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Brexit: a requiem for the post-national society?

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The 'fourth freedom' of freedom of movement of persons – somewhat misleadingly labelled 'European citizenship' – lay at the normative heart of the European project. Although sceptics have often suggested it was part of the building of a European fortress, or even a last gasp of elite European colonial privilege, the essential point of EU freedom of movement was its revolutionary introduction of a regionally expansive non-discrimination by nationality, going well beyond established abstract notions of 'personhood' and human rights on which other global egalitarian movements depend. For sure, it had been battered by roll back in national courts, suspension of Schengen, and new external borderings, well before the Brexit vote. Yet the practice of the fourth freedom in terms of everyday transactions and interactions struck at the heart of the core of the modern Hobbesian nation state: its sovereignty to decide on the boundaries of its own, increasingly de-territorialised population, which was also its power to shore up the most potent source of global inequalities – the birthright lottery which protects the 'wealth of nations' and the privileges of democratic 'peoples' from the unbounded effects of de-territorialised mobilities. As we are also seeing – and hearing among many ostensibly progressive academic voices – the putatively egalitarian voice of people's democracy can be used to further bolster the shrinkage of moral community within the nation state. The essay takes upon itself to evaluate what is being lost normatively in terms of the return of the national – methodologically as much as politically – as the slow motion car crash of Brexit happens and after it takes place.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 2019

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  • Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented journal of applied contemporary thought operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The Journal's scope is broad, encouraging interrogation of current affairs with regard to core questions of distributive justice, wellbeing, cultural diversity, autonomy, sovereignty, security and recognition. All issues are themed and aimed at addressing pressing issues as they emerge. Rejecting the notion that publication is the final stage in the research process, Global Discourse seeks to foster discussion and debate between often artificially isolated disciplines and paradigms, with responses to articles encouraged and conversations continued across issues.

    The Journal features a mix of full-length articles, each accompanied by one or more replies, policy papers commissioned by organizations and institutions and book review symposia, typically consisting of three reviews and a reply by the author(s). With an international advisory editorial board consisting of experienced, highly-cited academics, Global Discourse publishes themed issues on topics as they emerge. Authors are encouraged to explore the international dimensions and implications of their work.

    All research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening and double-blind peer review. All submissions must be in response to a specific call for papers.

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