Seeking Homo Economicus: The Canadian State and the Strange Story of the Business Immigration Program

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Abstract:

Through a policy study, this article examines the active but compromised authority of the state as it engages the global “space of flows.” Business immigration programs in close to thirty countries announce the state's intent to domesticate the unruly forces of globalization by enticing its principal agent, homo economicus. With the objective of priming economic development using immigrant capital and proven entrepreneurial skills, the Canadian business program has permitted the entry of nearly 300,000 immigrants, primarily from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Government statistics have emphasized program success in terms of capital invested and jobs created. However, census data and tax-filer returns suggest modest income generation and limited entrepreneurial endeavor by business immigrants. Interviews with government managers reveal that the pressures to meet high immigration targets were accompanied by inadequate monitoring resources that have compromised the state's due diligence. Annual statistics produced under these conditions become an all-too-human text, representing as much the desires of government and immigrants as they do a reliable assessment. The study emphasizes this social embeddedness of immigration at all levels and the passion and persuasion in a fully social context that lie behind the often suprahuman problematic of globalization.

Keywords: globalization; immigrant entrepreneurs; official statistics; transnationalism

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8306.9302010

Publication date: June 1, 2003

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