Path dependence - immigration

By Daniek Zomer

In this web-post, I explain how the immigration crisis can be explained through application of the path dependency theory. I argue that this outcome can be traced back to the development of nation states along their extension of citizenship laws through which the state defined its members. 

Events such as the French Revolution and American Constitutionalism were critical junctures that broke the ties and obligations of the individual towards the ancient regime. Consequently, these revolutions changed citizenship into an egalitarian condition, supported by a legal constitution that granted the protection of individual-rights by national institutions. At the same time, nation-states developed due to this, as citizenship laws defined the terms of belonging to the nation-state, by birth or ancestry (jus soli/ jus sanguinins). Hence, the essence of a nation-state is the institution of citizenship. 

This institutional framework provided a stable and cohesive political context in which the nation state had political power and granted rights to people living on its territory. Moreover, both models are means to define national identity. However, it also determined the definition of alien others. This has long not been problematic. 

Nevertheless, the nation-state model faces challenges these days. Such as, globalization and technological high-speed networks which reduce central control and the role of national government. This complicates the institutional path in which nation-states long have functioned as it blurs the lines of territory and increases diversity of the citizens that belong in one society. 

Thus, vague boundaries and diverse identities undermine the concept of cultural belonging to a homogeneous nation. As such, new approaches of citizenship are necessary, which include collective identities that permit many people to belong to more than one society.