The decline of the nation state and the rise of anti-immigration attitudes

Globlisation has undermined the capacity of governments to govern on behalf of their citizens, because governments have generally preferred to do the bidding of Transnational Corporations. This means most countries now have a reduced welfare state, they are able to do less for their citizens. This results in anti-immigration attitudes and policies

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Globalisation has undermined the capacity of governments to govern on behalf of their citizens, because governments have generally preferred to do the bidding of Transnational Corporations. This means most countries now have a reduced welfare state, they are able to do less for their citizens.

This in turn has led to citizens demanding that governments tighten border controls to keep other people out, so the declining resources don’t have to be shared with more people.

This is the view of Nira Yuval Davis, Director of the research center on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London, expressed in a recent episode of Thinking Allowed on Borders, which aired January 2020.

For the purposes of A-level sociology, some of her comments sound like they’re coming from a broadly Marxist or World Systems Theory viewpoint, expressing a pessimist view of globalisation.

Globalisation, TNCs and Governments….

Davis starts off by pointing out that in the age of Imperialism, border regions were seen as fluid and shifting territories rather than fixed, which makes sense because imperial powers were always looking to expand their borders! The nation state gave birth to a concept of ‘homeland’ which went along with this ‘solidfying’ of borders.

She suggests that with globalisation the idea of borders became less important, with there being a dream of a border less world and global citizenship rights. However, this has never happened: there has always been global inequalities based on which country one originates from.

Governments have found it more and more difficult to govern on behalf of their citizens, but have become increasingly likely to negotiate with transnational corporations, doing the bidding of the international companies rather than acting on behalf of their own citizens.

This has led to a recent process of ‘rebordering’ – as governments can’t control Transnational corporations or the global economy, they shore up their borders to control people-flows, to ensure citizens that they have some measure of control over something!

The demand for governments to ‘defend the borders against foreigners came from below, from ordinary people. This was because neoliberalisation resulted in a shrinking of the welfare state, and hence a demand to limit the benefits to just those who ‘belong’.

Anti-immigrant sentiment: a response to neoliberal globalisation?

As a result of the above borders have spread out both internally and externally:

  • Externally = when someone from India wants to come to the UK, they have their application processed in a UK office in India
  • Internally – with raids on employment offices to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Citizens as informal border guards

This section has interesting links to globalisatsion and the social control aspect of crime and deviance

There is now an increased expectation on citizens to be informal, unpaid, untrained border guards and keep an eye on ‘who really belongs’!

NB it’s very interesting to think about this in the context of Brexit!

In recent decades the government has passed legislation that requires certain types of UK citizen to inform on people they think might be illegal immigrants – lorry drivers for example can be fined over £10K for bringing in illegals, and so are required to check their loads and get people off them before coming into the UK, and landlords are now required to inform the home office if they think illegals are renting from them, or face a fine of several thousands of pounds.

Negative consequences of tightening bordering controls

This requirement of informal policing has led to negative consequences – there has been at least one case of a restaurant being raided, illegals found, a huge fine imposed, and the restaurants reputation ruined, while the immigrants were later released.

And landlords are now discriminating by not renting to people who haven’t been born in the UK.

The irony/ paradox of this is that neoliberalisation requires the free-er movement of people for it to work, so there may even be a longer term economic consequence!

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