Citizenship, Migration and the Market

If you are unaware, the UK’s coalition government have designed a new citizenship test that, based on the Guardian’s 10 sample questions, is easier than its predecessor. So, at least there may be some pragmatic benefits to the test now.

Yet, this citizenship test is still tightly bound to the idea of migration points whereby the more qualified, needed and wanted you are, the more likely you will have your visa approved. This would seem to have a number of effects from an individual perspective. First, one would assume that people who want to migrate will do more to increase their human, social and cultural capital. Second, it may tighten loopholes with regards to non-EU migration. And third… No, nothing. To be honest, I was scraping the bottom of the barrel on number two. 

In my mind, deciding who you let in to a country based solely on the country’s need kind of invalidates the point of migration. It’s a form of international NIMBYism. ‘If you don’t want your poor people, why the hell would we want them?!’. But more than this, it turns the state system in to another arm of the market. The ethos behind points systems is developing a ‘competitive’ workforce through attracting the best of the best in various professions. But operating such a system shuts out the vast majority of the global population – those without access to decent education and training for example. Just as I mentioned in my random thoughts on inequality and poverty, if you do not have the wherewithal to build social capital in the first place, how can you ever hope to reach the level required to make migration worthwhile? The free market is only open and ‘free’ for those who can afford to participate in it in the first place.

The other thing that a points based migration system highlights is that it is not really the state that controls immigration and emigration. The state may still have control of the bureaucracy of migration, but it is business and capital that influences who comes in and goes out; points change based on what (almost always skilled) professions are needed at what time. This will essentially create more noticeable class cleavages – not only within states but between states. Perhaps as regional entities such as the EU develop further, this may become more of a regional issue. This could pose interesting (and potentially exciting) questions about the nature (or indeed existence) of transnational classes.

Furthermore humans become more commodified, developing legitimacy through such migration policies being implemented in democracies. If you want a better life for yourself and your family, it seems that your only option would be to play by the rules of the game. Therefore before you even start you are already at a disadvantage. Lastly, this partially fulfills one of the oldest tricks in the book: divide and rule. There is now competition for jobs within, between and beyond states.

Though perhaps such policies, if enacted across the world, would help develop a truly cosmopolitan society where allegiance to the imagined community becomes a thing of the past?

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