immigration mini-series: brubaker on france and germany

    Question 2: Critically evaluate Brubaker’s thesis on France and Germany

Brubaker’s thesis on France and Germany posits that France and Germany have distinctive and deeply rooted “understandings of nationhood.” He further goes on to propose that while current criticism is unjustified and that this distinction between these two countries has and will continue to provide “analytical and explanatory potency.” For Brubaker then, France is state-centered and assimilationist in their immigration policies and citizenship laws, while Germany is volk-centered and differentialist.

Furthermore, “citizenship remains a bastion of national sovereignty,” in the European Community (now Union). Previously, Carens challenged this sovereign prerogative, using a theoretical and moral approach. However, the distinction between theory and practice is exactly the problem with Brubaker’s thesis: that legal definitions of citizenship can be extrapolated to include more pragmatic ones. While the empirical evidence to suggest that in practice France may (perhaps just recently?) have been and continues to be, more exclusionary than Germany, and that Germany has been and continues to be, more assimilationist than France, is unavailable, this does not prevent criticism to be passed.

In addition, continuing the previous point, when Brubaker asserts that the regulation of membership is an essential attribute of sovereignty and that “citizenship is special because admission to its prerogatives is entirely at the discretion of the state,” both gives primacy to the state and forgets that although governments (and states too for that matter) may be legitimate, they are not always justified in carrying out the policies they do. This is where Carens’ argument for open borders is useful.

However, the primary critique has already been made explicit. On-the-ground realities may, and often do, drastically differ from normative and legal expectations or the lack of for that matter. Although “most of the immigrants already enjoy a secure residence status and broad economic and social rights that differ only at the margins from those of citizens,” immigrants may not enjoy these rights in actuality. Although legal citizenship would “add complete protection against expulsion, access to public sector employment,” and “eligibility for those few social services and benefits,” legal citizenship does not protect from either active or passive discrimination in the labour market or protects immigrants from discriminatory treatment when in need of services and benefits, discrimination that is solely based on the difference in “French-ness,” never mind racial disparities.

This does not mean that the aforementioned is a typical scenario. It doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t need to be in the same way that Brubaker cannot generalize across countries and within their communities and ultimately citizenry. A Turk living in Berlin may feel a stronger attachment to Berlin than to Germany. A Senegalese living in France may also feel less French than Senegalese. The de facto and de jure differences between Germany and France do not always track or keep in tandem with Brubaker’s thesis, a thesis that loses much of its credibility when Brubaker asserts that “the idea of North African immigrants being or becoming French remains much more plausible and natural than the idea of Turkish immigrants being or becoming German.”

I wonder if Brubaker has been to France to witness for himself the extent to which visible minorities are discriminated against. Sometimes German Turks do not want to assimilate or become German (notwithstanding that until recently, some of them could not). However, not being “German” does not mean you cannot be a Berliner. To expect immigrants to only be loyal to one nation state is to completely misunderstand the dynamic nature of human social interaction across nations and cultures, and the “bastardization of culture(s)” that follows as a result of this process.



Filed under academia, brubaker, democracy, france, freedom, germany, hansen, human rights, hypocrisy, ignorance, imperialism, irrational, liberalism, liberty, neocolonialism, pathologies, Policy, politics, postcolonialism, questions, school, symbols, Uncategorized, university

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