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Implications of Migration For The Contemporary State: paradoxes of Conventional statehood in Liberal World Order

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Predominant theories of international relations have conceptualised the state as a self-evidently autonomous legal entity, primary source of world power, and the predominant if not exclusive arbiter of authority over its populace. This specific and somewhat static conception of the state has considerably influenced ways in which contemporary migration has been constructed in literature and referred to in policy circles. Beginning with a literature review of the ways in which more nuanced and complex understandings of the state have evolved beyond this conceptualisation, as well as the significance of these understand- ings for scholarship on migration politics, this paper contextualises the state-migration paradigm within a wider backdrop of liberal order and globalised economic forces, in order to evaluate the migratory implications for contemporary statehood. This critical juxtaposition will illustrate the relationship between migration and the contemporary state as providing a potent framework for exposing a 'liberal paradox', in which competing global economic and domestic security issues vie for prominence. The functional implications arising from the different ways in which states navigate this paradox will be explored through case studies focussing on sovereignty and national identity, economic development, and subversive transnationalism, in which divergent economic and political considerations have driven state responses to migration. This paper demonstrates that migration creates complex and interrelated implications for each of the main components of statehood – a territory defined by physical borders, a distinct population subject to its control, and a sovereign capacity to govern its citizens. Challenging the notion that these characteristics represent immovable virtues of the state, this paper will use migration as a framework to explore their malleability, alongside a critical analysis of how these characteristics have influenced the ways in which governments understand and construct migratory implications as problems to be navigated.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2019

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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