminist Economics, 9 (2): 61-92
Torpey, John. 2000. The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Shachar, Ayelet. 2009. The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Sholte, Jan Aart. 2000. Globalization: A Critical Introduction. NY: Palgrave Macmillan
Shue, Henry. 1980. Basic Rights. Subsistence, Affluence and  US Foreign Policy Princeton: Princeton University Press.
UNDP. 2009. Overcoming Barriers. Human Mobility and Development NY: UNDP [ ]

Speranta Dumitru is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University Paris Descartes and holds the Chair “Social Ethics” at CERLIS, CNRS.”



Ed Herdman 06.02.14 at 8:47 am

The commentary about newborns seems wrong to me. Sociobiologists have noticed a few things about newborns: One, their brains are working very quickly, as they will not learn associations and enter social memberships through mental idleness; two, they are very much active and even coercive partners with those they have social memberships with, even before they are born (at that point, via chemical processes). So at best I think we have to say that there are some transformations, but even so most of the differences between adults and infants are just a matter of scale, as the same for differences between adults and children.

How the very much self-interested social world translates into a political reality is plain to see. It is a different matter to say that infants or children have relatively little understanding, or even none, about political processes, but they still have some basic tools to engage in what are fundamentally political processes. And we can’t well say that all adults truly understand efficient political processes either; it’s common to see people even in late life flailing about with transparent and not wholly effective beliefs or motions in attempts to influence others. Some people are more effective in turning observations about social and political actions into a trajectory of increased communicable comprehension, but lack of ability to communicate what is learned or put it into arbitrary symbols does not imply lack of ability to perform. So there doesn’t seem to be anything mysterious here.

I also don’t see how spatial movement is a clean replacement for Carens’ suggestion. It seems possible that one can be a political or social actor without movement; both you and I are doing it right now. If we agree on this, then surely the movement of infants by their extended social groups (long a fact of human societies, especially hunter-gatherer or herd-following) is directly spatial movement which a youngster becomes more aware of over time – but even if the infant isn’t moved much, and stays in pretty much the same place throughout life, communication with persons from distant places seems capable of doing essentially the same thing.

I do agree wholly, though, that human rights are predicated on the ability to travel – I wouldn’t put this solely in terms of forming connections, but rather having the ability to use as many avenues for development as possible. Locking an infant into one room puts that child at risk for a stunted development, even if we take heroic measures to try to provide for a normal development. Likewise, locking people into one area puts them at risk for adverse conditions within that area. Where I imagine I differ from your account is that I don’t believe that movement is always and everywhere necessary, but rather it is very strongly associated with success, when we talk about the individual. When we talk about multi-generational patterns, the probability that groups will need to move to attain normal development approaches 100%.


Scott Martens 06.02.14 at 4:56 pm

As someone who has advocated the position that there should be absolutely no free trade without freedom of movement – and specifically that the US should be compelled to accept any Mexican not under some form of judicial supervision with no more than administrative formalities because of it – it’s nice to see the issue being raised as mater of rights and justice when it’s obviously a political loser. And I am kinda ashamed I’ve never heard of Joseph Carens.

I think it is basically right to assert that some of the benefits of the nation-state be offered to people who are settled and not to others, or at least not on the same terms. I see how your argument about Homer Plessy works and I think it is entirely correct for the kinds of rights we assert people have purely on the basis of their humanity. No person, regardless of any status of settlement, should be subject to arbitrary detention, torture, abuse, trials lacking due process, discrimination in access to ordinary public goods like transportation or eating in restaurants… even the most transit tourist merits those rights. I note America’s recent rather gross failure on this front.

But access to health care, social services, a basic wage (should such a thing ever be implemented on grounds of basic justice or even simplicity of administration)? Should those be open to just anyone who turns up?

I don’t think “citizenship” is a privileged category and any demand of loyalty to the state from anyone should be a non-starter. I’m annoyed enough that I have to promise not to violently overthrow the German government just to get a researcher’s job in my current country. But the notion that some attachment to place, even in so small a form as “mostly obeys the law and pays taxes”, seems reasonable enough for a larger packet of benefits.


Ed Herdman 06.02.14 at 5:39 pm

As I’ve written elsewhere, the recent healthcare horror story from Spain should strongly influence your support of many services being mandatory.

We live in a closely-knit world, at the same time that people paradoxically wish to preserve elements of social advantage for their own. A plague won’t respect borders at all, especially when it is carried by an aircraft. And I think the same goes for other areas like education, as well. Having educated people everywhere improves everybody else’s modifier, and when these people are in your country they generally will have an incentive to support other projects of that society. (Which consideration makes your comment about having to pledge not to overthrow the German government make me laugh a bit. There are mitigating circumstances, but 2014 Germany is not 2014 North Korea.)

The only thing that seems, to me, to be a true consideration is the physical possibility of a social group supporting people. But many of the barriers that have been thrown up in front of this project – like austerity measures – are already counterproductive measures, so if we simply take money that is being allocated to these needs as our guide to what is politically possible, we will miss what is actually possible and necessary.


Phil 06.03.14 at 9:35 am

Best post so far, in a very good series.

I hadn’t heard of “methodological nationalism”, but I have often had the frustrating sense that debates about immigration had skipped two or three steps, and important steps at that – as if to say, given that we generally do this, how can we do this better?. Framing citizenship as a practice of exclusion, carried out by the agencies called ‘national governments’ in different ways and with different criteria, makes things a lot clearer.

I think Carens may pass over his ‘hermit’ reductio a bit too quickly. What, ultimately, are we talking about when we talk about citizenship? I myself pay taxes to the UK government, have a vote in UK elections, own property in the UK and carry a UK passport, guaranteeing that I will be able to re-enter the UK if I leave it for any length of time (however long). I’ve also got children who, as adults, will be able to say all these things. I don’t see that citizenship is any more than this bundle of default entitlements, which governments selectively deny to individuals whom they want to exclude.

If we condition citizenship on attributes of the citizen – her contributions to the community, her embeddedness in social network, the number of people who would miss her if she were gone – it seems to me we concede far too much to the side of the debate that believes in excluding unfavoured minorities, and end up reproducing the problem we were trying to solve. We concede, in other words, that one can be (or not be) a citizen – that citizenship is a status above and beyond (behind?) that default bundle of entitlements – and that it’s a status which can be achieved. In short, it’s an accomplishment, not a birthright. Or rather (and here’s the problem again), it’s a birthright for us, obviously, but it’s an accomplishment for them. And when we say ‘us’, and when we say ‘them’, we mean…


Phil 06.03.14 at 9:48 am

Scott – I obey the law and pay taxes; if I don’t, as every Libertarian knows, men with guns will come and do bad things. But if I committed a crime and was punished for it by due process of law, I would remain a citizen (endowed with that default bundle of entitlements) before, during and after my punishment (subject to the continuing debate about voting rights for prisoners). Why should it be different for ‘them’? Why is it important for there to be a ‘them’ for whom it’s different?


Ze Kraggash 06.03.14 at 10:23 am

“But if I committed a crime and was punished for it by due process of law, I would remain a citizen (endowed with that default bundle of entitlements) before, during and after my punishment (subject to the continuing debate about voting rights for prisoners). Why should it be different for ‘them’? Why is it important for there to be a ‘them’ for whom it’s different?”

Perhaps it’s because you’re integrated and they aren’t. You are a product of this environment, and they of other environments.

When the environments are similar (the US and Canada, Russia and Belarus) people can move around relatively easily, immigration rules are simplified. When Martians land in New Jersey you get the War of the Worlds. And in less obvious, more complicated cases, it gets, well, complicated.


Phil 06.03.14 at 11:59 am

Ze – when did I qualify as ‘integrated’? I don’t remember there being a test. Did my parents pass it for me? Or did theirs pass it for them?

My mother-in-law arrived in Britain in 1945 with not much more than the clothes on her back, and died here 60-odd years later. What sense would it make to say that she wasn’t a citizen when she died? Alternatively, what sense would it make to say that she was a citizen in 2005, but not in 1965 – or that she was in 1965, but not in 1950? Certainly many things changed in her life between 1940 and 1960, and geographical mobility played a huge part – but you could say the same of my father (1940: discontented teenager, North Wales mining village; 1960: middle-ranking civil servant and father of four, Surrey).

We can talk about residence and integration and life events and the passage of time, and it’s an interesting discussion, but I think it’s a real mistake – ultimately a category error – to suppose that what we’re talking about is citizenship. I think we should see citizenship in the negative – as a way of talking about a state’s more-or-less discretionary denial of a default bundle of entitlements to unfavoured groups.


LFC 06.03.14 at 12:25 pm

Since the 1970s, these critiques of the methodologically nationalist assumptions have spread to all the social sciences, except political theory and philosophy. In political theory and philosophy, the three main versions of methodological nationalism are largely unquestioned and indeed often fully endorsed. Political theory and philosophy are: (1) state-centered, often arguing that the state is the natural locus for the realization of justice, democracy, freedom, rights etc.; (2) “groupist” (Brubaker, 2002), assuming that people living within the borders are homogeneous groups, even endowed with collective intentions, projects, cultures, values etc.; and (3) “methodologically territorialist” (Sholte, 2000) analyzing the spatial dimensions of human actions and phenomena according to the divisions imposed by political power.

A lot, though not all, of pol. science and Int’l Relations is “methodologically nationalist” in these ways. (So I’m not entirely sure why the author singles out only “political theory and philosophy” for criticism on this score, though I assume part of the reason is that she works in political theory and is most familiar w her own field, or subfield.)


Ze Kraggash 06.03.14 at 1:07 pm

Phil, obviously it’s not an exact science; it’s an approximation. Although they usually do have naturalization tests.

I must admit, I don’t see the “exclusion” framing as natural or particularly useful. As a general rule, it’s simple: you’re a citizen of the country where you’re born. Everyone is born somewhere, so no one is excluded. And then there are various exceptions, and they are dealt with as exceptions. Some are simple, others are messy. But still, most people live their lives in communities where they were born. Why is migration such a huge issue, suddenly? Perhaps it’s just a symptom of some other more serious issue, which needs to be addressed.


Phil 06.03.14 at 2:22 pm

they usually do have naturalization tests.

They do (although those tests change over time); they have them for them, not for us.

you’re a citizen of the country where you’re born … most people live their lives in communities where they were born

Most people live their lives in the country where they were born, but that’s not quite the same thing. I was born in south-east England and moved to Manchester at the age of 22. I hardly knew anyone, wasn’t familiar with the local food & drink and often had difficulty making myself understood; for most of the first year I didn’t even have a job. If I’d moved to Munich instead of Manchester my citizenship would have been forfeit or degraded, at least temporarily, on top of those same practical and social obstacles to becoming a member of the community. What sense does this make?

We know that withholding and conditioning citizenship is something governments do, but I really can’t see how anything identifiable as “becoming a citizen” forms part of a new immigrant’s life-course, as distinct from that of an internal migrant – apart from the process of filling in forms, taking tests and attending ceremonies, of course.


Phil 06.03.14 at 2:23 pm

Agh! Modded!


Phil 06.03.14 at 2:31 pm

Not that this matters to anyone but me, but I’ve just realised that I took ten years off my father’s age to fit my argument (by 1940 he was well out of his teens). Sorry, Dad!


mud man 06.03.14 at 2:43 pm

if we did not assume that social connections project us, by magic, into a community

I wonder what one’s “community” would be other than a set of social connections? … that is, the relations one has with other people in a society. In that sense newborn humans certainly are born into a community, or they could not survive. It is true that our modern individual and collective communities are increasingly diffuse and many links (such as extended family) are much weakened, and by me that’s a huge problem. It’s also true that increasingly many of our social partners are faceless entities like corporations or bureaus (… or the representatives of such, if you like), and that’s another problem. But as individuals we are utterly dependent on our social interactions. I hope OP isn’t just talking about people we meet in bars?

The point about tourism and also migrant workers is that after a while one goes “home”, home is somewhere more or less permanent. We should stop conflating citizenship with possession of human rights. Citizenship means enfranchisement. Migrant workers and tourists should not be voting for the town council, but they should have protections from abuse. I think by nature most people do have a special feeling for the place where they were born, although again the industrial state stomps that out whenever it can.

Only that very last point has anything to do with open borders.

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