The Challenge of Migration. Is Liberalism the Problem?

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The challenge of developing humane migration and refugee politics in Western states is far from resolved. This ongoing failure is typically attributed to the increased influence of right-wing populism and neo-fascism in Western migration politics. In this article I discuss a more radical explanation: Christoph Menke argues that political liberalism and its framing of migration as an issue of subjective human rights is the deeper root of the problem. While the merit of Menke’s approach is its criticism of subjectification through individual rights that blocks politics, I show that his Critique of Rights may lead to an anti-pluralist and paternalistic ‘radical republicanism’. To react to this problem, I propose a ‘reflective liberalism’ that allows to criticise subjectification without abandoning the form of individual rights. This position, which I develop through a discussion of Foucault’s concept of ‘freedom as critique’, shows that in addition to protecting minorities such as migrants, individual rights turn out to be part of a regime of critical subjectification that constitutes critical subjects. Such critical subjectification by law can help to break through the blockade of politics that prevent the development of humane migration and refugee politics.
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Archival date: 2021-04-30
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