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Breaking promises to keep them: immigration and the boundaries of distributive justice

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Theories of distributive justice have great difficulties in conceptualizing immigration as a political rather than a moral problem. Exploring the reasons for this reductive move, and explaining why it is self-defeating, this paper argues that immigration poses a thoroughly political problem because spatial boundaries are posited from the first-person plural perspective of a ‘we.’ Yet the politics of boundaries deployed in immigration policy are also necessarily problematic: while polities claim a right to include and exclude aliens because a territory is held to be the own place of their citizens, an act of inclusion and exclusion gives rise to a ‘we.’ This circularity disrupts—without effacing—the inside/outside and right/fact distinctions that underpin the right to closure polities claim for themselves. The stake of this disruption is temporal no less than spatial: as polities close themselves into a legal space through a mutual promise to which there is no direct access, distributive justice requires that authorities decide what promises had been made in the light of boundary crossings that determine what promises can be kept.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/24651/1/WPS03-2007Lindahl.pdf

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