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Migrants' rights and immigrant integration in German political party discourse

[working paper]

Gerdes, Jürgen

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Corporate Editor Universität Bielefeld, Fak. für Soziologie, Centre on Migration, Citizenship and Development (COMCAD)
Abstract "Meanwhile, immigrant integration is one of the top themes of the political and public discourse in Germany. The article explores – based on a content and argumentation analysis of policy documents and parliamentary debates – the political party conceptions of immigrant integration and asks for changing criteria of inclusion and exclusion and the redrawing of discursive as well as legal boundaries between citizens and non-citizens in Germany. By first applying Seyla Benhabib’s "paradox of democratic legitimacy" as a category of analysis and comparison of two parliamentary debates (concerning the 1990 Foreigner Law and the 2004 Immigration Law), it turns out that the formal "legitimacy quality" of arguments, in terms of justifying immigration and integration policies as balancing the interests of the national state with legitimate claims of immigrants, has decreased since Germany’s self-recognition as an immigration country. Second, by exploring how the term integration is defined, used and explained by political representatives and in official documents more recently, a growing interparty consensus is visible, according to which integration is primarily related to education and employability, and corresponding competencies of individual persons. Because of obvious analogies with discourses and laws in social and labor market policies, it is finally argued that the most promising explanation of the current German integration regime places integration within a far-reaching transformation of the German welfare system toward an activation state, in which rights are increasingly made conditional on individual performances that are considered beneficial to collective goals such as the economic development of overall society. Such an interpretation, however, qualifies premature diagnoses regarding a “return of assimilation” or "retreat of multiculturalism" as well as old-fashioned accounts of still existing elements of a former ethno-cultural understanding in Germany and so-called postnational and rights-based approaches." [author's abstract]
Keywords migration; integration; occupational integration; social integration; discourse; politics; social policy; legal policy; legitimation; activation
Classification Migration, Sociology of Migration
Document language English
Publication Year 2010
City Bielefeld
Page/Pages 31 p.
Series COMCAD Working Papers, 90
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