Bolstering the National Project: Competitive Nation Building and Immigration Policies in Catalonia, Israel and Quebec
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This study examines elite preference formation with regard to immigration and incorporation policies in contentious spaces. The latter category encompasses states, federal units, and regions in which competing nationally-defined autochthonous groups or central states promote national projects that espouse divergent visions of the polity’s overall identity and institutional structure. I posit that the existing theories of immigration are insufficient to account for the policy preferences that emerge in these polities. In order to bridge this gap, the study traces and analyzes evidence from the cases of Israel, Quebec, and Catalonia for the purpose of examining the determinants of temporal change in elite preferences vis-à-vis immigration. I argue that despite the significant differences among these three polities with regard to their level of autonomy, the nature of inter-group competition, and the particular forms of immigration they have experienced, all three cases demonstrate a strong reciprocal relationship between the nation-building strategies that are employed by dominant groups on the one hand and the immigration policies they implement on the other. Examining evidence from the three cases, this study advances four principal arguments. First, in all three cases, the dynamics of competitive nation building constitute a primary lens through which domestic elites perceive immigration and formulate immigration policies. Second, dominant elites in contentious spaces view immigration and incorporation policies primarily in instrumental terms as a means of bolstering their nation-building projects, increasing their autonomy, or promoting conflict management. Third, the temporal variation in immigration policies that occurs in these contentious spaces is also substantially shaped by intra-group competition among political parties within the dominant group itself that promote divergent visions of the national project. Finally, migrant settlement policies that are initially devised in order to bolster or preserve the dominant group’s national project can profoundly transform both the very nature of that national project and the contours of the host society’s social boundaries.
- Political science