Research Seminar

David Miller - Controlling Immigration in the Name of Self-Determination

Date: 6 February
Time: 10:00-12:00

David Miller, Professor of Political Theory, FBA, Senior Research Fellow, Nuffield College


States often justify their restrictive immigration policies by appealing to their right of self-determination.  Yet it is not obvious why including new people in the demos should threaten self-determination provided democratic decision procedures are maintained.  I explore this question first through a closer examination of the meaning and value of self-determination, specifying four conditions that a group must satisfy in order to be self-determining.  I then indicate the reasons why large-scale immigration might undermine these conditions.  Finally I examine two possible objections to the claim that self-determination can provide grounds for controlling immigration.  The first challenges the way in which the ‘self’ in self-determination has been constituted, and argues that it should be expanded to include prospective immigrants.  The second claims that the arguments used to justify immigration controls could also be used to justify expelling current citizens, thereby showing that they are indefensible.

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