The Politics of Immigration

Book Review

Reviewer: Yana Brovdiy

Publisher: Polity Press, 2013 ISBN:
Author's page: James Hampshire

The Politics of Immigration

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There have never been so many people living outside of their country of origin as today. According to the latest estimates of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs international migrants constitute 232 million people or 3.2% of the world’s population. At the same time immigration continues to be very controversial and a highly politicised topic in the West. Support for immigration quotas, in a recent Swiss referendum won by a slim margin of 50.4% and shows a clear division on immigration. In his very timely book, The Politics of Immigration, Hampshire attempts to explain – in 8 Chapters – the driving forces behind this division and the implications it has for policy outputs in liberal states. A unique theoretical framework for the analysis of similarities and differences between liberal states and real-world examples are presented in this contribution.

The point of departure for Hampshire is the outline of the framework and presentation of 4 features of liberal statehood: constitutionalism, capitalism, representative democracy, and nationhood. Whereas the first two are the drivers of dynamics of openness in immigration, citizenship and integration policies, the last ones, often associated with cultural protectionism, are the roots of closure (p. 3). This causes ‘liberal paradox of immigration;’ liberal countries are neither completely open, nor completely closed, to immigration.

Hampshire devotes the subsequent chapters of his book to the implications of the 4 facets of the liberal state on migration policies in North America, Oceania and Europe. The author shows complete proficiency in the questions of work, irregular and family migration as well as asylum in various liberal states. The analysis is supported with convincing arguments and statistical data of the OECD, Eurostat and European Commission. The chapter on Migration Governance beyond the State is particularly noteworthy for it conclusively portrays the lack of coherent multilateral initiatives and no unified body of migration law. Hampshire begins the chapter with a classical explanation of public good by Olson and questions whether migration governance can be regarded as a public good. He then comes to the conclusion about a very bleak future of the international migration governance since, due to the worries over sovereignty, ‘cooperation on migration is more likely to take place on a bilateral or regional, rather than a global, basis’ and the interstate cooperation is more likely to be informal than formal (pp. 86-87). Hampshire presents the EU migration regime as the only exception, where states’ sovereignty is constrained by a supranational migration regime.  

This book also delivers a contribution to the on-going debates about citizenship in the liberal state. Drawing on the latest research the author convinces the reader that even if it might seem that globalisation, transnational migration and the international human rights are eroding the concept of state citizenship and immigrants enjoy almost the same rights as the natives, the closer analysis shows that political and social rights, right to international mobility, as well as basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly, continue to be conditioned by your citizenship (p. 114). Hampshire presents convincing arguments that the access to citizenship has been liberalised through introduction of jus sanguinis, increased toleration of dual nationality and introduction of citizenship reforms that enable easier naturalisation.  

In sum, The Politics of Immigration is an important contribution to the field. The author succeeds in bringing the state back into the migration research by deconstructing actors and institutions that constitute the state. While many volumes have been previously dedicated to the questions of migration, Hampshire presents a successful attempt to examine all 4 factors influencing migration regimes instead of focusing on just one or two of them. However, the definition of the liberal state, as this is one of the main concepts in the book, would contribute to a better understanding and eliminate the need to search for the explanation throughout the book or elsewhere. The book could also be improved with a deeper comparative analysis of the immigration policies in the liberal states.

This publication will be of use to a wide range of readers but may especially appeal to students of political science, migration and global studies as well as international relations. Those who have a previous background in migration studies will find the framework presented in this book to be of a significant contribution to the theoretical debates centring on issues around migration. Those who are new to the field will also find this book very educational. Brief historical overviews of the migration regimes, explanation of all of the main concepts and a clear writing style make this book a pleasant reading for everyone.

2020 - Volume 14 Issue 2