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Migration and development : a theoretical perspective ; paper presented at the conference on ‘Transnationalisation and Development(s): Towards a North-South Perspective’, Center for Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld, Germany, May 31 - June 01, 2007

Migration und Entwicklung : eine theoretische Perspektive
[conference paper]

Haas, Hein de

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Corporate Editor Universität Bielefeld, Fak. für Soziologie, Centre on Migration, Citizenship and Development (COMCAD)
Abstract "This paper aims to put the debate on migration and development in a broader historical perspective of migration theory in particular and social theory in general. The scholarly debate on migration and development has tended to swing back and forth like a pendulum, from developmentalist optimism in the 1950s and 1960s, to structuralist and neo-Marxist pessimism and scepticism over the 1970s and 1980s, to more nuanced views influenced by the new economics of labour migration, "livelihood" approaches and the transnational turn in migration studies as of the 1990s. Such discursive shifts in the scholarly debate on migration and development should be primarily seen as part of more general paradigm shifts in social theory. The shift that occurred over the 1990s was part of a more general shift away from grand structuralist or functionalist theories towards more pluralist, hybrid and structuralist approaches attempting to reconcile structure and actor perspectives. However, attempts to combine different theoretical perspectives are more problematic than sometimes suggested due to incommensurability issues and associated disciplinary divisions. Since 2000, there has been a remarkable, and rather sudden, renaissance of optimistic views, in particular in the policy debate, as well as a boom in empirical work on migration and development. This has coincided with the rediscovery of remittances as a 'bottom up' source of development finance and the celebration of the transnational engagement of migrants with the development of their origin societies. However, such optimism has tended to go along with a striking level of amnesia of decades of prior research. Migration and development is anything but a new topic. The accumulated empirical and theoretical evidence stress the fundamentally heterogeneous nature of migration-development interactions as well as their contingency on spatial and temporal scales of analysis and more general processes of social and economic change, which should forestall any blanket assertions on migrationdevelopment interactions. Current policy and scholarly discourses naively celebrating migration, remittances and transnational engagement as self-help development 'from below' also shift attention away from the relevance of structural constraints and the important role states and other institutions play in shaping favourable general conditions for social and economic development to occur. This raises the fundamental question whether the recent shift towards optimistic views reflects a veritable change in (increasingly transnationally framed) migration-development interactions, the use of other methodological and analytical tools, or is rather the deductive echo of a general paradigm shift from dependency and state-centrist to neoliberal and neoclassical views in general. The lack of theoretical rootedness and largely descriptive nature of much empirical work has haunted the improvement of theories. As a result of the general lack of a common theoretical thread, most empirical work - especially from outside migration economics - remains isolated, scattered, and theoretically underexplored. Real progress in the understanding of the factors determining the fundamental heterogeneity of migration and development interactions is only possible if more empirical work is designed to test theoretically derived hypotheses and, hence, to improve the generalized understanding of migration-development interactions." (author's abstract)

Contents: 1. Introduction; 2. General migration theories; 2.1. The neo-classical equilibrium perspective; 2.2. Historical-structural theory and asymmetric growth; 2.3. Questioning the push-pull framework; 3. Towards a transitional migration theory; 3.1. The mobility transition; 3.2. The migration hump; 4. Internal dynamics and feedbacks: networks and migration systems; 4.1. Social capital, chain migration and network theory; 4.2. Migration systems theory; 5. Migration and development optimists vs. pessimists; 5.1. The dawning of a new era: developmentalist views; 5.2. The migrant syndrome: cumulative causation and structuralist views; 5.3. Towards a pluralist perspective; 6. Pluralist views on migration and development interactions; 6.1. New economics of labour migration (NELM); 6.2. Migration as a household livelihood strategy; 6.3. A transnational perspective on migration and development; 7. New empirical insights into migration and development; 8. Synthesis; 9. Conclusion.
Keywords development; development aid; development aid policy; developing country; industrial nation; theory; development theory; migration; migration research; migration policy; migrant; family; native country; funding
Classification Sociology of Developing Countries, Developmental Sociology; Migration, Sociology of Migration
Method descriptive study
Document language English
Publication Year 2007
City Bielefeld
Page/Pages 82 p.
Series COMCAD Working Papers, 29
Status Published Version
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
data provider This metadata entry was indexed by the Special Subject Collection Social Sciences, USB Cologne