Sébastien Chauvin, Blanca Garcés-MascareÑas (2020)

Contradictions in the Moral Economy of Migrant Irregularity

Ch.3 in Migrants with Irregular Status in Europe. Edited by Sarah Spencer and Anna Triandafyllidou. SpringerOpen, 2020.

Despite their rhetorical emphasis on enforcement, contemporary governments have overseen a process of formal semi-inclusion of irregular migrants. This chapter calls for a clearer conceptual distinction between sovereignty and governmentality to argue that simultaneous exclusion and inclusion does not primarily result from a gap between law in the books and law in practice, nor from external constraints imposed on the state, but rather follows from contradictory public rationalities in the realm of migration management. Those contradictions result in a messy, multidimensional, and continuous citizenship regime that cannot not be fully grasped through reified dichotomies such as formal vs informal, structure vs agency, or legal exclusion vs performative acts of inclusion, as the latter ironically rely on an overly homogenous and self-consistent picture of the modern state. We hypothesize that the structural imperatives of governmentality, which require embracing the population as it is, may account for the relative stability of forms of incorporation over time while moral and legal justifications for it come and go in a more fluctuating way. These structural concerns— public health, public education, public safety, economic and urban planning — could turn out to be of deeper long-term relevance to contemporary states than more superficial or “ideological” considerations such as human rights compliance or humanitarian compassion.