Nationalism and Immigration

Chaim Gans
June 1998
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Jun1998, Vol. 1 Issue 2, p159
Academic Journal
Can the immigration policies of states favor groups with whom they are culturally and historically tied? I shall answer this question here positively, but in a qualified manner. My arguments in support of this answer will be of distributive justice, presupposing a globalist rather than a localist approach to justice. They will be based on a version of liberal nationalism according to which individuals can have fundamental interests in their national culture, interests which are rooted in freedom, identity, and especially in ensuring the meaningfulness of their endeavor. The prevalent means for protecting these interests is the right to national self-determination. Many believe that this right should be conceived of as a right to a state. I shall show that this conception of self-determination implies purely nationalist immigration policies. I shall present reasons for rejecting such policies, reasons which together with other reasons form a strong case against the statist interpretation of the right to self-determination. They form a strong case in favor of understanding self-determination as a bundle of privileges to which nations are entitled within the states dominating their homelands. Some of these privileges have to do with immigration policies. I shall argue for three principles which should regulate these immigration privileges and discuss the relation between them and Israel's Law of Return.


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