Restricting freedom with freedom


This essay focuses on the phenomenon of citizenship from the position that  structures of power consist of a relation, in this case between governed subjects, migrants, and the governing national/supranational state. The Nietzschean standpoint is that every individual and every group has a will, and thereby a power, aimed towards the world. From this perspective, any power relation builds upon the actions of each position involved, in this case the migrants, just as the state.
In western liberal democracies the state can no longer operate without its actions in some way being justified in regard to it’s citizens. This makes the notion of immigration an interesting one. If citizens of the western world can be seen as people who in general hold fairly democratic views (by dogma or true belief), such as basic human rights, then what reasons are there for them to justify the state’s growing limitations upon immigration and deportation of foreigners? In terms which fit in to our construction of power relation, can there be a problematic function found within immigrants’ self positioning that might act as an object for the state to use against them, to put immigrants in a problematic spot which justifies restrictions upon immigration.

Citizenship and migration share today a close bond. Over time one can see a clear trend of citizenship being restricted to include those who are viewed as unproblematic to the state and society and excluding those who are seen as dangerous, problematic to society if given too much power. Though the different types of rights and responsibilities covered by the different statuses surrounding citizenship vary (visa, citizen, asylum seeker, etc. and rights such as right to vote, being included in the welfare system, right to work, etc.) a clear enough trend of exclusion and inclusion according to an individual’s presumed value or problematic position for the state and society can be found and used for a essay’s starting point.
A few examples of groups within society that once were excluded because of their presupposed threat to order and security were the Afro-Americans, who actually through an act of heightened attention on a supposed problematic position had their newly gained rights revoked, the same as for women in Britain.  Women were also seen as a problem if given too much power because of assumed differences in thought and physical value to state and society and were thereby excluded from political rights.
The same trend holds in today’s society. That ex-convicts in the United States still have their right to vote invoked is a clear example of this trend. Today’s times of globalization and migration have made this trend visible even in a global context. For Europe and Sweden the legal status of immigrants and their applications is the clearest sign of this maintained structure. Immigration having been a subject of discussion since at least the 1930s, the urgency of today’s flow of immigrants from war and poverty struck countries, the rise and war against politicized Islamism, and society’s defined by a growing ethnic class-segregation has put the status of these new individuals who enter our society and the resulting actions taken at the top of the discussion board.
In the later years we have even witnessed a growing restrictive and hardened sentiment towards immigration and border control. The project of border control is for example today even active inside Sweden’s borders, with police having the right to randomly stop and ask individuals for their papers.
The discourses of citizenship and the statuses surrounding it are of course intersectional. Me being born in Sweden, growing up in Germany, having a Danish passport and now living in Sweden for 13 years and not having the right to take part in the national vote is certainly different from an Afghani refugee seeking asylum in Sweden. While the same discourses might apply at certain levels the focus of this paper will be on discourses surrounding the stereo typified immigrants if you so will.

Restricted citizenship
The status which migrated individuals receive and/or can aspire to is dependent on the specific assumed value/problem for society.  Restrictions upon dual nationality and change of nationality apply to the same principle as immigrants’ status, having to deal with the fact that a previous nationality and possible problematic attachments may follow individuals into the new country. These problems become ever more heated by conflicts in society being explained as clashes between cultures.
Immigrants in different ways are being defined as problematic justifies the restrictions put upon immigrants and immigration/citizenship. Justified must here be understood in the broader sense. Although certain migration may indeed pose a problem for the state (though these problems often may arise from discourses imbedded not within the new individuals arriving, but structures already at place), one must still give credit to certain public ideals within Swedish and European thought, (how dogmatic or relative these might be) which do emphasize basic human and democratic rights, in principle stopping any democratic government from restricting immigrant’s passage and rights.
As Spinoza writes, every democratic state and all its actions must be justified and tolerated by its citizens for the government to maintain its power.  To summarize this in easier terms, the limitation and restriction upon immigration and immigrant’s rights must be justified by society’s citizens, meaning there must be good enough reason, or the illusion of reason, for the public to agree on the state’s actions towards restrictive immigration and citizenship, besides reason for the state to assume these measures.

Justified restriction
What are then these reasons by which today’s restrictions towards immigration and citizenship are justified? Of course there are many different functions and discourses to be summed up here, and there might be doubt that we will ever understand this entire changing phenomenon. The already mentioned cultural discourse is as stated one of the most urgent dimensions of debate and also one of the fields I myself am dealing with. In my study of the rhetoric of the integration policy of the city of Malmö, I found the notion of culture to be the most interesting one. In my findings, culture becomes the main argument for explaining differences between people and people’s behavior and lives.  On one hand this essentialist view would explain immigrant’s segregation as partly caused by structures within society, but their essential position still being posing a sort of double trouble. The essential finding was that this view of cultural determinism ranged from individual’s physical lives to judgments about their psychological properties and morals. What was even more interesting was the finding of culture acting as a dialectic signifier. Culture becomes the signifier of identification and differentiation in which individuals are essentially defined by their cultural heritage. This gives on one hand the Swedish or European position the possibility to define itself as automatically holding good humane and democratic values.  In the critique of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, this culture is a nihilistic one which isn’t product of individual will but simply a constructed set of identifiable norms that is followed.  One acts/is believed to act well, not out of an individual will, but because of one´s determination under a cultural heritage. On the other hand, the belief and the necessity of this essentialist structure, must, to function for the own definition of self, therefore also apply to others, thereby degrading the unknown other to being defined by its own presumed cultural preferences. The situation, behavior and reasons are thereby seen as a generalized product of cultural determinism.
Against this view I have used the notion of existential constructivism which basically strips the individual from its constructions via culture, identity, etc. While the individual always is tuned into and confronted with the world around here, the way the individual interprets and acts in the world is a relative phenomenon, dependent on the individual in question . Notions of culture, religion, identity, nationhood, are here for seen as constructions which do not carry any right of truth or determination. In Nietzsche’s terms, history and so culture, are perspectives which constantly must be revalued to be able to have a gaining impact on life.
Relating to the Foucauldian approach to power, every position has the ability to somehow combating a power structure, even if these abilities might be very small. My argument here forth will be that the notion of culture in itself, by not being redefined in a way that enforces ones power, may act as one of the barriers which undermine individual’s empowerment within society and even threaten the outlook for immigrants now and in the future.
The structures of cultural determinism, xenophobia, etc. are very much complex as such and can be argued about forever. For our needs culture as a marker for definition and self-definition will do. Bringing it together with this essay’s Foucauldian presupposition, it is one thing for the original ethnic population to have presupposed or badly founded views of immigrants, but this would in turn leave out the immigrant’s own power and part in the upholding or destructing the relationship between these positions. In other words, for the state to enforce restrictiveness towards migration and citizenship, a justification must be upheld by the state and its citizens, which in turn must find some valid reason to hold on to these beliefs. An explanation that would put the blame in xenophobic and racist sentiment seems to narrow minded here as it would also undermine the basic Foucauldian structure that power always is a relationship between at least two interacting positions. For a general public to reproduce beliefs about immigrants, the immigrant’s own part, responsibility and opportunity in reinforcing or combating these beliefs become a necessary part of the power structure. This is not to misinterpret at freeing any position from responsibility, rather it follows the harsh reality of any power structure always being relational. In Foucault’s terms, even the most oppressed person always has the possibility of committing suicide or killing the master.   Although governing and dominant structures of power are something to be avoided and worked against, one should not refrain from the fact that there is a part, a responsibility and an opportunity in all positions within any power structure.  In the case of immigrants one must therefore also take hold of how these individuals themselves uphold or combat these power structures and what structures might prevent them to.

The culture problem
Connecting to the notion of culture, as I have proposed culture today acts as one of the furthest ways to categorize one self and others. This causes a problem within modern and postmodern theory which calls to attention the (re)productive tendencies of society’s own problematic identities. Foucault has shown us how the institutionalization of individuals may enhance or even foster the same problematic identity it was supposed to suppress.  Also Anthony Giddens talks about this structure, writing that the modern individual chooses from different identities believing this choice being up to her, while it really being the institutionalized and socialized boundaries of identity in which the individual finds herself within which she chooses an identity . If immigrant’s lives today in a high degree are being determined by cultural signifiers which explain their lives and behavior, what other role does culture play in the upholding of this power structure, which ultimately puts citizenship and migration in a problematic spot.
Here there are some historical implications. Kivisto and Faist show us that the Afro-Americans first gain of right which differed from the movement in the 20th century by its emphasis of morally unjustified empowerment against the later empowerment that should be justified not by own initiative and self empowerment, but by the claim of basic human rights, resulting in claims for affirmative action.  In other words, rights were no longer to be taken, they were to be given. They also refer to this same problematic within today’s welfare states where rights are often taken for granted, not worked for.  What differs is the self empowerment if you so will, the own manifestation against an opposite power .
This structural change is also noted by Kofman and her critique of the 20th century feminist movement. What she adds to our discussion is her critique of later feminism which I would summarize as claiming rights not for women as human individuals, but for women as women. Hence, there is an emphasis on a basic right of women resembling a form of affirmative action, affirming women as women.
Applying there structures, in theory, to the dimension of ethnicity and culture, it paints an interesting picture. Apparently there has been a trend for marginalized groups to be claiming rights with the claim of both moral justification and it’s affirmativeness towards its individual’s being, reflective of the modern discourse on identity. Could this sort of affirmative ideology also be part of the multicultural discourse, part of the debate of migration and citizenship? The modern discourse in the creation of identity reproduces its own subjects, risking forming immigrants into the problematic position they are assumed to inherit. The multicultural and neoliberal focus on culture as something defining for individuals may in turn even trigger a self-consciousness which relates itself to certain cultural traits while at the same time excusing it.

Problems for the future
The discourses described become potentially threatening to immigrants safety in their residency and future immigrants possibilities of migration. If discourses of identity produce a certain kind of cultural image which individuals risk to adapt to, and if cultural essentialism may explain and justify certain culturally explained behavior, taking away the need for any cultural identity to change to become appealing, or at least not appalling, the problematic positioning of a few may come back to haunt the majority of immigrants not having any part in this. If claims such as incorporating certain laws of Sharia are made by enough individuals to create at least the sense of a threat, then there is the risk for, and I believe there will be, a drastic breakdown of political and social rights for immigrants and even more restrictive migration, if the borders are not closed at all. There is the risk that once again the many will have to suffer for the acts of few – that rights are everlasting is not a given, we have already seen how fast such processes can be and it would be idiotic to follow Hegel’s belief of the Western world today being history’s final result.

I believe British commentator and debater Douglas Murray is quite on point when he in a debate stated that neoliberalism does not know how to defend itself. One can translate this into several meanings, but I believe what he was trying to say was that basically the neoliberal idea of multiculturalism has reached a point of self-contradictory. On one hand neoliberalism and its multicultural system defends culture and religion as part of basic human rights of expression thereby tolerating social cultural and religious expressions that are not one’s own. This has become problematic with the multicultural system acting as a shield for not only radical views, but also a social agreement over cultural presuppositions being essentially part of all individual’s self. Except for discourses that actually foster there problematic identities, this also results in the minority of actually problematic individuals becoming indistinguishable from those none problematic, both share a common cultural markers. This problematic view upon immigrants does indeed in result justify restrictive citizenship migration politics for immigrants may per sé be defined as a problem for society. Where this will lead in the future I believe it quite clear. I do not see any ethnic takeover of Sharia laws or any such happening as many radicals might have it. Rather, before such a point might ever be reached, the intrusion of problematic individuals through immigration will result in the deportation of immigrants and the closing of borders.
To make sure that individuals in the future can continue to find safe havens in the world, the responsibility is not only on, in this case, Sweden or Europe to fight for humane and democratic values, it must also be up to the newly arriving individuals to actively make sure that these principles can be put and kept in place. Rights must be taken, not given . Even if this means that religious and cultural traits must be put away.
The problematic notions surrounding immigrant’s own part in upholding power structures that threaten their legal status and possibilities in life has opened for quite a few areas if inquiry. On one hand it has enabled the decentralizing of ethnicity as an existing phenomenon per sé and instead points towards underlying structures such as class, structures within the welfare states, etc. On the other hand, it has, by focusing on individual’s own part in every power relation, put forth the problem of cultural determination. From the existential worldview my approach derives from, culture, religion, and every such phenomenon must be viewed as constructions which may be used by individual’s to enhance their lives, but shouldn’t be used in an essentialist way meaning not being able to adept culture or oneself to the required circumstances. What the secularization of the western world meant was a loosening up of moral values, where individuals for themselves had to find out what was good and what was evil. Though this secularization is a questionable one, fact remains that freedom of religion, meaning freedom of dogma, has been one of the western notions of democracy and freedom. The paradox arises when an essential freedom, the freedom of religion and culture, actually undermine individual’s freedom, or in the worst case, collide with other freedoms.

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Spinoza, Benedict –A Theological Treatise and A Political Treatise– Dover, New York 2004
Yuval-Davis, Nira – Women, Citizenship and Difference, Palgrave Macmillan Journals


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