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Diaspora 2:1 1992 The Political Fallout of International Migration Milton J. Esman Cornell University 1. The Political Economy of Labor Diasporas The argument of this essay can be summarized in ten propositions : 1.High-income and growing economies have a continuing and compelling need for labor; because of low birthrates this demand cannot be fully satisfied from domestic sources. 2.Low-income countries with high rates of population growth generate large and chronic labor surpluses. 3.The coincidence of 1 and 2 above produces irrepressible pressures for large-scale transnational labor migration, legal where possible , illegal where necessary. 4.As the economies of democratic receiving countries become dependent on foreign labor, these diasporas result in minority settlements that persist over time and become permanent. Democratic polities are inhibited from arbitrary treatment or summary expulsion of legally resident aliens. 5.The legal regimes, institutions, and political cultures of receiving countries confront immigrant communities with variable patterns of constraints, controls, and opportunities. Governments that define citizenship in political or cultural terms tend to be relatively open; those that define citizenship in ethnic terms tend to be relatively closed. 6.Discrimination encountered by migrant communities, combined with their desire to maintain their culture, generates political organizations (and actions) that may employ both institutional and noninstitutional methods. 7.The conspicuous presence and political activation ofimmigrant communities produce reactive mobilization and lead to demands among segments of the receiving society to limit or roll back the status of immigrants. 8.Thus, international labor migration to democratic countries forces contentious political issues on the agenda of the receiving polity. 9.The outcomes of such political processes, including the even- Diaspora 2:1 1992 tuai patterns of immigrant incorporation into host societies and polities, depend on interactions between the propensity ofdiasporas to accept membership in the host society and the willingness of the latter to integrate foreigners as full members of the polity. 10. Governments that foster integration encourage individual assimilation but tend to resist official recognition of group pluralism, multiculturalism, or minority political rights. This essay is an exercise in comparative politics. It assumes that where similar circumstances prevail in polities governed by similar democratic norms and processes, similar political responses can be expected. While the formation of labor diasporas, the politics they generate, and their patterns ofincorporation into the polity differ in each country, these are variations on a common theme. The differences can be explained by the legal institutions ofthe host country, its political culture, and the attitudes ofthe diasporas about accepting membership in the host polity. I begin with a brief survey oflabor migration since World War II, then examine in successive sections the politics ofthe Mexican labor diaspora in the United States, North Africans in France, Turks in Germany, and the emergent Asian diasporas in Japan. On the basis ofevidence from three contemporary affluent democratic polities, it is possible to predict that Japan will soon encounter similar political problems on a significant scale. In a final section I shall confirm and expand on the general conclusions that are anticipated in the propositions stated above. 2. Labor Diasporas as Political Actors1 Since the beginnings of recorded history people have migrated across political boundaries. Whole communities have been expelled and forced to migrate, Jews from Spain in 1492, Acadians from Nova Scotia in 1755, Tatars from the Crimea in 1944. Africans and others have been transported across continents in bondage. Migrations have occurred in small groups escaping religious or political persecution . Most often, however, these movements take place in pursuit of economic opportunities and better livelihoods. Since World War II, the rate of transnational migration has accelerated rapidly; World Bank demographers estimate that 80 million people work outside their country oforigin and that by the mid-1990s net annual migration, legal and illegal, across international borders will exceed 1.1 million (Russell and Teitlebaum 1-2). The labor migrations that are the topic of this essay have been driven by two complementary forces: the compelling need for unskilled labor in "First World" industrial and postindustrial economies , and the desperate search for livelihoods in labor-surplus The Political Fallout ofInternational Migration "Third World" countries. These simultaneous push-and-pull forces have been exacerbated by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-1568
Print ISSN
1044-2057
Pages
pp. 3-41
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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