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Hanieh, Adam (2018) 'The Contradictions of Global Migration.' Socialist Register, 55.

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Abstract

What is it about the present moment that has propelled the issue of migration to the centre of political debate, and how should we respond to the emergence of Trumpism and other anti-migrant movements across the globe? For many, the answers to these questions are largely found at an ideological level, with the rise of a newly branded right representing a resurgence of protectionism, a narrow parochial outlook, and a national chauvinism epitomized in slogans such as ‘Make America Great Again’. Running through most conventional perspectives is a conception of migration as a contingent epiphenomenon of the world economy; one that arises from a variety of factors ‘somewhere else’ and ends up at ‘our’ borders demanding a policy response. In this essay, I propose that this framing is not only false, but that it also leads to a set of political problems for those concerned with building campaigns to support migrant struggles today. In place of such perspectives, I argue that we need to situate migration as an internal feature of how capitalism actually functions at the global scale – a movement of people that is relentlessly generated by the movement of capital, and which, in turn, is constitutive of the concrete forms of capitalism itself. Only from this global perspective can we understand the recent rise of racism and xenophobia, and the profound changes in how borders operate and are managed throughout much of the world. Most importantly, such a perspective allows us to sketch what an effective solidarity with migrants might look like. In making this argument, I focus on three interconnected features of migration in the current period. First, I examine how migration arises from the inherent dynamics of capitalism: a totalising system of accumulation that continually generates multiple forms of dispossession. I then turn to look at the instrumental role of borders in these dynamics, analysing the ways in which borders act to demarcate various forms of difference within national and global labour markets (including the value of labour power, and the construction of categories such as race and illegality). Finally, migration is also essential to how periods of crisis unfold and are perceived – a theme that is explored in the final section of this essay. Precisely because of the centrality of migration to capital accumulation, a very large proportion of the world’s population has been integrated into global financial circuits through the sending and receiving of remittances. At moments of economic downturn, this relationship permits the (partial) spatial displacement of crisis through the corridors of migration and remittance flows. Moreover, migration itself is frequently portrayed in terms of ‘crisis’ – most notably in the case of the millions of people now displaced across the Middle East and around the Mediterranean Sea. In this latter case, I show how the framing of migration as crisis is being utilized as a means to further deepen neoliberal market-led development models throughout much of the affected region.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Development Studies
ISSN: 00810606
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2018 10:35
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/26429

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