Tag Archives: citizenship

Citizenship and the emotions: The glue that keeps democratic societies together

The question I want to ask is if emotions can and do have any role in forming and regulating democratic citizenship. We can ask if emotions and feelings might have any positive role in politics in general. This is a good and reasonable question, but I want to narrow it down and approach it from the point of view of citizenship in a democratic society. This means I must give an account of citizenship in a democratic context and of feelings and emotions and how they might possibly contribute to citizenship in democracy, establish and strengthen the glue that is necessary to prevent faction and strife getting out of hand.

I guess the traditional view is that feelings and emotions are causes of strife rather than contributors to a well-functioning democracy. This view may be justified by the distinction between reason and feelings, reason being the calm voice of unity and feelings being the uncontrolled and irrational force causing disruption and chaos. But when emotions and feelings are properly analysed and understood they are not uncontrollable and irrational even though they may be resistant to the voice of reason. When everything is normal, they work in unison with reason, they are part of a well-ordered human rationality forming a whole human being. This does not mean that reason is the overarching, supreme psychological faculty that must reign and be respected but it means that emotions and feelings are part of the make-up of every human being, and they serve an important purpose in a good life just like reason.

Citizen and citizenship

A citizen is an individual located in and a member of a political entity, usually a state, the relation to the political entity is called citizenship. This must be an authoritative political entity controlling a territory because being a member of a social group like a football club does not entitle us to claim citizenship. This sort of social group is not of the right type. Being a citizen is complex and it varies from state to state, what conditions must be fulfilled for a person to become a citizen. Usually, we think of citizenship as a binary concept, either one is a citizen or not a citizen. But the world of citizenship is more complex than that. States confer citizenship on the individuals living within their territories. Two conditions for citizenship are common, if a child is born on the state´s territory it is entitled to become a citizen, if the parents are citizens of the state where a child is born it is entitled to citizenship in this state. Sometimes a state gives persons a right to stay in its territory if that person has lived for a certain number of years within its boundaries or her right to stay may be dependent on relations with a citizen or somebody who has a right to stay. Those who have a right to stay and those who have dependent rights do not usually have a right to vote, for example, and are therefore not full citizens in modern democratic states.

Being a citizen is usually limited to fully mature human beings and it varies between states when individuals become fully mature, 16 years, 18 years or even 20 years. In modern democracies being able to vote is aligned with ideas about moral maturity. So, children do not have the right to vote, and the idea is that they have not achieved the understanding necessary to know what electing a representative involves. Animals do not have a right in democratic politics and no standing as citizens and the same applies to nature. But children have interests just like animals and nature and decisions by democratic politicians can have serious consequences for them. Hence, it has been argued that these groups should be able to influence the political process however we try to bring that about. If the arguments for including these groups in the political process are successful, then the number of citizens increases and the interests that need to be considered in the political process will multiply. This is mentioned here just to point out that in modern philosophy and politics the notion of who is a citizen seems to be changing.

This leads naturally to a question about what kind of concept the concept of citizen is. It seems to me that there is a clear central example that demonstrates the accepted meaning of citizenship which is the example of the citizen of a state. Admittedly, citizenship is complex and there are examples where it is not quite clear if they are instances of citizenship or not, but this does not justify claiming that the concept of citizenship is essentially contested (Cohen & Ghosh, 2019). It is certainly contested and the scope of the meaning of the concept seems to be widening but the notion of essentially contested concepts is suspect (Kristjánsson, 2022, 1-2). I take it that citizenship is a contested concept but not essentially so and we can rationally analyse its core and discuss its boundaries, its evolution, and changes.

I think it is also important to distinguish between the concepts we use and the social arrangements and structures that develop around the referents of these concepts. It is not obvious that social structures and social arrangements affect the meaning of social terms or categories. It seems to me that the meaning of social terms like rights or citizenship is independent of social structures and arrangements even though we adopt the conferral view of social properties (Ásta, 2018, 7-9). The basic idea in the conferral view is that others confer on us social properties, being popular is a social property constituted by the attitudes of others to us. The feelings of many others towards us confer on us the property of being popular. This view of social properties does not necessarily lead to the view that social terms or social concepts change their meaning when the constitution of social properties changes, e.g. if we come to the view that social properties are response-dependent rather than conferred by others.

It is sometimes argued that the meaning of citizenship has changed when social arrangements changed, for example, when women were accepted as citizens with the same rights as men. It hardly needs saying that this acknowledgement was only the first step on a longer road to full equality with men dealing with all the structures and social arrangements that prevented women from being citizens in the same way as men. The first thing to notice is that saying the meaning of citizenship has changed because of this development is ambivalent. The meaning in the sense of the role citizenship plays in the lives of men and women who are citizens has changed, women nowadays have the same responsibilities and the same political status as men and the social arrangements preventing women from living their lives as full citizens are slowly changing. In the Nordic countries this is true and in other European countries but in other parts of the world there is a different story to be told. The second thing to notice is that this development has not changed the meaning of the concept of citizenship. The extension of the concept has widened because of this change in law and the development of the social standing of women has gradually enabled them to enjoy the benefits of citizenship. But the meaning of the concept of citizenship has not changed.

In an anarchical state with open borders it makes sense to talk about citizenship. In such a state the social arrangements for the citizens as a group would certainly be different from what we see in the nation states of the present world. In a tyranny citizenship is very different from a democracy. Despite this it seems to me in all these cases it would make sense to talk about citizens and citizenship.

My suggestion for a core meaning of the concept of citizenship is that being a citizen is a status or standing in a political entity. Being a citizen means that your residence in a territory, your being born in that territory or your having parents that live in that territory, to name some prominent examples, fulfil the conditions required by that political entity, most often a state, and your citizenship consists in a relation to that political entity. The conditions for being a citizen can vary enormously from one political entity to another, but it seems to me that in practically all the cases considered we are talking about a relation between an individual and a political entity like a state.

What does this relation involve? As should be clear by now that the content of citizenship can vary radically between one constitutional order and another. In an anarchy the content would be minimal, you only owe it to the population at large not to attempt to coerce others to perform actions they would otherwise not have performed, the freedom of each and all of us and our right to non-intervention by others must be respected by others. In a tyranny you would have obligations to follow the decisions of the state but no rights against the state, the most prominent obligation would be to obey the orders of the state and not to resist them, however evil they might be. But in the typical case the relation to the state would involve a mixture of rights and obligations, a right to protection and security, to justice, and obligations to pay taxes, follow the law and in many cases bear arms. In most constitutional orders we would expect to find a mixture of rights and obligation.

In modern democracies the mixture of rights and obligations does typically include the right to free expression of one´s views, to freedom of association and the right to participate in governing the society where you live and the obligations to pay taxes, reject violence, use evidence and truth to convince others of your views, and in some modern democracies there is an obligation to participate by voting. One thing to notice about the rights mentioned here is that they are typical human rights and most of them are included in many modern human rights contracts. It is a fundamental feature of the modern conception of human rights that they are rights of individuals, and these rights are considered to be independent of the constitutional order where the individuals live. Citizenship, as described here, is different from human rights, it is a relation between an individual and a political entity and it depends on the constitutional order of that entity how citizenship is understood, in some constitutional orders it only includes obligations, in others it includes both rights and obligations. The conditions each political entity lays down as necessary for citizenship determine who can count as a citizen and who cannot count as a citizen in that political demos or polity. Many of the concepts we use have a clear meaning and the speakers know the referents of the concept. Others do not have clear boundaries but do not cause any problems for speakers in understanding what is being talked about. The boundaries of the concept of citizenship are in many respects not clear even though the legal processes for establishing citizenship clear up the issue who is a citizen and who is not. The legal processes are social arrangements the polity in question has decided to use for clarifying who is a citizen and who is not. These legal processes can be used when non-citizens want to enter the territory being controlled by the polity. A polity with clear legal practices on who counts as a citizen can adopt an open border policy. The experience of those who are citizens and those who are not can be shaped by the social arrangements for good or ill but the distinction between the concepts citizens and non-citizens is not an automatic foundation for these arrangements.


Democracy has been the dominant social order in many parts of the world for over a century and spread all over the globe in the last decades of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty first. Yet its prospects are not good, oligarchy and tyranny are on the rise in the world and violence and destructive tendencies like populism are gaining ground in established democracies. Economic growth is no longer a pacifier for democratic orders because it has serious negative consequences for the natural world and democratic governments are more reluctant to redistribute increased personal and social wealth. These developments in modern democracies raise many questions and one of the more important ones is about citizenship: What is the role of the citizen in a democracy? When confronting this question, we must address the fact that democracy is in some ways a special case in the varieties of the constitutional orders. Usually, the major threat to the established order is the possibility of faction, dissension or even revolt. In an oligarchy or tyranny this problem is dealt with by imprisoning those disagreeing with the authorities or even killing them. But it is a basic fact about democracy that it encourages differences of opinions, we expect that every citizen can form her own opinion and voice it if she pleases. This can easily lead to heated discussions, deep differences of opinion and social unrest, in extreme cases to revolts or revolutions. This is a consequence of the rights of democratic citizens, they have the right to form their own opinions and express them, they have the right to establish any associations they want, even revolutionary ones, if they operate within the rules of the democratic order. This raises the question what holds democracies together, how can they survive if it is part of their structure to encourage divisions of these sorts? One way of investigating this is to ask: How should we understand democratic citizenship? Do feelings and emotions contribute to democratic citizenship? Answers to these questions might throw light on how democracies survive turbulent times and can be more resilient than tyrannies and oligarchies.

There are various ways of understanding democratic citizenship. First, it needs pointing out that the basic idea in democracy is that the political power is rooted in the will of the citizens. The obvious question about this statement is: How do the citizens express their will? There are different ways of doing that, talking publicly at meetings, writing articles in newspapers, creating podcasts, or expressing your opinions on social media. In normal times those expressing their views should not have to worry about their lives, jobs, or careers if their views are within reasonable bounds. But the expression of views in media of whichever type does not create a general will of the citizens. We need a more formal procedure for enabling the general will to form. We might create a forum for rational discussion of all interested citizens and aim for unanimity about an issue being discussed at the end. We might conduct an election about a particular issue or a general election in which political parties took part. These two types of elections are the most common methods to try to figure out the general will of the citizens. All the possibilities mentioned here are imperfect ways of figuring out the general will. Rational discussion about one proposal is a lengthy way of forming the general will and there is no guarantee it will lead to a definite conclusion. Elections about issues simplify complex matters, usually we are asked to say yes or no to a specific issue, and political parties offer a mix of views and attitudes to citizens and citizens may find it difficult to figure out where they stand and what to choose.

How should a citizen make up her mind when deciding how to vote? I think it is fair to say that no modern democracy is possible without voting, any polity that says it is democratic but never votes on anything may not be contradicting itself, but it is saying something that in practice does not seem to be possible. So, it is reasonable to ask how a citizen in a democracy should make up her mind when deciding to vote.

One way of trying to understand how a citizen should conduct herself as part of the power base of democracy is to use her reason and think of herself as guided by self-interest. The basic idea is then that when all citizens have made up their minds about an issue or how to vote in an election then we get a rational collective decision based on the rational evaluation of the self-interest of every citizen. There is no denying that this model of citizens and their behaviour can be a powerful explanatory tool. But it has its problems. First, it is only a model, citizens make up their minds on various grounds, some on self-interested ones, others on other-interested ones. Second, one of the logical consequences of this model is that the citizen cannot have a rational reason to vote, the costs of trying to understand issues and going to vote always outweigh the possible benefits to the self-interested citizen. This means that the citizen never or hardly ever has a motive to vote and a strong motive to be ignorant of the public issues in her polity. Third, if it is only self-interest that is in play in public decisions there is no way to discern the importance of public issues except by counting votes. This is highly counterintuitive. I suggest that we put this model of the citizen aside.

I think we should start by some assumptions that can be reasonably made about most citizens in modern democracies. The first assumption is that people who live in a democracy share a way of living together. The reason is that democracy is a way of living together, not only in the sense of living close to each other as we do in cities, but in the sense that we are asked to take part in common practices to take common decisions, a central feature of democracy. In the common liberal order of modern democracies, we might want to say that we are offered to take part even though there are actual liberal states requiring citizens to vote, for example. But it is much more common to consider the citizens free to vote rather than obliged to vote. But I think it is reasonable to say that they are asked to take part in democratic practices like voting because democracies die if the citizens are unwilling to take part in important democratic practices like voting. The second assumption is that the citizens come to the democratic practices endowed with different skills, viewpoints, and knowledge. The democratic order has some obligations to its citizens such as securing education for them enabling them to take part in the democratic practices and to have something to offer on the economic market of modern democracies. But just as importantly these various points of view and different knowledge are valuable for democracy and need to be reflected in the democratic processes. The third assumption is that it is reasonable to expect a modern democracy to support a welfare system for the citizens, this can be realised in very different ways in the context of modern nation states. The fourth assumption is that citizens can be sked to take part in public discussions that are conducted for the citizens to inform and enlighten them. They need to approach these democratic practices with an open mind, not in the sense that they must be willing to change their opinions when discussing with others but willing to take the views and interests of others into account.

These four assumptions are intended to flesh out certain conditions necessary for modern democracy. They are not meant to be a fully-fledged theory of democracy. My reason for introducing these assumptions is to throw some light on what can be expected of citizens in modern democracies and what it is that can make democracy a stable order, what keeps democracies together, even though it encourages citizens to express their views and act on them if the occasion arises. This starting point of democracy seems more likely to lead to faction and strife than a stable social order.

In modern social theories social capital is believed to contribute to the stability of democracy. The idea of social capital was first formulated by Bourdieu and Robert Putnam (1993; Siisiäinen, 2000). Putnam´s idea includes trust between citizens, social support, membership of free associations, common language and common culture. If these things are in place, we can expect an integrative network of relations to form between citizens enabling democratic society to function well. Putnam´s concept of social capital is helpful to understand the background of a well-functioning democracy. The important parts for us here are trust and social support. Trust is something that you earn by your words and your actions showing that you take others´ points of view into account and you are careful not to harm them or their interests. Social support is either something the citizens do or contribute to or the polity supplies. It creates conditions for friendly interactions between citizens and friendly communication. We might say that these two things along with others create solidarity in a polity.

But solidarity, what is that? Solidarity is a fellow feeling based on common attitudes or interests of citizens. In any modern democracy the citizens have different and varied interests, sometimes they are opposed to the interests of others, sometimes not. Sometimes opposed interests develop into class struggles that can be dangerous for democracy. It is not the case that democracy cannot tolerate conflicts and friction; they are natural parts of modern democracy, but there are certain limits to how democratic conflicts can be conducted. A certain amount of coercion can be tolerated if it is based on legitimate interests but as soon as it leads to physical injuries or death it has crossed reasonable limits. But hard struggles among groups in democracies do not normally damage democratic solidarity.

I hope these explanations have illuminated what it means to say that democracy is a way of living together.

Emotions and democracy

Solidarity is certainly a feeling and an attitude, and they are on display in certain democratic practices. It was pointed out earlier that democracy is a way of living together in the sense that we must take part in collective actions if democracy is to work. This means that any citizen must interact with other citizens, communicate, and discuss with them the points at issue, agree and disagree, and attempt to conclude what is fair and just and the majority supports. We must ask how do we do this? We do this by obtaining information about the issue, evaluating the possible resolutions of the issue by taking part in the discussion or at least by forming an opinion for ourselves about the issue. In doing that we use as best we can our abilities to think critically and our feelings and emotions. It is a general truth about human beings that they are endowed with feelings and emotions and with intellectual abilities and reason. It is sometimes assumed that feelings and emotions are independent of reason and are regularly contrary to reason, the view that they are necessarily irrational has a long history. But the theoretical view of feelings and emotions has been changing and it is generally accepted that reason and emotions are connected, and emotions are rational in the sense, for example, when we are afraid, we are afraid of something that might be dangerous to us. Emotions can be rational in the sense of representing the world correctly and in the sense of motivating our response to the danger at hand (Scarantino, & de Sousa, 2021). It is not relevant in the context of this essay to discuss emotions and their rationality in depth but because they are an inevitable part of our cognitive make-up they must be considered when discussing political issues and how we conduct our lives in democracy. Living with others in democracy is living with the emotions of others.

The question then becomes what role do emotions play in democratic practices and deliberations? The emotions play the cognitive role of representing the world and they are especially sensitive to the moral qualities of situations and issues. This perceptual function is in turn a key to the motivating role of emotions. There is an historical model available to us of reason and emotions including how they play out in politics. This is Aristotle´s virtue theory. In the last part of this essay, I will concentrate on Aristotle´s views.

Aristotle´s key idea is that all emotions are infused with reason, all emotions represent reality, and they motivate actions. They are closely involved with the intellectual virtue practical wisdom or phronesis which does not control emotions by suppressing them but by making them parts of our virtues. This means that emotions tend to guide us towards actions that are good or are fitting in any situation. If our moral education has been successful emotions are sufficient to hit upon the right or appropriate action. But in difficult situations where emotions point us in different directions and virtues clash phronesis decides on the right or appropriate action.

There are two ideas about citizens in Aristotle´s work that are important in this context. The first is his idea that friendship is the glue of societies (Aristotle, 2014), the second is his idea that when the citizens come together, they are wiser than all citizens are alone (Aristotle, 1996). I shall discuss them in turn.

As I mentioned before there are certain social practices and social structures that contribute to the good functioning of modern democracy. Aristotle had a similar idea. He says in his Nichomachean ethics (2014, 1155a23-29):

“Friendship seems also to hold cities together, and lawgivers to care more about it than about justice; for concord seems to be something like friendship, and this is what they aim at most of all, while taking special pains to eliminate civil conflict as something hostile. And when people are friends, they have no need of justice, while when they are just, they need friendship as well; and the highest form of justice seems to be a matter of friendship.”

The idea that friendship holds societies together may strike us moderns as fanciful, inappropriate, not helpful. It seems to me that the reason for this is that we think of friendship as a relation between people we know, family and those we are well acquainted with. Modern societies are so large that it is impossible for an individual to know every citizen personally, this applies even in a small society like Iceland. Hence, friendship has no place in explaining how modern democratic societies arrange their democratic ways of living together, how they are more than a collection of individuals, a community.

This would be a too hasty rejection of Aristotle´s view of friendship. The meaning of his Greek word for friendship, philia, is much broader than our modern notion of friendship. Its scope is not limited to our close family and acquaintances but can include a much larger group of people, even all the citizens of a Greek polis, including thousands of people. This is the term Aristotle uses and adds that concord which lawgivers aim at most of all is something like friendship and civil conflict is something hostile to the polis and concord helps to eliminate that. If we interpret Aristotle´s philia as fellow feeling, civic friendship, when discussing the political context of the polity, then there does seem to be a truth in what he says. When democratic authorities treat their citizens well and protect their security and welfare this helps to establish a stable society and causes general satisfaction among the polity. Yet, in democracy dissident voices are always to be expected but they do not cause any problems or strife unless there is an issue addressed that is controversial. But the controversy, if it arises, is not among strangers but among citizens who are friends, a group that has social capital that should ensure that any controversy will not develop into destructive strife. There seems to be a caring attitude among citizens of the same polity. In some modern democracies this caring attitude seems to be lacking and causing all sorts of problems for them, sometimes so deep that democratic practices become difficult, even impossible (Dworkin, 2006).

There is more to Aristotle´s concept of friendship than it being a relation among citizens. Friendship is also a moral virtue. Aristotle´s notion of virtue brings with it most of the key elements in his moral theory. Each moral virtue has its typical middle and extremes and friendship is no different (Aristotle, 2014, 1126b11-1127a13). One extreme is obsequiousness or flattery, the tendency to praise everything and never to obstruct or object to what the other says to avoid causing discomfort or pain. The opposite extreme is the one who objects to and obstructs everything her interlocutor says and thinks nothing of the pain she might be causing. This extreme is called belligerence or bad temper. The mean has no name, but it involves the agent accepting the right things in the right way and reject them likewise, this seems to be praiseworthy and “most like friendship” and the person exhibiting these characteristics seems to be a good friend. The good friend aims for what is noble in her interactions with her friends, so whenever it is noble to add to the pleasure of her friend she does so and whenever her friend says ignoble things or wants to perform ignoble actions she objects and obstructs. She acts in this way because that is how her character is.

This is the virtue of friendship but like all the other moral virtues it brings with it feelings, emotions, and reason. Emotions and feelings in friendship revolve around our friends, the relationship with our friends is the typical object of the virtue of friendship and the feelings of love and care are the attitudes central to friendship. Good upbringing is necessary to make the emotions aim at what is good and noble and reason or phronesis is a part of all the moral virtues deciding when a doubt arises which emotion is appropriate in the context in question.

What this means in general for emotions and feelings in politics is that the feelings must be based on something we know, and they need to be appropriate to the object. Uncontrolled outbursts of strong feelings are to be discouraged, not because they are never appropriate, but because they can easily have consequences that are worse than the original cause of the emotional outbursts. In our modern lives lived in the social media it has become nearly impossible in many instances to find out if the original cause of anger, for instance, is a fact or a fake. The Aristotelian virtue of moderation is one of the most important virtues in modern politics and he thinks that the notion of the good man and the good citizen coincide in some respect (Johnson, 1984). But how does Aristotle think about friendship in our roles as citizens?

Friendship and modern democracy

Aristotle distinguishes between three types of friendship (Aristotle, 2014, 1156a6-9), friendship for utility, friendship for pleasure and true friendship or character friendship. Friendship for utility is based on how useful people can be to each other either in supplying goods for each other or services. Friendship for pleasure involves friends being pleasant to each other. Both these types of friendship change when the circumstances of the friends change, they do not outlast the pleasure or utility the friendship is based on, if they stop the friendship stops. But character friendship is long lasting because the friends aim to do whatever is good for their friend rather then what is useful or pleasant for her. Aristotle thinks that friendship of this last kind is rare “because people of this kind are few” (Aristotle, 2014, 1156b25-26). People who are fully morally mature are not many according to Aristotle and hence character friendship does not occur often, friendship for utility and pleasure are more frequent.

Aristotle thinks that civic friendship holds cities together and that concord seems like friendship as it says in the quotation cited earlier. I suggest that if friendship is to serve this function in a state it must be long lasting, like character friendship, but it will also be like friendship for utility because the state offers its citizens important goods like peace, security and welfare that are necessary for a good life, these goods are useful for every citizen. Civic friendship is long lasting, useful and requires strong loyalty, the state is worthy of love, and it reciprocates the love of the citizens by aiming to make them good (Aristotle, 2014, 1155b28-33). Civic friendship does not seem to fit into any of the three types Aristotle discerns. Character friendship is long lasting, but its maintenance costs are high, its devotion and intimacy require much time (Kristjánsson, 2022, 40). Civic friendship is long lasting if it is to serve the role Aristotle wants it to serve and it is time consuming, citizens in a democracy must spend considerable time on the affairs of state in peace time and this completes the good life, and it requires a strong sense of obligation and devotion if the polis goes to war. Civic friendship can require the ultimate sacrifice of your life in times of war. The Greek city states in ancient times relied on their male population to defend its territory and to conquer and destroy other states. War was a regular feature of both male and female lives in ancient times as it still is in many parts of the modern world. Even though many modern armies are professional institutions the citizens are often obliged to enter the army if the political authorities judge it necessary. So, if civic friendship is keeping societies together as Aristotle believed then it can require the ultimate sacrifice of the citizens now as it did in ancient times. This makes it different from the other types that Aristotle identifies.

It is not my intention to write an essay on how to explain Aristotle´s notion of friendship, especially civic friendship, and how it is related to virtue, but I wanted to show how Aristotle´s civic friendship opens up the possibility of a role for emotions and feelings in responding to political events and actions and how emotions and feeling can contribute to the cohesiveness of society. This way of approaching the role of feelings in modern democratic life goes against the current because most of the time feelings are believed to be a destructive force in politics. The reason for this is that strong feelings easily lead to strife and deep disagreements in politics. It is also the case that unscrupulous politicians use emotive issues to stir up strong feelings that lead people to go into the streets and cause serious unrest that the police must settle. There is another reason for this repugnance of emotions in politics, it is the belief that emotions are somehow necessarily irrational. So strong emotions are taken to indicate the absence of reason. This tendency in modern public life should be resisted.

Aristotle demonstrates how feelings and emotions shape our perception of the moral qualities of the context of our actions and through this perception influence what we think and how we respond and act. The key insight is that emotions and feelings are not free floating, irrational entities that can be stirred when someone thinks it appropriate. There must be a story about something bad or unjust to cause anger among the citizens. Poverty or bad treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers often evokes strong feelings in European countries, police violence and killing of innocent citizens causes strong reaction in other countries like USA and Iran. If this is what really happened, it is entirely rational and reasonable to express strong feelings publicly. The problem for demonstrators is to take care that people are not hurt, and only limited damage caused. This can be difficult, if not impossible, to control in a large group. Often there are persons taking part in the demonstration that are not interested in the issue being objected to but just want to cause trouble. Often it is the sheer number of people taking part that make it impossible to control. All this is a fact of life for anyone taking part in protests in modern democracies. If we look at this from the point of view of Aristotle´s theory of civic friendship, then these responses are rational in so far as they are a response to an injustice because it is the role of civic friends to tell the authorities if they are either planning or performing ignoble acts and causing injustice to innocent people.

Problems for reason and emotions in modern democracy

I do not want to minimize the role of reason in modern democracies. Rational deliberations among experts, politicians and citizens are necessary for any democracy if it is to govern itself well and establish a good context for the lives of its citizens. The experts share their specialist knowledge with the politicians and the citizens and suggest some of the logical inferences to be drawn from the established knowledge. They must also point out weaknesses in the established knowledge and how they must be avoided or taken care of. The citizens with the politicians must decide what to do based on the best knowledge but most often in modern democracies the representatives decide what to do. They are not experts but as a group, citizens and the representatives or just the representatives, are well placed to decide on the general aims, and also on what to do because “the many are better judges than a single man of music and poetry; for some understand one part, and some another, and among them they understand the whole” (Aristotle, 1996, 76, 1281b7-9). This seems to imply that the citizens can be in the position of judging an issue and coming to a conclusion about it based on the best argument, i.e., rational deliberation among citizens is possible and it could serve this epistemic function in ancient Athens. Many modern political theorists believe that rational deliberation is possible among citizens, and it can possibly serve the same function in modern democracies as in Athens. If it is the representatives who are deliberating in preparation for taking a good decision, they must represent the whole of citizens (Anderson, 2006).

But there are two facts that seem to tell against this. The first is that in modern democratic politics you cannot trust either the citizens or the representatives to respect the truth and conduct their deliberations on what the truth is, not even on what they think the truth is, because deliberate lying has become a commonplace in political discussions. Political cultures vary in this respect, some are more corrupt than others. The second point is that intellectual division of labour in politics is an inevitable fact of modern societies, so knowledge and skill is distributed unequally but citizens are considered equal in democracies and the aim must be that their influence on some decisions should be equal. But if rational deliberation and judgement ought to track the best argument and approach the truth then it seems that those in the know, the experts, should carry more weight in coming to a rational conclusion than the ordinary citizen. She is likely to misunderstand the key issues and not appreciate the most important facts and come to a view that does not track the best argument. Experts do not always agree and when two groups of experts argue their case for the citizens it is probable that they do not understand the issue fully and hence their judgements do not track the best argument. The same applies to representatives who must decide on a lot of issues on which they have no specialist knowledge. If their judgements track the best argument, it may be fortunate coincidence rather than a clear understanding of the concepts, inferences, and facts of the case (Christiano, 1996, 123-127). It is more likely that their judgements do not track the best argument and the best view of what is true and therefore the decision will not be the right one producing the best consequences. These two facts of modern democracies conspire against the possible epistemic benefits of rational deliberations of the many and the wise.

Taking part in rational deliberations engages the emotions and feelings of the citizens. Rationality is not the only thing that matters because the motivation for taking part is stronger if the feelings are engaged. If your point of view does not carry the day in the deliberation and you end up in the minority you must always evaluate your arguments, your inferences, your presentation, and the truth of your point of view. The question must be: Did I lose because I was wrong or did I lose because of something else? Your losing does not necessarily mean you were wrong even though Rousseau thought so. If you believe you were wrong about some major matter your opinions change, but this does not necessarily mean that your emotions and feelings change as well. It seems that Aristotle did not realise that emotions and feelings might behave differently from opinions and judgements and the Stoics opposed his ideas on the ground that feelings and emotions were uncontrollable and had a life of their own and Aristotle was wrong about their moderation (Sherman, 1997, pp. 101-102). Emotions and feelings are more recalcitrant to change than opinions and this can cause problems for citizens in their lives, but it seems to me wrong to say that they are uncontrollable. Aristotle was right in saying that emotions and feeling are parts of our rational mental make-up and respond to events and facts in the world and are an important part of a well-rounded happy life.

It is well to remember that Aristotle argued that education should be public and the same for all (Curren, 2000). Public, rational deliberation on the common good requires that the citizens are equipped to take part in and profit from such deliberation. In his time, as in ours, education is a key condition for any citizen enabling her to execute her duties as a citizen. Enabling pupils to read and write were foundational parts of education in ancient Greece just as it is in our modern time. Illiteracy has now become a much more serious liability than in Aristotle´s time because the volume of information is much bigger and most of it is put in writing. It is practically impossible for anyone who is illiterate to participate in public life in the modern world. Education shapes our mental life including our emotions and feelings and enables them to relate to the world in ways closed to the uneducated. Education moderates the emotions by illuminating the complexity of the world and the differences of viewpoints. Reason grows with education just like emotions and feelings do. Citizenship is subject to the influence of emotions and feelings and if the constitution is democratic, education is necessary to strengthen and preserve the democracy.


I wanted to answer the question: What is or should be the role of feelings and emotions in modern democracy? I have argued that the concept of citizenship has a meaning and is contested. It is essentially a relation between an individual and a political authority and in a democracy all political power is derived from the citizens. Citizenship can be considered a relation like friendship as Aristotle argued especially in the light of the necessity of social capital in modern democracies. Citizens are human beings governed by feeling and reason shaped by social trust and fellow feeling towards other citizens. Feelings are a natural fact of human life; in a good life they should be infused with reason and can and should be controlled in the common life of democracy. But feelings, like reason, must deal with corruptions in modern democracies like the lack of commitment to truth



Anderson, E. (2006). The epistemology of democracy. Episteme, 3(1-2), 8-22.

Aristotle. (2014). Nicomachean ethics. (Translated and edited by Roger Crisp.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Aristotle. (1996). Politics and the constitution of Athens. (S. Everson ed., revised student edition.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ásta. (2018). Categories we live by: The construction of sex, gender, race, and other social categories. New York: Oxford University Press.

Christiano, T. (1996). The rule of the many. Fundamental issues in democratic theory. Boulder: Westview Press.

Cohen, E. F. & Ghosh, C. (2019). Citizenship. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Curren, R. R. (2000). Aristotle on the necessity of public education. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Ltd.

Dworkin, R. (2006). Is democraccy possible here? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Johnson, C. (1984). Who is Aristotle´s citizen? Phronesis, 29(1), 73-90.

Kristjánsson, K. (2022). Friendship for virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Putnam, R. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Scarantino, A. & de Sousa, R. (Summer 2021 Edition). Emotion. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2021/entries/emotion/>.

Sherman, N. (1997). Making a necessity of virtue. Aristotle and Kant on virtue. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Siisiäinen, M. (2000). Two Concepts of Social Capital: Bourdieu vs. Putnam. Paper presented at ISTR Fourth International Conference “The Third Sector: For What and for Whom?” Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.


Citizenship Deprivation: A Violation of Human Rights?

  1. Introduction: the relevance of the issue

In the past few years, there have been an extensive analysis and fervent political and legal debates over criminal and administrative measures to fight international terrorism, specifically to cease the flow and prosecute the so-called “foreign fighters” (FF). In various literature, FFs are generally referring to as ‘home-grown terrorists’ or ‘radicalized citizens’ (Mendelsohn 2011, 189; Malet 2009, 13). Even if there is no well-established definition, this paper refers to the following: A FF is “an individual who leaves his or her country of origin or habitual residence to join a non-state armed group in an armed conflict abroad and who is primarily motivated by ideology, religion, and/or kinship”. (Krähenmann 2014, 6)

The impressive number of FFs joining terrorist organizations, and the international dimension of their activities, mobilization, and travel patterns have created heated political and legal discussions in various countries. It also resulted in an intensifying discourse around the growing threat to international security. It has not only been about the number of FFs that is very impressive (more than 30,000) but also about the geographic diversity of individuals who have joined conflicts (de Guttry; Capone and Paulussen, (eds) 2016, 12-13; Bakker & Singleton 2016, 10-15 and Academy Briefing, 2014).

One of the means to fight international terrorism and punish individuals involved with terrorist activities has been applying citizenship deprivation, in other words, turning them into aliens. Noticeably, the practice of depriving individuals of their citizenshipis not a new phenomenon to the international legal domain. Itreached extreme levels during and after World Wars, as illustrated by the denaturalization of British and Belgian citizens of German origin after the World War I (Cloots 2017, 59). The Nazi era and inter-war years used it as a political tool to banish large numbers of people, such as political opponents and Jews. Belgium also applied citizenship deprivation to punish collaborators after World War II (Cloots 2017, 64).

The war against terrorism following the 9/11 events, together with the most recent terrorist attacks in Europe, revived the issue to the foreground. Effectively, as terrorist events can be considered as pure criminal acts (Travalio and Altenburg 2003, 98), various states have recently pondered citizenship stripping as a way of responding to these acts. In the UK, it was passed as part of the Immigration Act, which enabled the government to revoke citizenship in some cases even if it results in statelessness; in the US, it was proposed first as the Terrorist Expatriation Act and later as the Expatriate Terrorists Act, but neither passed (Sykes 2016, 749-763). In a comparable vein, reforms have meanwhile been announced in Israel, Spain, France, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands (van Waas 2016, 472-475;Sykes 2016, 749-763).

This paper presents the thesis that citizenship is a human right and its deprivation violates this right particularly when it results in statelessness. In order to defend this opinion, the first section will highlight the definition of citizenship and its evolution as a human right and its legal status. The following section will elaborate on the universal and regional legal framework that regulates citizenship. The concluding section of this paper will outline an analysis of citizenship as a human right and the consequences of its deprivation will be drawn.




  1. Definition and evolution of citizenship as a human right and legal status

In her most famous work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt (2004, 297) argued that citizenship is ‘the right to have rights’, whereas ‘the Rights of Man’ proved to be inadequate to actually protect ‘abstract’ human beings who were no longer recognized by ‘their state’. Only belonging to ‘one’s own people, that is, as a fundamental status that gives rise to concrete rights’ could ensure protection of supposedly inalienable and universal human rights (Arendt 2004, 296). In a similar vein, Sandra Mantu (2015, 12) also expresses the same opinion and claims that ‘citizenship may be labelled as a secure status, if not the most secure status a person can enjoy. This is true because numerous political, civil, economic, and social rights are enjoyed through citizenship.’

One can conclude, from Arendt and Mantu´s mutual standpoint, that having citizenship is a gateway to other rights and that citizenship is the highest and most secure legal status one can hold in a state. It also seems that citizenship lies at the very heart of the concept of the nation-state. Further, there is the question of how citizenship is constructed as a legal right in a combination of domestic and international developments. Since IL and IHRL are designed to protect both state and individual interests, it is not surprising that they both form paths by which citizenship is constructed. Similarly, domestic law affirms who is and can or who is not and cannot become their citizen. For example, citizenship can be acquired through naturalization after complying with a state’s rules concerning its domestic citizenship regulations. In most states, individuals can become a citizen of another country through the jus domicilli principle or marriage. With regard to the relation between IL and IHRL as long as citizenship law is concerned, for example, the Hague Convention states that: “This law shall be accepted by other states in so far as it is consistent with applicable international conventions, customary international law and the principles of law generally recognized with regard to the citizenship law.” (Article 1 (b) of The Hague Convention 1930)

This paper confirms that the principle of state autonomy in citizenship matters, and acknowledges the limits to the states’ prerogative to determine the membership of their citizenry.  Discussions on the formulation of a right to citizenship as a human right only took place in the mid-20th century. It was first confirmed as a right in non-binding regional documents, including the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (1948). The universal protection of the right to citizenship was envisaged by the Declaration, which has since become binding as customary international law. Although international human rights law under the UDHRaffirms that human rights apply to all individuals regardless of their citizenship or national origin, citizenship determines the scope of the application of basic human rights and obligations of states to other states and the international community, such as the application of multi- or bilateral conventions and treaties.

In its famous judgment, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Nottebohm (Liechtenstein v. Guatemala)case has described citizenship as a “legal bond having at its basis a social fact of attachment, a genuine connection of existence, interests, and sentiments, together with the existence of reciprocal rights and duties” (ICJ Reports 1955: 4, 23. See also art. 2 of the European Convention on Citizenship). Citizenship can thus be understood as a link between an individual, a country, and the international community.

This link results in mutual rights and duties on all sides, including loyalty to the state of citizenship, while the very same state reciprocates by protecting its nationals. Further, citizenship holds the keys to international legal protection and holds States accountable for their actions and to recognition by a system cantered on Statehood. Under domestic law, citizenship is defined as denoting full membership in a state or as a sum of legal rights and duties of individuals attached to citizenship (Mantu, 2015, 1). Even if there is no symmetric catalog of the rights and duties that nationals possess in relation to their state, Mantu states that ‘it is generally considered that the content of law to citizenship will vary from one State to another according to the domestic legal protections and the political system surrounding the right to citizenship.’In this regard, Pocock also states that citizenship ‘enables us to define an indefinite series of interactions between persons and things, which may be restated as rights, used to define new persons as citizens.’ (Pocock, 1995, 45)

Moreover, it has been argued that several human rights instruments purposefully diminish the importance of citizenship so to prevent statelessness or the status as a non-citizen from being used as a basis for discrimination, in the sense that they make citizenship a non-prerequisite to enjoying human rights. Despite the central role the concept of citizenship played in the rise of human rights culture, the words “citizen” and “citizenship” are rare in the major international human rights instruments. Indeed, the sense of the instruments themselves is to erode the importance of the very concept which originally gave rise to the idea of fundamental human rights (citizenship), in the interest of doing away altogether with boundaries between privileged and non-privileged (Claude, 2003, 245).

Weissbrodt (2008, 248-250) also suggests that ‘because being human is the sole requirement entitling us to human rights, whether or not one possesses citizenship should have no bearing on whether we enjoy all of our human rights. This has been stated by Donnelly (2003, 10), who sees human rights as literally ‘the rights that one has simply because one is a human being.’ Although States may have the primary responsibility for implementing internationally recognized human rights in their own countries… human rights are ‘the rights of all human beings, whether they are citizens or not.’(Weissbrodt and C. Collins 2006, 245) Because being human is, for him, the sole requirement entitling one to human rights, whether or not one possesses citizenship should have no bearing on whether one enjoys all of her or his human rights. For example, the ICCPR requires states ‘to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or another opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or another status (Article 2, para 1). The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms requires state parties to “secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms(of the Convention). Similar provisions can be found in Article 2 of the UDHR.

Yet, having said that, it should not be understood that citizenship as a legal human right has always been protected and respected by States. The most agreed opinion on citizenship says that citizenship is a right means to have rights. This fact gives it the attribute of being far more than a social or political fact of attachment to a certain state. Therefore, to be deprived of citizenship means to weaken access to other fundamental rights, such as the right of movement, the right to access education, etc. Citizenship can be described as involving both inclusionary and exclusionary practices that are meant to express the meaning of identity and belonging within a specific political community (Mantu 2015, 3). From this, one indeed can see that the right to citizenship is widely recognized as a fundamental human right.

Kingston (2005, 23), in her article on the history of the practice of banishment, deportation and the deprivation of citizenship claims that ‘on the question of citizenship it is not often acknowledged that the state has power, not only to grant or deny residency and new citizenship in a political community, but also to revoke membership and expel those once deemed citizens.’ Additionally, one of the doctrines of state sovereignty refers to the fact that states have power over rules and principles for the loss and acquisition included in their domestic legal regime in respect to citizenship. As such, states are understood to be free to determine who the members of their national community are. Sandra Mantu (2015, 1) states that: ‘by designing legal rules dealing with the acquisition and loss of citizenship, states engage in a series of legal practices that shape the personal scope of national citizenship’.

Yet, the individual remains a state´s citizen and enjoys the rights guaranteed under its citizenship law but loses some of the rights that go with it. Being deprived of one’s own citizenship effectively causes one to lose all rights other than those recognized in international law as basic human rights. Thus, to revoke someone´s citizenship is not a measure to be taken lightly. The rights linked with citizenship, such as the right of movement, right to access to education, etc., are inherently affected, amounting to a severe limitation of human rights enjoyment and protection. Notwithstanding, international law does not absolutely prohibit deprivation of citizenship but it is, nevertheless, in accordance with various legal texts, sets out strict conditions for States to follow in order to deprive their citizens of their citizenship. It should not be forgotten, however, that citizenship loss is not only on the basis of public security threats or political motives. There are other justifications for its deprivation, such as, among others, fraud in naturalization, expiry of citizenship after long-term residence abroad or loss in case of acquisition of a foreign citizenship. Macklin (2014, 1) states that some States that prohibit dual citizenship may revoke the citizenship of an individual who gains the citizenship of another state. Many states also retain the power to naturalize the citizenship of a citizen who obtained citizenship through fraud or misrepresentation.

As we have seen, questions related to citizenship and the legal framework that constitute it were within the exclusive domaine réservéof states (Weis 1979, 66). States were autonomous in their citizenship matters. However, in the new millennium many international standards were developed regarding the rules and principles of acquisition and loss of citizenship. This development in the international arena has challenged this understanding. Arendt´s conceptualization ‘right to have rights’ would gradually be secured by shifting the power of citizenship and its deprivation from liberal democratic States to the international legal system (Spiro 2013, 2169).

This does not mean that a state’s right to determine citizenship law has remained unaffected by the development of human rights and human dignity. Rather than making general assumptions about to what extent the sovereign rights of states are replaced or limited by human rights concepts of self-fulfillment and personal identity, it seems appropriate from a legal point of view to differentiate different areas in which human rights considerations influence the determination of citizenship or have been recognized in the process of obtaining increasing recognition by states. As examples, we refer to the naturalization of migrant workers, the issues of denationalization and arbitrary deprivation of citizenship, and, finally, discrimination in granting naturalization. It is important to recall that in practice States have not always been willing to implement the principles of IL, IHR or CIL on citizenship prescribed by the relevant legal instruments and for different reasons. There are some states which have not signed and/or ratified relevant international law instruments, and which do not comply with even the general standards of CIL. Others have signed and ratified treaties, but still fail to implement all key provisions, opening themselves up to political criticism and the possibility of legal action in the domestic courts depending upon the domestic effects of international treaties. Other states again comply with certain international standards while not having signed and/or ratified the treaty they are contained in.

From this standpoint, one can claim that banishment has been used as a form to prevent future crimes and express the power of a state´s ability to meet its responsibility towards its sovereignty and to punish those who do not respect the law. This leads us to understand why citizenship is seen as a privilege, not as a right, which in turn might explain why more often than not rules dealing with the loss of citizenship will, as Mantu puts it: ‘indirectly target naturalized citizens’ (Mantu, 2015, 1). The citizenship link between a state and individuals was conceived mainly as a privilege, which at the international law level guaranteed the individual the enjoyment of a certain degree of protection outside his or her own country.

Citizenship should not be considered as a personal relationship between an individual and a state or allegiance of an individual towards his state, the development of IHRL on citizenship makes it a legal status embracing a set of mutual rights and obligations towards a state fulfilling certain requirements necessary for the coexistence of a sovereign state and IHRL. Regulating the right to citizenship on the international level reflects the interests of states, and the wording of relevant documents is typically vague and lacking in order to enable states to retain the regulation of citizenship as far as possible within their respective domestic spheres and the right ensured on the international level is frequently rendered meaningless in practice.

  1. The right to citizenship as set out in international legal instruments

Citizenship as a legal right confirms the membership of an individual in a state, and the definition of who is a national of a state is almost exclusively a product of domestic legislation. Further, an individual having a state´s citizenship is in many important respects subject to its own domestic laws, meaning that this individual may be recalled and penalized for his failure to return to his country. A national may be punished for crimes committed outside the state of citizenship or he may be subjected to judgements obtained against him in absentia. This in a way gives a pathway to the fact that foreign fighters are, and seem bound to always remain, ‘citizens of State X or B’ and, thus, are bound to its domestic laws.

The power of a state to regulate issues of citizenship, depriving foreign fighters of their citizenship as a result of terrorist acts for instance, is nonetheless limited by international human rights law.For one reason, this is due to the interplay between the citizenship rules of states and their commitments to the international legal regime on citizenship and, for another, any interference with the enjoyment of citizenship has a significant impact on the enjoyment of rights (UN 2011). This is evidenced by the IHRL limiting States’ discretion, through the principle of avoidance of statelessness, the right to respect for private and family life, non-discrimination, the principle of non-arbitrariness, the right to freedom of movement, and the right to enter one’s own country (Goethem, 2006, 4-6)

The legal regime on citizenship can be found in customary international law, in very few instances of case law, and arguably also within the universal human rights regime (Bilgram 2011, 2). Most importantly, however, its international standards are being developed in bilateral and multilateral treaties, supported by international bodies such as the UN. This is at the international level. However, this study is interested to focus on the European system as well, thus it is important to mention, at the European Union level, standards that have been set by the Council of Europe and to a certain extent also by the EU through EU law, although the latter has no competence per sein citizenship matters.

How states will address foreign fighters stems from the international human rights law which its cornerstone is that everyone has a right to, at least, citizenship, albeit no right to a specific citizenship of a specific state. The documents concerned, at least a great number of them, contain provisions on the law of citizenship. The approach of international legal instruments in this matter is necessarily in a sense that multilateral conventions obligate States Parties to criminalize specific terrorist conducts under national criminal law.

At the international level, the very first source of this cornerstone principle corollary to the right to citizenship is the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which accords everyone ‘the right to a citizenship’and guards against arbitrary deprivation of citizenship. (Article 15). Under its Article 15, the importance of the UDHR appears, with regard to citizenship law, as it guarantees protection against statelessness and arbitrary denationalization. However, although the UDHR is significant as a leading instrument to other legal instruments which was created after 1948, the UDHR is not legally binding on States, so this paper is merely considering the UDHR as reference.

Following its adoption, it became ‘necessary to spell out the general standards of the UDHR in legally binding instruments…covering the whole range of human rights at both universal and regional levels (Cassese 2005, 381). Moreover, Waas claims that the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR)is ‘the most far-reaching right to citizenship in a legally binding human rights document to date’ (Waas 2008, 3). It is the aim of this study to consider Article 20 of the ACHR as of great importance. This article contains significant elements, including a fundamental recognition of the general right to citizenship, in particular by imposing a specific obligation to grant citizenship jus solito every person that otherwise would with no state, the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship, and in violation of human rights and values.

In addition to the American system, the IHRL on citizenship also consists of other regional human rights systems, including the Inter-American system, the European system, the African system, the Arab system, and the ASEAN system. These systems, as Vela puts it, ’share various common features, including the fact that they all possess at least one fundamental right’s instrument, at least one human rights body, and they were all ‘established under the auspices of an intergovernmental organization’. (Vela 2014, 54).

Like in the Inter-American system, the European and African systems are equipped with courts that can hear cases of violations of the rights stipulated in their respective regional documents, and a substantial amount of case law on issues of citizenship exists. The Arab charter is a relatively new development, and as a document it does not possess the same enforcement mechanism as the documents in the Americas, Europe and Africa possess. In the 1994 version of the Arab Charter, the article 24 did not contain an acknowledgement of a general right to citizenship. It stated that ‘Everyone has the right to citizenship. No one shall be arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived of his citizenship’.However, in the 2004 version of the charter, article 29 (1) acknowledges this right, saying that ‘Every person has the right to a citizenship as prescribed by law. No person shall be arbitrarily deprived of such citizenship nor denied the right to change that citizenship’.

Finally, the ASEAN declaration is a declaration, which means it contains the rights that all ASEAN members should strive try to protect, but it does not give rise to obligations. Article 18 ASEAN HRD does not recognize a general right to citizenship; the right to citizenship is limited insofar as the individual has the right to citizenship ‘as prescribed by law.’ The Inter-American, European, and African systems have complaints mechanisms, ‘through which individuals can seek justice and reparation for human rights violations committed by a State party’ (Vela 2014, 54) and have organs which have issued decisions on cases dealing with citizenship and statelessness. Both the Arab and ASEAN systems lack a complaints mechanism which makes the jurisprudence of citizenship in their human rights law underdeveloped. Importantly, the five systems lack regular enforcement mechanisms. In fact, the structure of the international adjudication makes it very difficult to enforce international norms governing the relationship between an individual and the state of his  citizenship.

The object of both binding and non-binding instruments on citizenship is to guarantee every individual with at least one citizenship, and instruments have aimed particularly at also restricting denial of citizenship, with the adoption of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness to be considered as a leading step at the universal level for this purpose (Chan 1991, 9). Inspired as it is by Article 15 of the UDHR, the 1961 Convention forbids loss of citizenship in some cases where the consequences of such loss would be statelessness, and thus forms part of international human rights law on citizenship, even if its title refers to statelessness, not to citizenship.

As far as citizenship deprivation is concerned, Article 8 of the Convention is especially noteworthy. Article 8(1) stipulates that ‘[a] Contracting State shall not deprive a person of its citizenship if such deprivation would render him stateless’. The second and third paragraphs of Article 8 list a number of exceptions to this rule, permitting denationalization to entail statelessness in certain limited circumstances. Those circumstances include cases where the person affected had obtained the citizenship by misrepresentation or fraud (Article 8(2)) or had, inconsistently with his duty of loyalty to the Contracting State, conducted himself in a manner ‘seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the State’ (Article 8(3)(a)(ii)).

At the European level, The European Convention on citizenship 1997 is of paramount importance, being the first comprehensive citizenship convention (Waas 2012, 245). This convention reproduces the content of the UDHR and the 1961 Convention, but the safeguards it puts in place against statelessness and arbitrariness are more extensive. On the one hand, the 1997 Convention reduces the grounds on which persons can be stripped of their citizenship even if they become stateless as a result. Statelessness is only tolerated in the case of fraudulent acquisition of citizenship, but not when the person concerned conducted himself in a way ‘seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the State Party’ (European Convention on Nationality 1997, article 7(3)).

However, the latter deprivation grounds may only result in statelessness if the Contracting State made a declaration to that effect at the time of signature, ratification or accession. Yet the 1961 Convention not only contains guarantees against statelessness, but also against arbitrary state conduct. To this end, Article 8(4) demands that any citizenship deprivation be consistent with certain procedural safeguards: the deprivation must be in accordance with law, and the person concerned must be entitled to a fair hearing by a court or other independent body. Moreover, Article 9 of the 1961 Convention prohibits citizenship deprivation on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds. Although it leaves no doubt that the international materials discussed above have singular authoritative value, it should be noted that their legally binding force is limited.

For example, the 1961 Convention and the 1997 Convention have not been ratified by all legal systems studied in this paper. In terms of membership, only the Netherlands is party to both treaties.France, in contrast, is party to neither, and the United Kingdom and Belgium have signed and ratified solely the 1961 Convention. Other bodies of legal instruments constitute the right to citizenship and put limits on its deprivation, and supervision of these international standards on citizenship has consistently recognized the increasingly narrow restrictions on the discretion of states in respect to denial of citizenship.

In addition to the aforementioned conventions, the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, (Art, 5) the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (Art, 24) and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, (Art, 29) among others, have codified the right to citizenship and contain provisions which form a high relevancy for international law on citizenship. Countries such as the UK, Australia, the Netherlands, France and Canada have either signed or ratified them.

There seems in fact to be a relatively uniform recognition of a right to citizenship, although in the case of some instruments a limited version of this right is expressed. In the cases of Europe and African, interestingly, neither the ECHR nor the ACHPR recognize the right to citizenship. However, on a closer look at the system rather than just the instrument, there is evidence that points towards increasing recognition of this right in the regions.

On the European level, standards have been set by the Council of Europe and to a certain extent also by the European Union (EU) through EU law, although the latter has no competence per sein citizenship matters. There are relevant duties under customary international law constraining state autonomy in citizenship matters. Important customary international law principles contain the duty to avoid and reduce statelessness, the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship, and the general obligation of non-discrimination.

It is natural to look at international law and see what it is proposing as the studied phenomenon is of an international nature as well as looking at what measures states are taking in order to tackle it. Yet, the challenge encountered in a legal analysis of foreign fighters is that their legal status is of a controversial nature and involves a conceptual ambiguity. This in fact is paralleled by the uncertainty as to its legal status as there is no legal regime for foreign fighters and other individuals involved in terrorist activities per se. Rather, there is a conflation among different legal regimes. Meddling between international human rights law and domestic criminal law blurs the issue. Regardless of this and the lack of a comprehensive definition at the international level, terrorist acts, mostly associated with these individuals are crimes under domestic law, under the existing international and regional conventions on terrorism, might qualify as war crimes or as crimes against humanity.

The very nature of the debate about individuals engaged in terrorist activities assumes that the phenomenon is a new category. Looking at the individuals themselves and their status, in most cases they are fighting in armed conflicts and more specifically in non-international armed conflicts (Kraehenmann 2014, 3). Accordingly, non-state armed groups, including foreign fighters, do not enjoy combatant immunity and may be prosecuted under domestic law for mere participation in hostilities (UN 2000, 5). International human rights law continues to apply during situations of armed conflict. As is the case with all other members of state armed forces or non-state armed groups, foreign fighters are, at a minimum, bound by the peremptory norms of international law (UN 2000, 13).

Importantly, international human rights law affirms that human rights apply to every human being simply by virtue of being human. In practice, however, the existence of a legal bond of citizenship between an individual and a state continues to be a prerequisite to ‘the effective enjoyment of the full range of human rights’ (Adjami, and Harrington 2008, 93). Edwards describes the substantive content of citizenship by exploring it from different yet interrelated perspectives: that of the state, the international law perspective and that of the individual (Alice, in Alice and Waas, 2014, 30). As individual human beings, our individual legal identity derives largely from our legal bond with one or more states, expressed through our citizenship (Batchelor, 2006) Therefore, the adoption of the various human rights instruments, as noted by Cassese, has had ‘such an impact on the international community that no state currently challenges the concept that human rights must be respected everywhere in the world’. He continues to note that ‘a general principle has gradually emerged prohibiting gross and large-scale violations of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms’, making massive human rights violations reprehensible (Cassese 2005, 59). Yet, what is essential is the ‘complementarity’ between universal and regional human rights documents, since the regional systems ‘operate within the framework of the universality of human rights’ (Trindade 2008, 5)

From a general level, international law in the present day continues to respect the principles of sovereignty and equality of states. This means that a state can never be compelled to undertake obligations under international law without having given its ‘consent to be bound’ (Waas 2008, 40). Therefore, any constraints on a state’s discretion over citizenship matters have been the results of the willingness of states to be bound by international legal instruments that contain provisions that have resulted in those constraints.



  1. Thesis and conclusions

The first thesis of this paper is that citizenship is a protected human right and the newly expanded laws on citizenship deprivation puts the depriving state at risk regarding its international legal obligations. Another thesis is that the discussion on citizenship deprivation has been recently dealt with extensively with the implications of international human rights and international humanitarian law on the ‘war against terrorism’ and shifted from an administrative measure to criminal one. In other words, this has been done by using the lens of both criminal and administrative measures implemented by States at the domestic level as a result of two UNSC Resolutions 2178 and 1373, corresponding instruments and the willingness of States to keep their terrorist nationals away from their borders by depriving them of their nationalities. Additionally, these two UN Resolutions, together with the States´ new legislative proposals, have changed the understanding of who is subject to deprivation powers. Traditionally, citizenship deprivation has only been applied to naturalized citizens, as those who are native-born citizens were at risk of becoming stateless. Keeping in mind that some citizens are more protected than others depending on their category (individuals of dual citizenship or individuals of one citizenship).

A third thesis of this paper claims that deprivation of citizenship refers to rendering the individuals concerned of their citizenship, causing them to forfeit the rights they held as nationals. Although only a small number of nationals have had their citizenship stripped by their countries of citizenship, the newly adopted legislation in several states, mainly in Europe, in respect to citizenship deprivation has a major effect in the sense that citizenship as a legal status through which nationals enjoy human rights has become conditional on the citizen´s behaviour. This means that human rights violations, alienation and strained relationships between individuals and the State are ‘recognized as conditions conductive to the spread of terrorism’, Dowding and Mckeon (2016, 6).

This study has observed a differentiation in international human rights law between nationals by birth and nationals who have gone through the naturalization process and has noticed that, for States, deprivation of citizenship acquired by naturalization is often much easier than deprivation of citizenship acquired by birth or otherwise. As evidence for this, for example, deprivation of citizenship as a result of fraud is applicable only to naturalized citizens. Consequently, it is clear that where safeguards to prevent deprivation of citizenship resulting in statelessness are present, terrorist nationals of dual citizenship are more vulnerable to deprivation than those with a sole citizenship. A state can have a citizenship deprivation act compatible with international human rights law as long as it concerns terrorist nationals with dual citizenship. Although there is no outright ban on revoking the citizenship of dual nationals there is, however, at the very least procedural obligations that States must carefully consider. On the other hand, international human rights law permits States to deprive individuals of their sole citizenship, so long as the requirements of the 1961 Convention are satisfied.

Finally, this paper does not argue that states should adopt a particular stance towards citizenship law to comply with their IHRL obligations. It rather presents the case that the existence of national deprivation of terrorist nationals is not to be avoided and the deprivation practice has in recent years become a serious concern and it is not only an exception or a random event, and that this in turn has particular important consequences for IHRL and the understanding of citizenship and statelessness. Notwithstanding the fact that at the time of the drafting of the conventions on citizenship, the domestic legislation of many States permitted denationalization on several grounds, it was agreed to envisage a list of circumstances authorizing deprivation even where that would render an individual stateless. Among the listed exceptions, Article 8(3)(a) makes reference, in particular, to acts of disloyalty and conduct seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the State. Such an exception, covering acts like treason, espionage as well as terrorist acts, can, however, be invoked only if it is an existing ground for deprivation in the internal law of the State concerned, which, at the time of signature, ratification or accession, the State specifies it will retain.


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The Impact of Amalgamations on Services in Icelandic Municipalities

The objectives of reforming sub-levels of the public sector have historically been driven by the will and need to amalgamate municipalities. The reasons given for amal­gamating have primarily been size-efficiency and capacity, as well as quality and quantity in services. This is shown, for example, in a recent study of selected European countries where these objectives are of high importance with regard to amalgamations in 11 European countries (Steiner et al., 2016). Baldersheim and Rose (2010) have described these objectives as “the consolidationist argument”. The basic argument is that, due to scale economies, increased size of political-administrative units will lower average costs (i.e., cost per capita) of providing municipal services and therefore increase the capacity to redistribute economic and organizational resources more effectively. What this means is that increased size yields lower average cost, which gives opportunities to provide services of more quality and quantity and distribute them more equally within all neighbourhoods and between neighbourhoods.

Whether these objectives are realized after amalgamation in a new municipality is, however another question which has often been hard to answer in empirical studies. In the study of 11 European countries by Steiner et al. (2016) the most important outcomes of amalgamations tend to be improved service quality and to some extent cost savings. Case studies evaluating the impact of municipal amalgamations seem to be rare. However, Eythórsson and Jóhannesson (2002)[1] evaluated the impact of 7 different amalgamations out of a total of 37 municipalities in Iceland from the 1990’s. The evaluation covered various aspects such as democracy, administration, services, economic development and cost-efficiency. Among other things, their results indicated that services tended to improve and cost-efficiency tended to be realised, at least to some extent. Important aspects in this context were found to be equality between different parts of the municipality, as well as time from amalgamation. Even though, in general, quality and quantity in services increased after amalgamation, this did not seem to be the case for all parts or neighbourhoods of the municipality. People and local leaders in the more peripheral and less central parts were more discontent with the development of services in the new municipality. The time perspective seemed to matter, at least in some service fields. In the case of Iceland, there was some evidence that improvements in economic development and in infrastructure took time and that no positive signs could be detected until at least five years after the amalgamation.

These almost 20 year old results indicate that the impact of municipal amalgamations often turns out to be more complex than general approaches may show. Therefore, we find it relevant to analyse newer material to try to determine whether this is the case with amalgamations a decade or decades later – in times when lessons could have been learned from previous cases in order to try to prevent inequality in service provision. This article attempts to answer the question what impact municipal amalgamations have had on municipal services, especially looking at service quality, service capacity, service efficiency and equality in services between the centre and the periphery in the municipality. The analysis is based on material from two separate research projects: firstly,  from 2015, survey among elected local politicians in Iceland and, secondly, data from a survey conducted in 2013, where the respondents were citizens in eight amalgamated municipalities, which had been amalgamated in and around the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.



The municipal level in Iceland

Municipalities in Iceland have a long history, dating all the way back to the 11th century. When the Danes took control over Iceland in 1662, they whittled down the autonomy of municipalities and then totally abolished them by law in 1809. Later on, in the 19th century, when the Icelanders began asserting their rights of independence, the local government system was re-instituted by law, in 1872, this time including a regional governmental level – Amt (county, administrative province), similar to an earlier structure in Denmark which was reformed in 2007. This regional experiment was not successful, and the Amts had already been abolished in 1904.

The main historical pattern of structure indicates that the number of municipalities gradually increased slowly until the middle of the 20th century when it reached a peak of 229 municipalities, after which a slow decrease set in, but not significantly until after 1990. Since 2013 the number of municipalities has remained 74.

The rapid changes since 1990 were directly and indirectly facilitated by two referenda on municipal amalgamations – the first in 1993 and the second in 2005 – and their implications. The referendum in 185 municipalities in 1993 (especially) and the referendum in 66 municipal­ities in 2005 contributed to the reduction of the number of municipalities from 196 in 1993 to the 74 today. However, this reduction has not managed to change the main characteristics of the municipal structure – small municipalities and a relatively fragmented system with an average population of approximately 4,500 and a median of about 900. This is illustrated in figure 1.



Figure 1. The patterns of municipal structure in Iceland 1950 – 2015.


The figure shows a fragmented municipal structure, despite the reduced number of municipalities by almost 2/3 in two decades. From the beginning, amalgamations were meant to strengthen the municipal level by producing larger local units which could take over extensive new functions from the state. The partial failure to carry out a complete reorganisation of the structure led to a setback; thus, this way of making progress was defeated to a certain extent (Eythórsson 1998; Eythórsson 2009).

Twice during these twenty years, extensive functions and responsibilities have been decentralized to the municipal level, the primary school in 1996 and the handicap services in 2011. In the case of the primary school, the heavy burden of running the schools for many of the smallest or smaller municipalities pushed them into amalgamations. As far as the handicap services were concerned, problems were only solved by means of inter-municipal cooperation, since a large majority of the municipalities did not have the capacity to run these operations by themselves.

Iceland has a two-tier administrative system, national and local. A regional level as an elected instance is absent. Therefore, the lower level is ill-equipped to take care of tasks allocated to the median instance in some of the other Nordic countries. While the local level in the Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway is responsible for 60-70 percent of public expenditure, the local level in Iceland is only responsible for about 30 percent.

The local government system is characterized by a high proportion of small muni­cipalities. More than half of them have a population of less than 500 while just above 10 percent have more than 5000. More than half the municipalities have limited capacity to provide services cost-efficiently and with reasonable quality. That is, at least, what the critics have said when they have advocated more municipal amalgamations (Eythórsson, 2014).

This has been reduced to 74 in more than 80 different amalgamations, almost all of which were voluntary. The largest years, counted in number of amalgamations, were 1994 and 1998, when there were 13 and 12 amalgamations respectively (Karlsson, 2015).

As for a description of the tasks and main premises of the municipalities in Iceland, the main tasks are the following:[2]

  • Education (primary school, kindergartens and music schools)
  • Social services (except elderly care)
  • Youth leisure and sports
  • Health care (health care centres)
  • Culture
  • Fire department and public disaster protection
  • Hygiene
  • Planning and construction
  • Traffic and transportation
  • Environmental affairs
  • Industrial affairs (economic development etc.)

Education is by far the largest expenditure post, followed by social services, and youth leisure and sports, which are also considerable posts. Local government expenditures constitute around 30 percent of total public spending – which is low in comparison with the other Nordic countries where the local level expenditure is between 60 and 70 percent. Municipal revenues are mainly through Income tax (58%) and the rest is through Real estate tax (12%), contributions from Equalisation fund (12%) and other income (18%).[3]



Amalgamations and services. Some theoretical reflections

The so called consolidationist argument on the impact of municipal amalgamations claims that increased size of political-administrative units will lower costs of providing municipal services and increase capacity to redistribute economic and organizational resources more effectively (Baldersheim & Rose, 2010). This leads to, or at least can lead to, improved service quality. Even though this is a widespread argument, only few studies exist on the outcome of such an approach, at least in the case of the Nordic countries. However, the consolidationalist view was clearly stated before the big amalgamation reform in Denmark in 2007 (Kjær and Mouritzen, 2003). In an Icelandic evaluation study on amalgamations in the 1990’s by Eythórsson and Jóhannesson (2002), some indications of this causal connection appeared, but they were not fully confirmed by the results. However, the authors found that all economic gains in terms of lower cost were used to improve services. In a new Norwegian anthology on municipal reforms (Klausen, Askim & Vabo eds., 2016), Borge puts this view forward in the context of Norwegian municipal amalgamations. Comparatively, provision of public services is likely to generate scale economies in step with agglomeration economies and thus lower average cost. Even in a bigger European context this has been investigated. In a study on the outcomes of municipal amalgamations in 15 European countries Steiner (et.al) found that one of the absolutely most important outcomes from municipal amalgamations was “Improved professional quality” (Steiner (et.al.) 2016 pp. 36-37).

Some findings connect gain of scale economy and agglomeration with service improvements. Rosen and Gayer (2008) suggested that scale economies were present in public services such as fire departments and libraries. Similar results were addressed in a general study for Britain, where this seems to be the case in the provision of health care services, water supplies, and telecommunications (Burridge, 2008). Furthermore, scale economies are present in primary and upper secondary schools, both regarding overhead and teaching cost. However, diseconomies of scale became apparent in teaching when quality was taken into account. Similar findings were obtained by Duncombe and Yinger (2007) and Duncombe et al. (1995). It has also been argued that an urban population contributes to social benefit in terms of agglomeration economies. „In the presence of agglomeration economies, average production cost is generally lower, which in knowledge-based industries increases profits, returns to shareholders and the real wages of highly skilled labour“(Karlsson, 2012, pp. 125–126). Thus, agglomeration economies are similar to scale economies in being a source of economic growth and higher welfare.

Results from empirical literature do not all point in the same direction, both in national and international comparisons. A result suggesting a net positive return following an amalgamation because of scale economies, might be detected in something other than lower average cost, such as better services. Better or more services might, however, either be delayed or not provided to part of the population.


The centre-periphery dimension

Both citizens and political elites in municipalities often tend to oppose amalgamation reforms, not least if the reforms are initiated by central government – from above. But there is a difference in this between large and small municipalities, on the one hand and between smaller, peripheral and larger central municipalities, on the other hand. Results from studies on both Swedish and Icelandic municipalities have shown that the strongest explanatory variable for resistance against amalgamation is each municipality’s expected status in the new/potential municipality (Brantgärde, 1974; Eythórsson, 1998). The potential loss of status and power is something that does not seem to be acceptable for either citizens or local leaders in municipalities with little chances of getting the central place status. In this sense there are centres and peripheries within the new municipalities. This different positions can easily impact attitudes towards the service provided in a new municipality –  those who feel they have lost status and power as a consequence of an amalgamation might also have similar attitudes to the services, both service quality and quantity. The study by Eythórsson and Jóhannesson (2002) showed precisely those patterns.


The time perspective

The time factor is known in economic theory. The rigid behaviour of individuals or institutional units can create a time delay in the outcomes of economic events, such as in the case of price elasticity in the short versus the long run (McGuigan, Moyer, and Harris, 1999, p. 105). Therefore, the impact of inputs might have to wait to show up and be realized by citizens in the community.

The time perspective can be play an important role in the context of a municipal amalgamation and its impact. Whether the amalgamation was implemented a short time ago or a long time ago, is in many cases a question of the opportunity for reorganisation to come into effect. This has for example, been found in evaluations of amalgamations. Eythórsson and Jóhannesson (2002) discovered a time-related impact in their evaluation of seven different amalgamations in Iceland in the 1990´s. The increased service deliverance capacity gained by the amalgamation and to invest in infrastructure was found to have an impact on economic development, but the improvements often did not begin to take effect until 5-10 years after the amalgamation.

Local leader survey in 2015

The data we use in this part of the empirical study are from a net-survey sent to the whole population of elected local councillors in Iceland in the summer 2015. This was a part of the research project „West Nordic Municipal Structure“.The same survey was even sent to elected local councillors in Greenland and the Faroe Islands (Eythórsson et al., 2015). Little more than half – 263 out of a total of 504 councillors answered in the Icelandic part and they build the database we are using. In our analysis, we only use answers from councillors in municipalities, which have been part of an amalgamation for the past 20 years. In the Icelandic case, this means less than half of all municipalities. Table 1 below shows the age and gender distribution among those who participated in the survey and compares it with the actual distribution in the population of all local councilors in Iceland.







Table 1. Participation in the 2015 survey among Icelandic local councillors by gender and age.


Looking at age the distribution is very similar which indicates that there is quite equal respresentation in the survey. When it comes to gender there is a little deviation – women participated more in our survey than men did. The difference is however not great.

In the survey, we asked several questions on municipal amalgamations and their impact on services and administration. In this article, we present a fourfold analysis. Firstly, we asked whether amalgamations had made the service provision more efficient. The second question was about service quality, whether it was higher or lower; thirdly, we wanted our respondents to evaluate whether service quality was equal in all neighbourhoods (areas) in the municipality. The fourth question related to a general evaluation as to whether services and administration were more professional after the amalgamation.


Status/position and centre/periphery

The following table clearly indicates how answers from municipal service centres and peripheral parts differ significantly. Here we see far more differences than in table 2, where we analysed perceptions of services by the time since amalgamation factor. Status or position has a clear impact on local leaders’ perception of service development. In all four questions, the difference between centre and periphery exceeds 1 on the 1 – 7 scale. However, in three questions, the scores are quite high in both groups, which tells us that efficiency, quality and professionality has increased with amalgamations as perceived by the leaders.  In the question on equal quality, the pattern is the same as in others, but the scores are lower. In the centres, the score is just above the middle of the scale (4.37), but in the peripheries it is well below (3.29).



Table 2. Icelandic local councillors’ attitudes towards four statements on the impact of municipal amalgamations on services/administration by status/position. (Means on a 1 – 7 scale. N = 86 – 91).


 The time perspective

Therefore, with this in mind, we looked at whether the time factor could have an impact on local councillors’ perceptions of services. In table 1 below, we see the results. In three of the questions the scores are rather high – well above 5 on the 1 to 7 scale, which indicates a positive impact of the amalgamation. The differences in scores between three time periods do not show any significant variations and the correlation coefficients show little and insignificant correlation. The only question with slightly divergent results is the one about equality between neighbourhoods in service quality. The local councillors gave more split responses to that statement – the total mean is in the middle of the 1 – 7 scale. The scores are not at all different between periods so the time factor is not present in that question either.


Table 3. Icelandic local councillors’ attitudes towards four statements on the impact of municipal amalgamations on services/administration assessed by time since amalgamation. (Means on a 1 – 7 scale. N = 111 – 117).

To conclude on this, the time factor does not have any impact on how the local councillors perceive the development of service quality after amalgamations.

To sum up, in general, local leaders evaluate the impact of amalgamations on services as being positive but leaders in the peripheries are significantly less positive than their colleagues in service and administrative centres. Their evaluation also shows us less confidence in service quality being equal in different parts of the amalgamated municipalities.


The citizens’ views

Since the above survey is from an elite study – that is, shows evaluations of elected politicians, we want to contribute with results on the citizens views. The results we present here are from questions we sent out to citizens over 20 years of age in eight municipalities in Iceland, which had been amalgamated from a total of 22 municipalities. This was sent out in spring and summer 2013. This was not based on a random sample – we used the snowball method by distributing to Facebook friends in respective municipalities, asking them to forward the messages to friends in their municipalities, aged 20 years or above. This sampling method does of course not allow us to generalize from the results. Nonprobability sampling methods are used in quantitative studies where researchers are unable to use probability selection methods (Schutt, 2012). In our case, lack of funding prevented us from being able to make a probability sampling. However, we believe we can accept these results as an indication. Our main aim is to try to identify whether the results differ from those in the leader survey. Thus, we wish to present some results from this citizen survey, emphasizing, at the same time, that they have to be used with caution, avoiding excessive generalization.

The database consisted of totally 911 answers from citizens aged twenty or above, in the eight selected municipalities, since they had only a few years before gone through an amalgamation.[4] The respondents were asked questions on most service areas covered by the municipalities and whether they thought the services had improved or deteriorated since the amalgamation. We selected the results from questions on four different service areas, as well as the question on services in general. In this data set, we do not have the “time since amalgamation” variable but instead the “centre-periphery” variable, which is constructed the same way as in the leader survey from the section above.


Citizens, services and centre-periphery

Our first analysis is of the citizen’s views is in their evaluation of the development of services in general after the amalgamations. Here we found clear differences between the views in centre and periphery where 29 percent in the centres agreed or totally agreed on that the services had improved and not more than 18 percent in the peripheries had the same opinion. As many as 58 percent in the peripheries disagreed or totally disagreed on this – only 26 percent in the centres. This can’t be seen otherwise than showing obvious differences between centre and periphery where the impact of amalgamation on services is clearly seen as more negative in the peripheral parts of the municipalities.

When looking at the specific service areas we first pick out the two posts who are largest with respect to the total municipal budget primary school and social services, and, additionally, two voluntary posts which can be said to be among the most common and important sectors, sports and recreation and kindergartens.

We begin by looking at primary schools. Here we see the same pattern as in the evaluation of services in general but here the differences between centre and periphery are not as marked. Still, the evaluation shows divided views and even in the centres only 34 percent agree on that services have improved since the amalgamation while 19 percent in the peripheries do. Quite a number – more than 40 percent do not see any change after the amalgamation. The difference is apparent and this indicates that the centre and the periphery evaluate this differently.

Next, we look at social services and here we see a pattern very similar to that of the primary school services. The people in the peripheries evaluate the change more negatively than people in the centres. 30 percent in the peripheries agree on that the services have improved, while only 15 percent in the peripheries do. We see a pattern here, the difference between centre and periphery is apparent.

Sports and recreation is a voluntary service post but nevertheless an important part of the modern living conditions most municipalities in Iceland try to provide for their citizens. Here, we continue to see similar pattern as in the other servies; people in the peripheral parts evaluate the development in this kind of services more negatively than people in the centres. Though, the views are in general rather positive compared with the others but still they differ between the central and peripheral parts.

The last question we look at relates to kindergartens – another voluntary service post but still necessary and most, if not, all municipalities try to provide it. The results continue to show us similar patterns – both negative and positive evaluations but more negative in the peripheries. A considerable proportion of the people in the peripheries see improvement in this post.

In table 3 we show the summarized differences between centre and periphery in all the services we asked about. Lets keep in mind that these figures just show us tendencies and we are not allowed to generalize too much due to our sampling method.



Table 4. Overview of the Icelandic citizen’s views on the impact of municipal amalgamations on the services by residence in eight amalgamated municipalities.


To sum up our results from the 2013 study, we conclude that the patterns we got are very similar to those in the local leader’s survey. The general pattern is that people coming from and living in the administrative and service centres are more positive towards the impact of amalgamations on services in general as well as on four selected service posts. Those who live the peripheral parts seem to be more negative, but we can hardly conclude from our material that there exists any deep discontent. It is interesting to see that the general evaluation of services seems to be more negative than that of specific service areas. In this section, we have to keep in mind that our analysis is grounded on a snowball sampling method, which limits our possibilities to generalize. Still, we see similar patterns here as in the analysis of survey results among local leaders where we made a total sample.



This article has attempted to analyse material from two separate databases from surveys where the respondents were asked about their perceptions of the impact of municipal amalgamations on the quality of services in their own municipality. The survey was conducted among elected local politicians in Iceland (2015) and the other research among citizens in eight municipalities, amalgamated in and around the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. In our analysis we have mainly been concerned with the possibilities of varying impact between different parts of the municipality – the centre and peripheral areas.

The results from the local leader survey have shown us that the time perspective appears not to matter with regard to perceptions of how municipal services are evaluated after amalgamations. On the other hand, the local leader survey shows significant differences between perceptions in the centre and the periphery. In all four questions asked about services, local leaders from the peripheral parts evaluate the impact more negatively than their colleagues in the centres, where services and administration are more concentrated. However, generally, the local leaders evaluate the impact of amalgamations on services as being rather positive. The analysis also shows us that service quality does not seem to be equal in different parts of the amalgamated municipalities. The centre-periphery divergence is apparent, though without any dramatic differences. Those are the most significant results gleaned from the local leader survey.

Results from the 2013 citizen survey have to be handled more carefully. As we have underlined earlier in the article, the sample in the citizen survey was non-random. Therefore, no generalisations can be made on the ground of the results. We are only allowed to talk about indications at the most. Although the questions in the citizen study were not exactly the same as those used in the local leader survey, they also focused on services and how the respondents perceived their development after amalgamations. To put it briefly, the results from the citizen part point in the very same direction as those from the leader survey. There is, for example, a significant difference in how people in peripheries and in the centres evaluate the development of services after an amalgamation.  All the tables above show people in the peripheral parts as being more negative or less positive than those in the centres. However, the perceptions seem to be mixed. In some cases, people in the peripheries see a positive outcome of an amalgamation and in others a negative outcome. The difference between the two groups is largest by far in the question where people are asked to evaluate services in general. When asked about specific services such as primary schools, kindergartens, social services and recreation and sports, the same pattern is also apparent but it is less evident than in the general evaluation. Again, it should be noted that the results from the citizen survey support the other results. Thus, there seems to be a good match between how citizens and the local leaders perceive the development.

The research project by Eythórsson and Jóhannesson (2002) returned a similar pattern. However, in that case only social services and primary schools were evaluated. In this study we have broadened the range and showed that when looking at several large and important municipal service areas, the rift between centre and periphery is very much in evidence. As for municipalities entering into amalgamations in the role of little brother, it is probably sensible to conclude that in those kinds of reforms you win some and you lose some.



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[1] See also in Eythórsson (2009) and Eythórsson (2011).

[2] Cf. http://www.samband.is/media/skyrslur-og-utgafur-hag–og-upplysingasvid/Enskur_Baeklingur_mars_2016.pdf

[3] Local Governments. Facts and figures. http://www.samband.is/media/skyrslur-og-utgafur-hag–og-upplysingasvid/Enskur_Baeklingur_mars_2016.pdf

[4] In the eight municipalities there were about 15500 inhabitants in 2013. Roughly 70% of them were 20 years or older. That means that our 911 respondents are about 8-9% of that population.

On the Margins of Citizenship: The Refugee Crisis and the Transformation of Identities in Europe

The 15th December 2016 the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) handed down its judgement in the case of Khlaifia and Others v. Italy. The judgement concerns the detention of undocumented immigrants at the Italian borders and their subsequent expulsion from Italy to Tunisia. Whilst the facts of the case took place in the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring in 2011, the case is evocative of the so-called “refugee crisis” and the predicaments of millions of third-State nationals seeking to cross the European borders.

Transformations in contemporary configurations of sovereignty, citizenship and rights have made many scholars argue that we are closer to a post-national citizenship characterized primarily by the erosion of the national identity as the distinctive form of belonging and the generalization to non-nationals of rights which were initially attributed only to members of the polity (Soysal, 1994). According to this approach, the institutionalization of human rights on the international level and the undermining of national sovereignty are indicative of the shifting of the basis of the entitlement of rights from nationality to universal personhood (Cohen, 1999). While this vision has proven rather pertinent in analysing changes in contemporary membership formations, it fails to capture the shortcomings of the universal human rights regime and the inherent tensions between the status of aliens and nationals-citizens. The fate of the people, referred to indistinctively as “asylum seekers”, “refugees”, “undocumented” or “illegal immigrants” in contemporary’s public discourse, is inextricably linked to the paradox and the perplexities of the contemporary “human rights regime”. Whereas the institutionalization and global expansion of human rights norms in the post-war era and the codification of the right to asylum constitute major advancements regarding the protection of the human person, the contemporary “refugee crisis” demonstrates that the problem of “rightlessness” can be still present in the so-called “age of rights” (Henkin, 1990).

In fact, the problems encountered by different categories of immigrants and refugees can partially be attributed to an implementation deficit, “a discrepancy between formal rights and their praxis” (Soysal, 1994). However, the difficulties of these groups in claiming some basic rights do not only result from external factors, but also reveal the limits of these norms. These groups, as Seyla Benhabib argues: “exist at the limits of all rights regimes and reveal the blind spot in the system of rights, where the rule of law flows into its opposite: the state of exception and the ever-present danger of violence” (Benhabib, 2004).

Drawing on the notion of “the right to have rights”, the phrase initiated by Hannah Arendt in her attempts to reconsider human rights in terms of a right to citizenship and humanity (Arendt, 1973) and the creative reading of Arendt’s critique of human rights by Ayten Gündogdu (Gündogdu, 2015), the present study aims to explore how the European responses to the current “refugee crisis”, based on strong inclusion-exclusion mechanisms which in their turn erode the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers, can be pertinent for capturing and analysing the notion of European citizenship and its future developments.

In the next two sections, it will be argued that the restrictive policies regarding the managing of the refugee crisis by the European Union needs to be directly associated with the shortcomings of the institution of European citizenship and its failure to contribute to the creation of a European demos. In this regard, the current failure of European citizenship to fulfil a universalistic ambition and to provide the foundation for a cosmopolitan political project cannot be considered without taking into account the shortcomings and inherent paradoxes of the human rights regime. In this respect, the failures in the European conception of citizenship are interrelated, though not interdependent, with the failures of the human rights regime, as it stands. In the third section, the paradoxes of the human rights regime and the question of rightlessness will be discussed, in order to show how this regime partakes in and exemplifies this failure. It is argued in the last part of this paper, that in order to reinvent the notion and content of European citizenship, we need to reconsider human rights. Rethinking human rights in terms of political practices is important in order to reinvent the notion of citizenship, as a foundation of a truly cosmopolitan polity, where human rights can be recognized to new subjects.

European Citizenship in a Post-National Context

European citizenship is one of the unaccomplished political projects of the European Union, seeking to give a popular legitimization to its construction and perpetuation. Having the protection of the person and human rights in the heart of its conception, European citizenship is primarily conceived as a legal relationship between the individual European citizen and the membership of the European polity. Without disregarding the connection between an individual and its nation State, which in fact constitutes a presupposition for the acquisition of European citizenship, the institution of the European citizenship aims at superseding both nationality and nationally confined citizenship, as the only forms of belonging in a polity.

The emergence of a “post-national” citizenship, according to some authoritative doctrines, is the result of transformations in the relationship between citizenship and the national State. European citizenship participates in this transformation, as it provides for a space where equal rights are recognized to European citizens irrespective of their nationality. In this context, while European citizenship was at its very beginning associated with internal mobility of labour and the creation of an internal market, progressively, it reflected concerns about the transformation of the single market into a People’s Europe.

The institution of European citizenship is to a considerable degree shaped by the tension between the two opposing dynamics, intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, the two major trends which dominate the policy and discourse on the subject (Kostakopoulou, 2007). The process carries with it fundamental ambiguities, contradictions, and tensions. The weakening of traditional state prerogatives with regard to the entry and residence of economically active or economically self-sufficient community nationals has been, in this respect, accompanied by the reinforcement of the dichotomy between citizens and aliens, be they resident third country nationals, migrants, asylum seekers or refugees. Processes of equalization thus coexist with processes of exclusion, and the relativization of the Member States’ borders is accompanied by the strengthening of the external frontiers of the Union and the relocation of migration controls to third countries (Kostakopoulou, 2007). The gap between “third country nationals with valid permits” and illegal migrants constitutes a direct challenge to the European citizenship’s cosmopolitan ambitions. This gap has to be directly associated with the restrictive asylum policies, which often fail to conform with the standards of the Geneva Conventions, the construction of a “space of Freedom, Security and Justice”, the criminalization of illegal immigration and the current rise of a nationalistic public discourse, as manifested in the rise of far-right political parties in Europe.

The external control of the borders of the European Union and their closure, the refusal to provide safe and legal routes for third country nationals in need of international protection are closely linked to the conditions under which the European identity is shaped and conceived. Consequently, the fight against illegal immigration raises the question of the symbolic borders determining the conditions of participation in a given political order. The fight against illegal immigration, which has been one of the goals of the creation of a “Space of Freedom, Security and Justice”, has fuelled the restrictive policies of the Union as regards the current “refugee crisis”. These policies have to be considered in the context of the broader procedure of the European integration and the shaping of a sense of belonging in the European Union as the foundation of the citizenship for the members of the European polity. In this perspective, the strategies applied by the European States reveal how Europe is constructing the figure of the “Other” and its own identity (Duez, 2008). As Etienne Tassin has rightly pointed out, “far from being a ‘collateral damage’ of European unification, illegal immigration could on the contrary be the heart of the problem” for it is impossible to accept “that this is nothing but a border police matter that would leave unscathed the unique logic according to which political Europe is structured” (Tassin, 2007).

In this regard, it is argued that the response provided by European institutions and States to the current immigration and refugee crisis is indicative of the shortcomings of the European citizenship and the European identity, the limits and contradictions of the human rights regime, the failure of the European demos as it stands and its cosmopolitan ambitions. The failure of the European Union to implement more inclusive policies and to provide a legal status conferring basic rights to undocumented immigrants or asylum seekers is a sign manifesting the disability of the European elites and institutions to conceive the project of European citizenship as a process of eroding identity boundaries and of creating a space where “universal rights” are applied. However, it can also be argued that the current crisis could constitute an opportunity to reconsider the concept of European citizenship and contribute to its transformation. If citizenship can be read as a historical process, European citizenship can also be seen as a laboratory of shaping new policies of belonging, thus extending some basic rights to non-members of the European polity and strengthening the “participation to collective self-government”.

Refugee Crisis and European Responses

Throughout Europe there are many migrants, primarily rejected asylum seekers, who live in a state of protracted legal and social limbo without any long-term prospects. About 60 000 refugees are stranded in Greece, where 26 400 are children, mostly Syrian, according to current estimations. The mass influx of displaced people, refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants has pushed the European foundations to its limits. The Member States have replied with border closings, erection of fences, racist and xenophobic reactions, and have reclaimed their sovereignty (Kapartziani, Papathanasiou, 2016).

Asylum seekers and migrants in Greece and other European countries face multiple human rights violations, including obstacles in accessing adequate protection, and reception conditions that are well below international human rights standards. The situation is particularly dire for people, such as pregnant women, female heads of households, unaccompanied children, people with disabilities, and the elderly.

Despite common, binding EU asylum standards, inadequate implementation and enforcement mean that there are deep disparities among EU member states with respect to procedures, reception conditions, and treatment of asylum seekers. These disparities are at the root of the distortions in the EU asylum system and explain many of the tensions and divisions among EU member states when it comes to addressing migration and asylum challenges (Human Rights Watch, November 2016).

The European policies in this respect reveal the fragility of human rights on which the European construction has been founded and shows that national considerations are central to how the European identity is generally conceived. However, the restrictive policies of the European Union manifest also the shortcomings of the universal human rights regime. Within this regime, the claims of undocumented immigrants, and even asylum seekers or refugees regarding access to basic rights, cannot be accommodated easily. In this respect, it would be pertinent to examine the case law of the European Court of human rights, one of the most prominent institutions in the field of protection of human rights in Europe. Reading the case law in the light of H. Arendt’s considerations on “statelessness” and “rightlessness” can help us understand the inherent paradox of human rights and the uncertainties of its current normative and moral foundations.

The Paradox of Human Rights and the Question of Rightlessness

The multiplication of “waiting zones”, “hot spots” and other similar sites within the context of contemporary immigration controls reveals the challenging problems that various categories of migrants encounter as they claim and exercise human rights. I will try to approach these problems by turning to one of the key arguments in Hanna Arendt’s reflection on statelessness in the first half of the 20th century: “The stateless found themselves in a ‘fundamental situation of rightlessness’”, Arendt claims, “as they lost not only their citizenship rights but also their human rights. In the absence of a political community that could recognize and guarantee their rights, the stateless were deprived of legal personhood as well as a right to action, opinion and speech” (Arendt, 1973).

As Güdongdu notes, from an Arendtian perspective, personhood, or the artificial mask provided by law, is important, as it allows public appearance without the pervasive fear of arbitrary violence and enables rights’ claims to be articulated (Arendt, 1990). Without this mask, one is relegated to a certain form of civil and social death. However, legal personhood remains an artifact and not an inherent essence. It is therefore necessary to attend how it can be effectively unmade or undermined in certain conditions. Possibilities of qualifying and evading personhood are nowhere more visible than in the cases of asylum and immigration, due to the centrality of the principle of territorial sovereignty to the ordering of the international system. Given these possibilities, “rightlessness” must be reconsidered as a critical concept that can alert us to various practices that undermine the legal personhood of migrants. Rightlessness in this regard is thus conceived not as the absolute loss of rights but instead as a fundamental condition denoting the precarious legal, political, and human standing of migrants (Güdongdu, 2015).

I propose to analyse the limits and exclusions of the existing inscriptions of personhood in human rights law by examining the recent case of the ECtHR referred to in the beginning of this paper. The case is about detention at the Italian borders (including the island of Lampedusa) of aliens, namely undocumented immigrants, and their expulsion from Italy to Tunisia. Whilst the events took place in 2011, in the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring, the issues raised before the Court by the applicants and the principles outlined by the judgement appear relevant to the current “refugee crisis” and its management by the European Union institutions and member States. The case concerns the arrival of the applicants, three Tunisian migrants, on the island of Lampedusa, their initial placement in a reception centre and subsequent confinement on two ships moored in Palermo harbour, followed by their removal to Tunisia in accordance with a simplified procedure under an agreement between Italy and Tunisia of April 2011. The applicants were complaining about the conditions of their detention, a violation of the right to personal liberty, as well as a violation of the prohibition of collective expulsions.

It is to the credit of the Court that the judgement corroborates its position on the value of personal liberty, by reminding States that legal certainty is a crucial principle when it comes to a deprivation of liberty, and it cannot be set aside “even in the context of a migration crisis” (§106). However, the Court found that the conditions in the Lampedusa reception centre did not amount to inhuman or degrading treatment. In this context, the ECtHR reiterated that an increasing influx of migrants cannot, per se, absolve a State of its obligation under Article 3, but conducted, so to say, a “reality check” of the situation suffered by the applicants vis-à-vis the actual situation in which Italy found itself due to the migratory pressure at the time of the Arab Spring (Venturi, 2017).

The Grand Chamber affirmed, firstly, that “it would certainly be artificial” not to consider that the undeniable hurdles faced by the applicants originated from a situation of extreme difficulty confronting the Italian authorities at the relevant time. Secondly, the Court observed that the applicants were not asylum seekers and therefore, they “did not have the specific vulnerability inherent in that status” (§194). Conversely, the Grand Chamber recalled that the applicants were in a weakened physical and psychological condition when held at the centre, due to the dangerous sea crossing (§194). Nevertheless, according to its view, the applicants did not bear the burden of traumatic experiences that had justified the vulnerability approach adopted in a previous case MSS v. Belgium and Greece. Furthermore, the Grand Chamber also pointed out that the applicants did not belong to any of the categories traditionally regarded as vulnerable, but they were young males without any particular health issue.

These arguments seem to corroborate the ECtHR’s nuanced approach to the notion of vulnerability, which, on the one hand, is inherent in all asylum seekers while, on the other hand, is attached to certain individuals because of specific conditions that put them in a more disadvantaged position. Besides, the Grand Chamber’s reasoning seems to give a hint on what vulnerability is not: being a healthy, young man, albeit with irregular status (Venturi, 2017). In any event, the utility of the notion of “vulnerability” in the Court’s case-law can also be criticized, because the legal status of the refugees and asylum seekers in contemporary international law is already founded, primarily, on their “vulnerable” status. The notion can also be considered responsible for introducing further differentiations of the status of non-nationals, be they refugees, illegal immigrants or asylum seekers.

As to the violation of Article 4 of Protocol 4 to the ECHR, concerning the prohibition of collective expulsion, the Grand Chamber found no violation. In the Court’s view, the “relatively simple and standardized nature” of the refusal of entry orders which were merely based on the applicants’ nationality due to the bilateral agreement in force between Tunisia and Italy, could be explained by the fact that the applicants did not allege any fear of being returned or any other legal impediment. In the ECtHR’s opinion, Article 4 of Protocol 4 does not warrant an unfettered right to an individual interview, but only the effective possibility to submit arguments against deportation. As the applicants had this possibility, but they did not raise any argument to challenge their expulsion, the latter did not qualify as “collective” in nature.

The judgement of the Court seems to grant States a large margin of action when dealing with irregular migrants. The judgement gives rise to many conclusions. As some scholars have argued, human rights are ambivalent, they have both “jurisgenerative” and “jurispathic” dimensions (Cover, 1984). We become aware of the “jurisgenerative” dimension of law when existing rights are “reposited, resignified, and reappropriated by new and excluded groups”, as Seyla Benhabib notes (Benahbib, 2006). But it is equally important to look at how human rights law gives rise to “jurispathic” processes when its norms are invoked to affirm the sovereign right to detain or deport rejected asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. The Khlaifia case shows that the Court recognizes some rights to undocumented migrants, thus extending personhood to migrants, but also upholds the principle of territorial sovereignty that enables a state to expel these migrants, a practice amounting to the unmaking of that personhood.

The judgement also demonstrates that the body has become a crucial site for claiming rights, giving rise to what Didier Fassin aptly calls “biolegitimacy” (Fassin, 2005). It is in the suffering body of the migrant, refugee or asylum seeker that States, courts and refugee advocates will look for some irrefutable truths. The status of the vulnerability as a bodily narrative becomes central also in the reasoning of the Court. The attempt to adjudicate rights claims based on suffering bodies, risks eroding the personhood of migrants who, like the ones in the Khlaifia case, cannot prove any particular suffering (Gündogdu, 2015).

The notion of “vulnerability” closely connected to the suffering body of the migrant points to another arbitrary rule faced by migrants. This new rule is directly related to the compassionate humanitarianism, which can be described as the fact that States, courts and rights advocates turn to compassion to make decisions about suffering. This “new moral economy” risks unmaking the equal personhood of migrants, rendering the rights dependent on a capricious moral sentiment (Gündogdu, 2015). As a result, we are not too far away from Arendt’s argument that the stateless find themselves in a fundamental condition of rightlessness because of their dependence on goodwill or generosity of others (Arendt, 1973). The Court in Khlaifia case reproduces the humanitarian tendency to depict refugees as a vulnerable category, and draw as a consequence a distinction with other categories of migrants who are placed outside the realm of vulnerability. But that move places the dichotomies at the intersection between a moral economy centred on compassion and an administrative rationality directed at the management of vulnerable populations. Thus, from an Arendtian perspective the Court ends up subjecting the rights of migrants to arbitrary decisions about the conditions under which a human body can be considered as suffering and worth of protection (Gündogdu, 2015).

The judgement of the European Court is indicative of the tensions inherent to the contemporary human rights regime and its connection to the notion of State sovereignty. The case also underlines the dangers of “subjecting” the implementation of human rights on moral considerations that can prove to be highly relative or arbitrary. In the next chapter, it is argued that the current “refugee crisis” points primarily to a crisis of human rights within Europe and beyond, implying a need for a reconfiguration of citizenship beyond the nation-state framework and the notion of sovereignty. In this regard, we need to rethink of human rights in the light of a “reinvented” citizenship. The European citizenship, as the first historical precedent with cosmopolitan aspirations, could provide a space for experimentation of this new form of belonging to a truly universalistic human rights regime.

Forming a European Citizenship: The Failure of a Cosmopolitan Ambition or a Chance for the Future of Europe?

How can we overcome the inherent tensions and paradoxes of the human rights regimes and reflect accordingly on the future of citizenship in Europe? Has the notion of European citizenship the potential of reinventing the European polity where equal rights are offered to all? Is the concept of EU citizenship still appropriate today? How can European Citizenship respond adequately to the current challenges and fulfil the cosmopolitan dimension it has?

It is here argued that in the current refugee crisis, the institution of European citizenship could have provided a basis for a unique experience, consisting in stretching social and political bonds beyond national boundaries and permitting the creation of a new, more inclusive political community. However, EU citizenship in its current form needs to be superseded.

Dora Kostakopoulou develops a “constructive approach” to citizenship, as a promise held by the European Union citizenship (Kostakopoulou, 2007). One crucial feature of “constructive citizenship” is that it postulates a vision of inclusion and equal democratic participation in a community where difference is valued and appreciated and not simply tolerated. Such a conception of citizenship embodies a novel and more flexible conception of demos: it separates demos from ethnic and cultural commonalities and reconfigures it as a political process of participatory enactment. According to this vision, European citizenship should carry with it an ethical responsibility: the responsibility to be nourished by institutions, practices, rules and ideas embodying a commitment to social transformation, democratic reform and respect for the Other.

Etienne Balibar proposes to create new modalities and new perspectives of accession to citizenship, which can even transform its definition. He cites for example the generalization of the jus soli in the whole European Union.  According to this scholar, it is urgent for the European Union to act in order to respond to the humanitarian crisis at its borders. An ideological change is in this regard necessary. As Balibar notes: “We can say that Europe will either be realized by revolutionizing its vision of the world and its societal choices or it will be destroyed by denying realities and by holding onto the fetishes of the past” (Balibar, 2015).

In this regard, it has also been stressed that it would be more in keeping with the nature of the European entity to relaunch the movement for the “denationalization of rights”. This would benefit European citizens, but also those who do not belong to the “inner” nations and it would progressively transform Europe into the place where a “universality of rights” is achieved, founded in a fractional loosening of the bond woven between nationality and citizenship (Lacroix, 2010). In this sense, granting equal rights to illegal immigrants and asylum seekers, mainly by attributing to them the right to belong to the EU political community is essential for reimagining the symbolic and ideological boundaries of the “European polity” and its “cosmopolitan dimension”.

In her turn, inspired by Arendt, Ayten Güdogdu, proposes an original reading of her “right to have rights”. According to this reading the puzzling formulation of a “right to have rights” can be read as an invitation to rethink human rights in terms of political practices of founding. The author is further drawing on the term introduced by Etienne Balibar “equaliberty” (égaliberté) (Balibar, 2010), which foregrounds the inextricable connection between equality and freedom in modern democracy, affirms a universal access to politics, and animates struggles that contest exclusions from rights and citizenship. This reading highlights that the “right to have rights” marks a new beginning radically interrupting the existing regime of human rights and introducing “a hiatus between the end of the old order and the beginning of the new” (Arendt, 1990).

This approach also underlines that the contemporary institutional mechanisms concerning the protection of human rights cannot always respond to new problems of rightlessness. It also highlights that human rights are not simply normative constrains on an established constitutional order but owe their origins as well as their ongoing preservation to political action (Güdogdu, 2015).

The struggles for the rights of the so-called “illegal immigrants” or the “sans papier” in France, as well as the vague of solidarity raised in Greece and everywhere in Europe in support of the refugees trying to escape from war and suffering reveal that human rights are not simply normative constraints regulating an existing political and legal order but also political inventions that can constitute a new order, bring to view new subjects of rights, and reconfigure existing relations between rights, citizenship and humanity (Güdogdu, 2015). Understood in these terms, human rights have an “insurrectional” dimension, to use Etienne Balibar’s term, because they can turn against the constituted political and normative order for the purposes of founding a new one (Balibar, 2004).

The insurrectional dimension of human rights, configured in the political struggles, changes the boundaries of our political and normative universe, as it introduces us to new subjects who were formerly not recognized as human beings entitled to rights. This point shares similarities with Seyla Benhabib’s proposal to understand human rights in terms of “democratic iterations” that involve practices of contesting and redefining existing prescriptions of rights (Benhabib, 2004). These struggles reveal that human rights understood as a “right to have rights” ultimately depend on a type of citizenship enacted by those who do not have a legitimate standing and yet who thrust themselves into the public spaces from which they are excluded. This paradoxical kind of citizenship involves practices of claiming rights that one is not entitled to according to prevailing legal and normative frameworks (Güdogdu, 2015). The political practices of founding and refounding are important not only for establishing the universal validity of human rights but also for reinventing and reaffirming citizenship, also in the context of the European Union, in the face of global transformations that continue to dilute it.

Inspired by the revolutionary heritage of the 18th century human rights declarations, Arendt’s “right to have rights” emphasizes the ineluctable historicity of human rights. These rights as products of historical contingency are also founded on the universal validity of the principle of “equality and liberty” (Claude Lefort), animating the struggles that have inspired the modern human rights declarations. In order to move beyond the deficiencies of the contemporary human rights regime, we need to reevaluate the revolutionary dimension of human rights, by considering them as an ongoing achievement that can challenge their instituted configurations, as well as those of citizenship. Enacting those rights presupposes thus a form of active political participation and action. Taking into account that illegal immigrants or asylum seekers have not a recognized legal standing within the instituted polity, political action takes necessarily the form of a political struggle contesting the established limits of citizenship and conditions of acceding to basic rights. A form of political solidarity by the members of the polity is also essential in this respect. Such practices of political action can contribute to the transformation of the practices of belonging, so that people, as the undocumented immigrants, who do not enjoy any rights or who have only limited rights in Europe, can aspire to a place in the European demos and to an extended human rights regime.


The responses of the European states to the current refugee crisis, as well as the responses of the institutionalized mechanisms in the field of the protection of human rights, such as the ECtHR, reveal the deficiencies of the system and the fragility of the human rights values on which the idea of the European demos is founded. Rethinking human rights in terms of political practices can help us reinvent the European citizenship, an institution with a cosmopolitan ambition. In an Arendtian framework, the struggles of new subjects challenging current configurations of human rights and citizenship can open the way to a truly cosmopolitan polity.


The author would like to thank the participants of the Winter Session of 24th-26th February 2017 of the Nordic Summer University in Wroclaw for their comments, as well as particularly Mogens Chrom Jacobsen for his insightful remarks and suggestions on an earlier draft.






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MSS v. Belgium and Greece, [GC], n° 30696/09, 21 January 2011.



Human Rights Watch, EU Policies Put Refugees at Risk, An Agenda to Restore Protection, November 2016.



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Framing Integration – from Welfare to Citizenship




This article discusses the concept of integration as it appears in a select body of social policy documents in Norway, and relates it to the Norwegian model of welfare. In Norway as well as other European countries, the concept of integration has been an issue of debate over the last 30 years. Integration is a contested term because it is difficult to define and operationalize. It is used politically from so many shifting positions, and it highlights underlying questions on national boundaries, national identities, and questions concerning distribution of national welfare.

The concept of integration is most often associated with immigration and inclusion of new citizens. The EU defines integration as “a two-way process based on mutual rights and corresponding obligations of legally resident third-country nationals and the host society which provides for full participation of the immigrant. (Collett, 2008) Anthony Giddens in his book Europe in the Global Age, describes how Europe in the age of globalisation has become vulnerable, due to unemployment, financial crisis, changing demography, environmental challenges and substantial immigration and demands for adaptation to increased cultural diversity (Giddens, 2007). Policies developed to handle immigration and the cultural diversity associated with it, are often referred to by the term integration. As the EU definition states, integration involve EU host countries allowing immigrants to fully participate in society. This article focuses on how this policy has been defined and implemented in Norway.



Frame analysis

Integration has for a long period of time been a policy area in Norway, and this policy area has been developed and chronicled through various documents and reports. Policy here includes government papers, visions, programmes, plans for action, and modes of implementation. My interest in this article is to analyse the development of understandings and shifting positions behind integration politics. Party politics and public debates are particularly influential to this policy, but they will not feature directly in the analysis.

To investigate such understandings and shifting positions Carol Bacchi asks “What’s the problem represented to be?” (Bacchi, 2009). Policy is here defined as “a problematizing activity”. In defining the problem, some aspects are included and illuminated, while other dimensions are excluded in order to avoid complexity. In Bacchi’s analysis one is not searching for real problems that are meant to be solved, but one is rather searching for contesting views of the problems and how they are defined. This means identifying and evaluating the problem by questioning the taken for granted assumptions within the particular policy field. It further involves explicating the ways in which problems are described, how reasons for problems are analysed and what the implications of these problems involves (Lotherington, 2002). The problem representations can be stated along material lines (through access to and distribution of resources) or along discursive lines (through the attribution of legal and/or cultural norms and interpretations or through the use and legitimation of violence (Verloo & Lombardo, 2007).

Jørgensen and Thomsen suggest the use of critical frame analysis (Jørgensen & Thomsen, 2012) when analyzing social policy. Frame analysis is a concept originated in the work of Erving Goffman, who saw reality as a “schema for interpretation” – where framing refers to the actors interpretations of reality in actual situations (Goffman, 1974). In frame analysis one assumes the existence of multiple interpretations of the discussed problem, and the task is to explore the implicit and explicit understandings involved. Verloo and Lombardo defines a policy frame as “an organizing principle that transforms fragmentary or incidental information into a structured and meaningful problem, in which a solution is implicitly or explicitly included” (Verloo & Lombardo, 2007: 20). The theoretical notions of framing, are also associated with social movement theory, building on the works of Benford and Snow:


Framing describes an active procedural phenomenon that implies agency and contention at the level of reality construction…. Thereby, the political process can be characterized as a contest between different frames regarding the right to interpret an issue or social problem. (Benford & Snow, 2000: 614)


If policy is seen as a contest between frames, it is this contest or “conceptualization of frames” that becomes interesting for analysis. Some of these frames then become frames for collective action, and “frames tasks” for the policies to follow. If we say for instance that integration has to do with income redistribution, it might be the financial dimension of the problem that is addressed. By contrast, if integration is defined as a problem of cultural difference, we might focus on ways to incorporate the differences, or adapt to differences involved. Benford and Snow suggest that these tasks are framed in three particular ways, and they are followed by specific problem-setting stories. (Benford & Snow, 2000: 615)

The table below delineates Benford and Snow’s concepts of framing.



Framing tasks

Diagnostic framing

What is the problem?

How is it defined?

Prognostic framing

How do we solve the problem?

Motivational framing

How do we argue for our definitions and solutions – ideology

Problem-setting stories

Specific representations

They way problems are told, presented and given meaning

                                                            (Benford & Snow, 2000: 616)


If we view the problem of integration for example as an unemployment problem where specific groups are outside the labour market, our diagnostic framing will focus on unemployment generally. These diagnostics could also be more specific, by suggesting that unemployment is related to demands for particular competences, to issues of discrimination or racism, or to structural crisis in the economy. The way we think about solutions to this unemployment problem, will represent our prognostic framing. The implementation of the prognostic framing will depend on the way the problem is understood. If discrimination is defined as the source of the problem, the prognostic framing would center on legal initiatives rather than business support programs. The motivational framing in turn will be necessary to motivate for and pave the way for relevant implementations, for instance through legislation and political decisions. During the 1990’s there was a strong focus on integration politics in Norway. Within this decade there was a deep economic recession, with high unemployment especially among foreigners. According to the media, may have been related to cultural difference, but this diagnostic frame did not solve the problem of the structural crisis. Problem-setting-stories might be put forward when the media present the problem in specific ways, for instance the story of an immigrant who had been beaten up at his work-place would diagnose the problem as one caused by racism or discrimination.

Verloo and Lombardo suggest to incorporate the dimensions of “location” and “mechanisms” into the analysis of frames. (Verloo and Lombardo, 2007) This means that we have to find “locations” where integration actually is supposed to take place, and find out which “mechanisms” in society help to facilitate or impede integration. If as in the Norwegian case, integration is associated with welfare politics, then welfare services are a kind of location. The legal system behind these services is part of the mechanisms relevant for this inquiry. These two dimensions together can shape the context behind what we are studying.

Foucault suggests an understanding of context that embraces history and society as something broader than both the individual hermeneutical interpretation of society on one hand, and the structural determinants on the other hand (Foucault, 2012). Context appears in this sense as a shifting environment constructed through the lines of history, into collective representations:


In a Foucaultian frame, the condition of temporary society cannot be understood by examining the negotiated meanings of social agents, nor can it be found within the broader field of social relations. Rather a history of ungoverned practices and knowledge relations brings subjects and the knowledge that constitutes them into play. Foucault called the methodological approach that takes history of these relations as its object of investigation “geneaology”. (Bastalich, 2009: 5)


Bastalichs point is to show that Foucaults work on genealogy shifts away from persons producing meaning – as in hermeneutics – and points to the role of historical practices and discourse in producing subjectivity and meaning. In this way Foucault presents an important epistemological and ethical basis for knowledge, and this basis deserves attention on its own terms. According to Bastalich, this does not have to do with a search for “authentic voices” and “the majestic performance of the sovereign subjects.” Society is constructed from established “positions of knowledge” which are collective, continuous and stable, as opposed to individual interpretations. In this Foucault also focuses on the role of Government, and points to the role of the State as a disciplinary force that produces knowledge in society, – a knowledge that “defines” the population, and the represented problems connected to the population.


Genealogy offers socially relevant descriptions of the interrelations of past practice and knowledge that enable reflection on our current condition. Their value lies in their ability to open the field of practice by throwing current rules into doubt. (Bastalich, 2009: 5)


When applying Foucault’s concept of genealogy to this policy analysis, the “frames” we are investigating cannot be understood in isolation from time and space. Rather they must be understood in relation to each other as “positions of knowledge” that have been constructed and developed over time (Foucault, 2005). In this article I will focus on different positions of knowledge to discuss the meaning of integration in public policy.

The texts that I draw upon are selected official documents that in various ways express explicit interpretations of what integration is interpreted to be as a policy problem, (diagnosis) which interventions are suggested to meet that problem (prognosis) and how are such interventions motivated and legitimized (motivation). The types of documents relevant for the analysis are:


               Laws concerning provision of welfare and distribution of welfare 

               Norwegian Official reports concerning immigration, and welfare (often used to as the basis for new legislation or new policies) 

               Norwegian Reports to the Storting concerning immigration and welfare 


Before I draw the timeline, I will present a set of relevant concepts, which will constitute the theoretical basis for the analysis.



Relevant theoretical concepts

When discussing integration, some researchers stress the absence of social exclusion (Dahrendorf, 1995; Woolley, 1998). Other researchers focus on the importance of various forms of social capital (Bourdieu, 2011; Coleman, 1988) (Robert D. Putnam, 2001). As we shall in the analysis, social inclusion has in many instances replaced the original concept of integration. Also the awareness of exclusion mechanisms has contributed to a larger awareness of social justice.

However, the traditional method of understanding integration emphasises norms and values. In social science the term integration was introduced by Emile Durkheim and is often associated with the question of how social order and cohesion can be maintained in societies undergoing profound changes and dissolution of norms and values. Durkheim was concerned that during his time society’s various institutions – the church, the family, traditions were dissolving and were unable to socialise individuals into existing norms and values. Durkheim assumed society would devolve into chaos and destruction in the absence of the strong norms carried by these institutions.

People in the 20th century might share the same concern and pose questions about how one can preserve the values of the nation, the welfare state, and religion, and still maintain a stable society in times of globalisation and extensive immigration. Discussions on these questions often employ the concept of social cohesion. Jenson (1998) suggest a five dimensional model:


i) Belonging/isolation,

ii) Inclusion/exclusion,

iii) Participation/non-involvement,

iv) Recognition-rejection, and

v) Legitimacy – illegitimacy.

(Jenson, 1998)


Network and O’Connor (Canadian Policy Research Networks & O’Connor, 1998) brings up three similar dimensions:


i) Ties that bind (values, identity, culture),

ii) Differences and divisions (inequalities and inequities, culture, geography),

iii) Social glue (associations, network, infrastructure and identity)


Several researchers stress the significance of common values in relation to social cohesion. In the Diversity Report (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)) the question of core values is raised:


The question of core values is also a question of which ambitions we should have based on the level of community between citizens and various groups in society. One stance is to search for broad consensus, that in terms of cultures and values we try to approach each other. Another stance is to define a minimum set of human rights and political rules of conduct that must be respected by all. The maximum solution – the broad unity of values – aims to strengthen among citizens the feeling of belonging to the same collective unit. The minimum solution, to a greater extent, protects the right to be different even if human rights and politics limit the exercise of this difference. This report is closest to the latter understanding. (Author’s translation; St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): 34)


Here the question of cohesion is associated with society’s core values. The quotation clearly states that the aim of policy is moving away from broad, all-encompassing value consensus in society towards more value differentiation, where a few core values are established to protect individuals and maintain social cohesion. Such a move could be interpreted as a modern form of transition from mechanic to organic solidarity. In the classical meaning of integration presented by Durkheim, core values are associated with the collective consciousness of society as a whole. A strong collective consciousness would depend on a broad consensus of values. Social cohesion based on a broad value consensus focuses on society as a whole and reflects the classical meaning of the term. A society based on traditional or religious values shared by the majority of the population would be an example of this. This represents the maximum solution. The minimum solution on the other hand, aims at protecting the right to be different from the core values, where you can chose your religion and your cultural practices, chose your sexual orientation, live your life in different ways than the majority, and still have the respect from society. The sum of these individual choices might represent a challenge for social cohesion. In terms of Jenson’s five binary concepts mentioned above, one can ask do the increased diversity lead to belonging, inclusion, participation, recognition and legitimacy, or does it rather bring isolation, exclusion, non-involvement, rejection or illegitimacy? And in what way can society hold the different individuals together like “social glue”?(Canadian Policy Research Networks & O’Connor, 1998) These questions cannot be fully explored here, but will serve as underlying reflections as we move into the construction of frames.

When we talk of integration in the more modern sense of the word as it is used in politics, t refers to the participation of immigrants in their new societies (Rugkåsa, 2012). By this interpretation, integration not only refers to society as a whole but also concerns individuals in terms of skills, attitudes, and individual resources. It concerns the material basis for individuals to participate in society and how the structural underpinnings of the system either facilitate or impede the possibility of participation. Understood this way, integration also pertains to the ability of a system to combine a multitude of beliefs, identities, and practices, and questions the tendency to include or to exclude.

In the case of Norway, these questions must be discussed in relation to the Norwegian model of welfare. Lately there have been political discussions on how increased immigration has influenced the welfare model. The Official Norwegian Report on welfare and migration addresses this issue, where the Norwegian welfare state is described as a comprehensive welfare model and a “social integration project” with three key ingredients: democracy, citizenship, and modernisation (NOU 2011: 7). The welfare model represents both the problem and the solution when it comes to integrating immigrants. While there is an implicit assumption that fulfilling people’s social rights leads to social integration, lately the opposite has been argued – that rights to social benefits also can be seen as an impediment to integration or to including immigrants in the labour market. In many ways the lives of immigrants have been improved because of assistance from the welfare state. At the same time, long-term passivity and clientification is not beneficial for the individual or for society (ibid). These problems represent more than just a challenge to the welfare system, but an overall challenge to social democracy in general in terms of the lack of participation and the need for general trust in the population.


If the Norwegian Welfare State in itself is to be considered a social integration project, new issues are raised when new, larger groups of people who have not gone through basic socialisation in Norway immigrate and settle here. The degree to which they are considered epresentatives of cultural differentness, have special needs, or are subjected to social marginalisation also contributes to challenging the function of the welfare state and the basis for the legitimacy of the common good. (NOU 2011:7; English Summary: 4)


This quotation illuminates different representations of the problem of integration, and shows how this understanding, implies conceptions of challenge for the welfare state. It questions the efficacy of the socialisation process and emphasises immigrants’ unfamiliarity with Norwegian norms and values, their cultural differences, special needs, eventual marginalisation – all of which in turn frame tasks for the welfare state. As this article will show, integration issues in Norway over the years have been framed as welfare policies. These policies very often concern distribution of benefits and resources, and there has been an underlying assumption that welfare contributes to integration and to social cohesion.



Framing integration – redistribution, recognition and activation

If integration is framed in terms of welfare, it means the aims and concepts of welfare are used also to study integration. Verloo and Lombardo’s dimensions of “location” and “mechanisms” in frame analysis as mentioned above, could suggest the location of the integration policy into the location of welfare institutions, controlled by the welfare instruments and the values of the welfare society (Verloo & Lombardo, 2007). In the construction of frames we shall see that the legislation on social benefits played a very important role, as well as Social service offices, and also formal and informal criteria for citizenship. When discussing welfare we know that welfare has a universal orientation, which embraces all citizens. This means that all citizens – the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled, the poor, and the immigrants – they are all in a sense entitled to be a part of society, they have the right to integration. As such, the question of integration is also a question of social justice. Three central concepts concerning social justice are redistribution, recognition, and activation. 

Fraser (2009) focuses on the first two concepts and states that claims for social justice often are connected to the way society redistributes resources or the way society values or devalues individuals or groups. Redistribution has often been defined in terms of class, social democracy, or social-economic reforms and defines injustice as primarily socioeconomic. Recognition, on the other hand, has to do with social and cultural representations and the way these are interpreted and communicated in society. The following table is based on Fraser’s argument:


Two paradigms of social justice


Interpretations of injustice




Socio-economic distribution of ressources

Exploitation, economic marginalization, deprivation

Redistribution of income, reorganizing division of labour,   transforming economic structures


Social and cultural representations

Cultural domination, non-recognition and disrespect

Cultural or symbolic change towards positive evaluations of diversity   and validation of individual identities

(Fraser, 2009: 24)


Fraser first claims that the redistribution paradigm is broader than class; other principles for distribution, such as socialism and social democracy, are also included. The recognition paradigm involves more than the widely known identity politics based on gender, sexuality, and race. On the one hand, it advocates rights that are specific to gender, race, or sexual orientation in a way that underlines and valuates these aspects of identity. On the other hand, recognition also involves a deconstruction of identities that rejects an essential conception of these, suggesting instead that identities can be constructed in multiple ways.

Fraser argues that the emancipatory aspects of the redistribution and recognition paradigms must be combined in a common comprehensive framework, in a way in which both paradigms are treated as dimensions of justice that cut across all social movements. Thus, injustice can be traced both to the politics of distribution and to culture for oppressed groups. These groups suffer from both misdistribution and misrecognition, although “neither of these injustices is an indirect effect of the other”. Rather, they are both “primary and co-original” (Fraser, 2009: 75). Fraser suggests examining institutionalised patterns of social interaction that focus on social status rather than specific group identities to determine whether reciprocal recognition and status equality exist. Do institutional patterns constitute actors as peers who are equally capable of participating in society? To what extent do institutional structures facilitate or impede parity of participation? As we shall see in the first part of the analysis, the Norwegian Social Care Act of 1964 could be seen as an example of an institutional structure that contributed to clientification and stigmatisation, thus preventing parity of participation. We can assume that the social benefits given under this law were seen as a redistribution of society’s resources that eventually would help integrate individuals into their new society. Based on this assumption, one could also argue that people receiving these benefits suffer from misrecognition in society because they were regarded as clients, as unproductive, and as a burden to society.

Fraser emphasises the structural and institutional basis for misrecognition and suggests that misrecognition is a deeply rooted problem in itself, and should not be analysed with redistribution. Other theorists disagree with Fraser and interpret recognition on the level of interaction: recognition from others through interaction is a condition for self-esteem and undistorted subjectivity (Taylor, 1994; Honneth, 1995). In this way recognition is seen as related to self-realisation and ‘good’ ethical conduct, more so than as part of an institutional structure. If recognition is connected to self-realisation and self-esteem, Fraser questions how recognition can also be seen as a matter of social justice. She calls this a sectarian approach rooted in individual psychology, whereas she herself would emphasise that social justice is rooted in social relations and institutional patterns. When the concept of recognition is related to integration in this paper, it has to do with absence of discrimination, but also to do with affiliation and belongingness. The way society takes measures to fight discrimination and strengthen affiliation and belongingness, could be seen as ways to change the institutional patterns that facilitates recognition and participatory parity.

In this paper, recognition, when connected to integration, is treated as related to the absence of discrimination and the presence of affiliation and belongingness. The measures taken by society when fighting discrimination and strengthening affiliation and belongingness could be seen as ways of changing the institutional patterns that facilitate recognition and participatory parity.

In addition to redistribution and recognition as central concepts concerning social justice and welfare, researchers also point to the paradigm of activation.


Activation is a key notion in the European employment strategy, and activation policies and programs are main instruments to promote the transition from welfare to work and to (re)integrate people dependent on social insurance benefits or social assistance into the labour market. This has happened simultaneously with increased migration and a resulting ethnically diverse workforce. (Djuve, 2011: 114)


Giddens (2001) asserts that in Europe social protection of citizens previously was provided in the form of transfers, but now transfers are more conditional on participation in training and job preparation (Giddens, 2001). This is seen as an investment in society that will eventually pay off. Activation could be seen either as a general introduction to the labour market, regardless of the type of job, or as preparation for a specific job that requires relevant skills (Dean, 2003). Djuve (2011) points out that the activation trend is particularly important for studies of integration policy, because of the close links between integration policy and citizenship as a fundamental right. She also states that activation seems to be applied more eagerly to foreigners. Activation is also mentioned explicitly in NOU, 2011:


This alternative represents a shift from pure income transfers to more systematic efforts to activate relevant groups in the form of qualification and adapted work, in combination with work-related wage subsidies and a more comprehensive use of graded benefits connected to health-related benefit needs. (NOU, 2011: 7; English summary: 13)


The paradigm on activation is characterised by three orientations of societal intervention: an individual approach, an emphasis on employment, and a contractualisation approach (Revilla & Pascual, 2007). The individual approach has to do with “tailoring” the individual to fit the demands of the labour market, and the tendency to promote the individual’s involvement in his own integration. This represents an ontological change, emphasising individual responsibility, citizenship, and agency. The second approach aims at strengthening labour market attachments and enhancing economic autonomy. Revilla and Pascual (2007) argue that employment is now to be seen more as a civil duty than as a right. The task of the welfare state has addressed protect against the risks inherent in a market economy, but now there is a tendency to encourage individuals to adapt and be flexible in relation to the ever-changing economy. The third approach emphasises contracts and focuses more on the economic aspects of citizenship than the social ones.


In addition to the contract as a key to social regulation mechanism, the ‘reciprocity’ norm is reaffirmed, and ‘deservingness’ becomes one of the key principles underpinning the legitimacy of citizenship itself. (Revilla & Pascual, 2007: 5)


Djuve (2011) is also pointing to the changes in citizenship under the paradigm of activation. She asks if activation is eroding social citizenship by revoking rights.

She found that the activation discourses in Norway has clearly been influenced by ideas of empowerment and political/gender equality, and in this sense Norway as a social democratic welfare state, constitutes a distinctive case. Social democratic ideas remain central, and the elements of activation are included in ways perceived by different actors as solutions to earlier problems (Djuve, 2011).

In a broad sense, the theoretical development shown here, demonstrates a turn from seeing integration as a question on social cohesion, to seeing integration more as a question of social justice, or also a question of social economics related to welfare. Equipped with these paradigms I will now present the timeline of the analysis and the following construction of frames.



Frame analysis of ethnic minority integration in Norway – drawing the timeline

It is difficult to analyse social policy related to integration because this is not a delineated policy area. Integration before the 80s, it seems, had been connected to an overall immigration policy, only later being connected to various policy areas, including citizen participation. In the 90s integration could also be defined in terms of cultural policies and later also in terms of policies of diversity. At present, integration and inclusion politics are diffused into almost every policy area. In the material presented, we will see that integration as a contested concept has been changed and redefined many times. It is this process of redefinition that I will try to contextualise and discuss in the following section. As the concept appears in public policy, it is framed around specific understandings of the underlying problems that the policy should address. By using policy documents, I will establish six frames of seeing “what is the problem represented to be” in a specific period of time. Within the context of each frame, I will develop the concepts of diagnostic framing, prognostic framing, and motivational framing.

The time period of analysis spans from 1975 to 2012. It is not possible to give an exhaustive account of events and developments within the field of immigration and integration during this period, but I will highlight some essentials, supported by contributions from existing research. As Tjelmeland & Brochmann (2003: 208) note; by exploring history, we recognise that “immigration sets the lens on the recipient country itself, history and traditions, political values, self-reflection, and identity” (author’s translation).

The year 1975 was chosen because in this year an immigration freeze was officially declared in Norway. Before this time, there were few immigration regulations. Like the rest of Europe, labour immigrants came from countries like Turkey, Morocco, Greece, and Pakistan. Concentrations of these groups were found in big cities, mainly in Oslo. After 1975, the groups that had been exempted by the immigration freeze were individuals applying for political asylum (refugees), students, those seeking family reunifications, and people with special skills needed in the labour market (Ihle, 2008; Tjelmeland & Brochmann, 2003). 

For Norway since 1960, we can identify three waves of immigrants: labourers from southern Europe and Pakistan who arrived from 1960–1975, families of these labourers who came later in 1970–1980, and refugees and asylum seekers from many countries who arrived from 1975 to today (Tjelmeland & Brochmann, 2003). After the extension of the EU in 1994, a fourth wave can be identified: labourers from new EU-member countries in Eastern Europe.



Timeline showing legislation, events, and publication of documents

 Framing integration  GB1

 (click to enlarge)

(Timeline with relevant laws, events, and selected documents; St.meld./Meld. St.: Reports to the Storting; NOU: Norwegian Official Reports)


The timeline above indicates the laws that I will refer to and the documents selected for the present analysis. I have also referenced the immigration freeze in 1975 and the extension of the EU to new member states in 1994. After the immigration freeze, a substantial portion of immigrants into Norway consisted of refugees and their families, who were given a residence permit for humanitarian reasons. These immigrants include those who have gone through the asylum application process, those who have been selected for Norway via the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the flow of family members who have been connected to these people.

Refugee politics during the 80s was included in the general immigration policy and was institutionalised in a new management structure.


Immigration policy is employed as an overall concept, despite the reasons for immigration and independent of the grounds for residence permits. (Author’s translation; St. meld. 74 (1979-80): 6)


At this point, immigration politics and integration were seen as quite identical and were associated with the same policy area. As we shall see, immigration control and integration were separated at a later stage.

In the following, I will describe some characteristics of the aforementioned time periods. Those characteristics are related to legislation and specific documents relevant for that period. The presented descriptions will be fundamental when analysing the constructed frames of understanding.



1975-1991: Individuals in need – care and clientification

The basis for working with refugees and unemployed immigrants during the 1970’s and 1980’s was the Social Care Act of 1964. In many municipalities the Office for Social Services was responsible for refugees, and since refugees mostly came “empty-handed” from countries ravaged by war and conflict, they were looked upon as “in need”. The Social Care Act was to a large extent based on a “philosophy of treatment” – a conception of emergency as an individual and temporary problem that, through economic support and counselling, could be resolved within a short time period.[1] This was an expression of “treatment optimism” and “a fundamental belief that the welfare society could identify and solve social problems.” (Bernt, 2003) Being defined as “in need” could refer to the need for economic support, language training, housing, education, work, health services – basically everything. Language acquisition was seen as the main asset in a person’s integration process, which is why interpretation services and language training centres were established and developed. Having a different language could be seen as an obstacle that had to be overcome, as well as different culture and traumatic experiences. 

The Report to the Storting 39 (1987–88) mandates including integration policy in municipal responsibilities through local social services as a part of a general welfare programme. Despite local variations, this meant providing social benefits without explicit claims of participation in specific qualification programmes (Djuve, 2011).

In order to fulfil the requirements for social benefits, people would have to be assessed individually as clients and would be left to the discretion of the social worker. This assessment easily could be associated with the search for deficiencies, and the deficiency concept itself might have constituted an important diagnostic framing. The problem of integration in this sense would lie in pinpointing immigrants as “lacking something” or as “needing something” – language skills, cultural competence, housing, management of post-traumatic stress, among others. Many researchers in Norway have stated that immigrants are often categorised as different from the majority in the sense that difference is interpreted as a deficiency (Djuve, 2011; Gullestad, 2002; Vike, Liden & Lien, 2001; Vike, 2006; Ytrehus, 2001).

There are reasons for believing that the law, with its implicit care orientation, contributed to the interpretation of difference as deficiency. The approach here focuses on the skills and assets of individuals, defining who is “thoroughly integrated” and who is “poorly integrated”, as though on a scale (Ihle, 2008). This can be interpreted as a claim for functionality, where society has to provide for the ‘deficient’ individual. From a functionalist point of view, this could also be seen as a societal compensation strategy for making individuals behave in more functional ways. In a Dürkheimian sense, individuals who don’t have the necessary resources and do not know the norms, values, and language of society, could be considered deficient and seen as a threat to society. In this functionalist terminology the system maintains social order by controlling for and compensating individual limitations (Tjelmeland & Brochmann, 2003).

The Report to the Storting 39 (1977–88) states accordingly that it is the duty of society to minimise differences and level the conditions that influence people’s lives:


The point of departure is that human beings have different needs conditioned by social, environmental, and economic factors. It is the duty of society to try to reduce these differences in conditions, or reduce the effects of these through compensatory programmes for those who are worse off than others. This point of view implies special targeted measures – “særtiltak” – that delineate social differences in individual conditions and living conditions. These measures are implemented by many different groups in society in many different areas of life. (Author’s translation; 47)


Therefore, where the diagnostic framing had to do with the focus on individual limitations or individual needs, the prognostic framing had to do with compensatory programmes for developing individual skills and creating equality. Provided with the necessary skills, the individual could be on the same level of preconditions, and on this basis have the same opportunities as Norwegians (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008).

Providing immigrants with the above-mentioned skills and opportunities appeared to be an enormous undertaking for the system, and during the 70s and 80s this effort was severely criticised (Djuve, 2011). First, it challenged the fundamental concept of legitimacy and the “social contract”, which often refers to the protection of society against the risks of the market economy, although it also can be seen as a reciprocal exchange of rights and responsibilities. Extraordinary compensation programmes for immigrants could appear as conflicting with the principle of universalism in the welfare state because of the lack of reciprocity (Djuve. 2011 Rugkåsa, 2012). Second, compensating people’s differences in terms of welfare – by helping them catch up to the level of others and gain access to essential resources – seemed a difficult aim to operationalise and implement. Third, this compensation effort could be interpreted as an assimilation strategy, wherein the effort towards equality also means encouraging immigrants to adopt the majority culture (Djuve, 2011). These arguments in turn influenced the motivational framing under the core concept known as “likestilling”, literally equality in terms of position, although this might also be described as “mainstreaming”. Brochmann and Kjelstadli refer to this as real equality as opposed to equality politics(Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008). They do not explore this difference, but they do indicate that equality politics has to do with the inclusion of immigrants in the social welfare system. Real equality, by contrast, would have to do with equal access to resources and to social venues in society like for instance schools, workplaces, political parties or the like.

The Report to the Storting “On Immigration Policy” (Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88) highlights this idea, and declares explicitly the aim of creating “equal positions” or mainstreaming.


This policy will aim to maximise mainstreaming between immigrants and Norwegians. This implies that immigrants, as much as possible, should have the same opportunities, rights, and duties as the rest of the population. It is worth noting that the aim of mainstreaming between different groups is not specific to the politics for immigrants. It is in line with the ideal of solidarity in the welfare state, based on the principle of equality and equal worth between society members. It is also in line with the conception of a just distribution of societal resources and societal duties, with the overall aim of extensive welfare for all. (Author’s translation; Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88: 47)


This report is also very clear that the concept of mainstreaming implies that immigrants should have the same actual opportunities as the rest of the population. They should have access to all public services and have control over their own lives through active participation. The implication here is that all immigrants are offered the opportunity to learn Norwegian, to gain knowledge that will help them orient themselves in society, and to receive an education. The report also emphasises economic and social security as a necessary condition for immigrants to live as equals with the rest of the population, so that they also can maintain their own cultural identity and live in harmony with their environment (Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88:48).

The motivational framing of the Report to the Storting 39 (1987–88) largely had to do with defending the necessity of compensatory programmes or targeted measures in order to achieve mainstreaming. It says explicitly that “these measures should not be perceived as specific advantages for immigrants(ibid):


The aim of targeted measures is to remove or reduce hindrances or difficulties that immigrants meet in their new environment, so they can achieve a real, equal position compared to the rest of the population (Authors translation; Stortingsmelding 39, (1987-88): 48).


Targeted measures were severely criticised, basically because they were seen to be favouring immigrants before over groups of the disadvantaged among the native Norwegians.

A motivational framing – arguments to defend this policy and the extended benefits to individuals – focused on the temporary nature of this support and also emphasized the aim of equality that supposedly would be reached when the benefits and programmes enabled people to stand on their own feet. Nevertheless, if welfare benefits flowed disproportionately to immigrants, the legitimacy of the welfare system itself might be weakened (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008; Djuve, 2011). Indeed, these targeted measures were severely criticised for favouring immigrants over the disadvantaged among native Norwegians. Moreover, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, an increasing number of immigrants were receiving social benefits over longer periods of time. The allegedly temporary welfare initiatives – through targeted measures – turned out to be not so temporary after all.


1987 – 2000: Integration as the preservation of culture – A tribute to “colourful community”

When asking “what’s the problem represented to be” in terms of integration and culture, it is difficult to find a kind of diagnostic framing explicitly stated in the early political documents. What is very apparent, though, is a tribute to cultural difference as an ideal for a modern, pluralistic, democratic society (Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88). When looking at the 1980s and 1990, researchers point to an extensive and prominent discussion on assimilation and integration (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008; Djuve & Hagen, 1995; Eriksen & Sajjad, 2006; Gullestad, 2002). While these researchers describe assimilation in various ways, the common thread treats assimilation as absorption into majority society when cultural specificities are muted and when immigrants conform with the majority in the strongest possible way. By contrast, an integrationalist point of view would mean that immigrants could preserve and practice their own culture while still participating in the different venues of mainstream society. It seemed quite obvious that an assimilationist approach was incompatible with the inherent political egalitarian values in Norway. Integration based on the preservation of culture, on the other hand, was the obvious political goal, especially for the more leftist side of government. Furthermore, Norway was heavily influenced by the rest of Europe, which was experiencing the spread of multiculturalism and the belief in “cultures in a plural sense” existing side by side in the context of modern nation states. Assimilation would oppose true pluralism, and should therefore be avoided and fought against.

From this point of view, assimilation was a potential problem, and much of the diagnostic framing centred around this. For starters, Norway was, through the UN Convention on Social and Political Rights, committed to respecting and allowing immigrant cultures:


Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (United Nations Declaration of Social and Political Rights, 1966: Article 2.1)


Second, Norway had a history with traditional ethnic minorities, where national authorities had practiced severe assimilationist strategies in the Norwegian nation-building process, especially with the Sami population in the north (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)). This policy had been strongly criticised both nationally and internationally.


Both immigrants and minorities connected to Norway were in the same period met with claims of “Norwegianising” and unilateral adaptation to society. Many people at the time saw “Norwegianising” as a condition for these groups to adapt to society as equal citizens. The language and culture of minority groups had low value, and there was an attempt to erase them. (author’s translation; St. meld. 17 (1996-1997): 24)


For assimilationists, culture was often seen as an obstacle that has to be overcome in order to achieve equality and integration. The idea of culture as an obstacle fit neatly with the problem orientation in the application of the Social Care Act, as mentioned above.

Third, culture was seen as part of larger series of social problems – unemployed, low income, poor housing, low degree of interaction, low education, and foreign culture combined as comprehensive attribution of particular people. In this way culture could become one of many factors that had to be dealt with by the social system in order to “improve” a person’s situation (Ihle, 2008). At the same time, however, this can be viewed as a way of helping to develop the person’s individual skills – including the processing of so-called cultural artefacts – in order to become more functional. It could also be seen as a quest for conformity from the system, which also expresses a value orientation when defining the majority culture as more valuable and important than other cultures. Where the majority perceives immigrants as different, the concept of difference, as mentioned above, could be interpreted as deficiency, and thus not validated by society. Rugkåsa (2012) states that whereas the missing integration among native drug abusers, elderly people, persons with disabilities are ascribed to individual factors, the missing integration among immigrants, are ascribed to culture.


Having a different cultural belonging than the majority, could then easily become identical with a lack of the right cultural competence (Gullestad, 2002; Rugkåsa, 2012). A consequence could be that the immigrants would not be included in the community before they have acquired the cultural skills that are considered necessary by the majority population (Rugkåsa, 2012). In this way the system could be practising assimilation, whereas integration was the ideal presented in the political documents.

In trying to determine the diagnostic framing of culture and integration, there is an ambiguity in policy that is deeply rooted in this discussion on assimilation and integration. On the one hand, one’s own immigrant culture is seen as an obstacle that has to be processed or altered in order to achieve integration. On the other hand, practising and preserving one’s own culture is seen as a prerequisite in order to achieve integration. This second point is very prominent in the policy documents and also the core of prognostic framing.


In the opinion of the government, an anchoring in one’s own culture and environment will ease the possibilities for immigrants to adapt and function in the majority society (to integrate) (…) To maintain and develop one’s own language and culture, should not be seen only as means in an integration process. To the immigrant, to be able to maintain your identity and attachment to your original environment has a value in itself. (…)The core of the politics towards immigrants is that they should be able to participate in the life of society – politically, economically, and socially – without the claims of cultural assimilation. It should be fully possible for immigrants to be able to live here as accepted members of society, at the same time as they build on their cultural legacy. (Author’s translation; Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88: 47-49)


To support these aims, there was wide public support for immigrant communities and cultural activities. There was also an effort to adapt public sectors to immigrants as new users of services. This could have to do with language and the need for interpretation, but it could also have to do with adjustments according to ethnicity and religion. The need for efficient language training was also prominent, as language is very tightly connected to culture. So, by learning Norwegian, one would also assume that this implied learning about Norwegian culture. As we will come to see later, learning about, or acceptance of, new cultural values is a lengthy process.

The motivation and reasoning behind this policy could be seen in some of the policy documents. We can identify three factors in the motivational framing, namely the principle of eligibility or individual choice, respect, and cultural enrichment to society. The Report to the Storting 39 (1987–1988) on “Migration Policy” emphasises quite explicitly the norm of individual choice when it comes to culture. This was elaborated already in Report to the Storting 74:


The principle is that an immigrant should be able to choose how strong and how long term the stay and attachment to Norway should be. One does not want to claim that the immigrant should be as Norwegian/assimilated as possible (Author’s translation; St. meld. 74 (1979-80): 28).


The Report to the Storting 39 follows this up by establishing the principle of respect:


It is the view of the Ministry that a more appropriate concept for the intention that lies in the principle of eligibility is respect for immigrants’ language and culture. The principle of respect for immigrants’ language and culture will be kept to emphasise that immigrants should not be forced to become as Norwegian as possible in the shortest possible time, unless that is what they wish themselves. (Author’s translation; Stortingsmelding 39, 1987-88: 49)


This report goes on to argue how the public sectors can facilitate and support immigrants in preserving and maintaining their culture. Cooperation, mutuality, and tolerance are leading concepts in the policy towards immigrants. This means that immigrants should be able to participate in Norwegian political life and that they should maintain their own cultural activities. Report to the Storting 39 (987–88) echoes this sentiment when stating that “the positive sides of the cultural influence from immigration should be our focus of attention” (49).

The concept of cultural enrichment of society served as political legitimation for the implementation of many measures under the banner “fargerikt fellesskap”, or “Colourful community”. The 1990s could be defined as the era of multiculturalism, where the cultural influence of immigrants was supported, and there was an attempt to integrate this influence into the nation’s existing cultural life. Culture was in this context defined in terms of its expressions and artefacts – like music, dance, and literature. Culture in another sense had to do with access and participation as a dimension of welfare and recreation. Culture also had to with human and civil rights. 

Related to this, social scientists have engaged in a long-term discourse on the meaning of culture and the need for a reconceptualisation of culture to adapt to the new, shifting environments of multiculturalism (Gullestad, 2002). First, this had to do with a critique of the established understanding of culture as static, value neutral, descriptive, and based on essential, accepted characteristics. Second, in the descriptions of a given culture, nation states were often referred to as the unit of analysis, where critics would point out that the nation state, as a coherent force, had withered (ibid). The nation state could be seen as a social construct, serving particular purposes, and the sense of community it offered could be seen as a kind of “imagined sameness” (Anderson & Andersen, 1996). If culture was seen as constructed, imposed on the individual from the outside, it could also be seen as enforced, hegemonic structures of society (Gramsci, Hoare & Nowell-Smith, 2001).

In the traditional concept of culture – often referred to as cultural essentialism – non-Western cultures are often perceived as traditional and static. By being associated with those cultures, immigrants would be perceived as carriers or representatives of those cultures, rather than being innovators or agents in their own right (Ihle, 2008; Ytrehus, 2001). By perceiving immigrants as determined by culture and tradition, as marginalised and deficient (as described earlier), and as different in terms of norms and values, the obvious response could be assimilation, even if integration was the strategy of the political agenda.



1990 and forward: Upheaval of living conditions in specific social groups

During the 1990s, growing social inequality in Norway began to be identified. This inequality was largely in contradiction with the established belief in Norway as an egalitarian society (“likhetssamfunn”) – a society of equals. In a way, the conception of “likhet” (similarity, equality, or sameness) has constituted a fundamental ontology of the Norwegian welfare state. The state should be responsible for equal opportunities for all citizens regardless of gender, geographical location, or family income level. To achieve this aim, the state would need an epistemology – a more fundamental knowledge of social differences – and also a methodology of how to measure, assess, and analyse these differences. This is where the concept of living conditions (“levekår”) comes in.

In the 1990s the number of clients depending on long-term social benefits was increasing. Clients were generally unemployed people, including early immigrants who had worked as unskilled labourers since the 60s and 70s. At the same time, there was also an increase in the number of young drug abusers, single mothers, and young school dropouts. Refugees and their families were also dependent on social benefits as they arrived in Norway, and as such they became part of the growing queues of people at the social service offices. Unemployment rates were high during the 90s, and there was pressure on the social system and strong competition for jobs. In 1991 a new law was established: the Social Service Act, which replaced the Social Care Act of 1964. The new act aimed to reduce the effects of clientification, stigmatisation, and the orientation towards care. In the old law, treatment was based on the discretion of social workers, in the individual assessment of needs. The services and the benefits provided to people depended on this discretion, whereas the new law focused on more operational rights and claims of justice (Bernt, 2003). In spite of the new law, the same problems remained. Djuve and Kavli (2007) claim that the integration regime of the 1990’s was construed as a failure.

This statement pinpoints the burdens of being a long-term recipient of social benefits, as well as the extensive costs for society. According to Djuve, the criticism of the integration regime increased during the 90s, and a number of studies revealed the high rate of unemployment, high dependency on social assistance, poor living conditions, low levels of Norwegian knowledge, and extensive social exclusion in large immigrant groups (Djuve, 2011; Djuve & Hagen, 1995; Hagen, 1997; Sivertsen, 1995; Vassenden, 1997). This criticism pointed at questions concerning quality, continuity, and intensity in the services offered to newly arrived refugees. The criticism also pointed to large local variations in. Critics also claimed that the present system still contributed to clientification and that the system itself did not express and transmit Norwegian values to people new to the system (Djuve, 2011). In 1995 Norwegian anthropologist Unni Wikan cautioned against the rise of a new Norwegian underclass (Wikan, 1995). Brochmann and Kjelstadli also asked whether the state had done immigrants a disservice by (formally) encouraging “cultural preservation” that consigned them to the lower strata of the population (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008).

In 1993 the Official Norwegian Report on “Living Conditions in Norway” and subtitled as “Is the grass green for everyone?” was published. The report’s highlights are as follows:


  • Living conditions are determined by individual access to resources – like income, fortune, health, and knowledge – that people can utilise to govern their own lives. The focus on resources implies that living conditions are not something ‘given’ to people; they are also something that can be created and changed through conscious action, either individually or collectively.
  • Living conditions imply a broad range of components, particularly health, employment, labour conditions, economic resources, educational possibilities, family and networks, place of residence and local environment, recreation and culture, security for life and property, and political resources and rights.
  • Living conditions are measured by creating an overall picture based on large interview surveys geared at obtaining objective measurements. In addition, one can employ accessible economic and demographic statistics.

(Author’s translation; NOU 1993:17 & 42)


The importance and significance of equity of living conditions – as a system or ontology of social democracy, a system of knowledge and also a methodology – cannot be underestimated (Ihle, 2008). With the progressing technology in statistics, it was possible to conduct large surveys that could compare both geographical areas and groups of individuals across a large number of social indicators. With this approach, the understanding of integration became less about increasing individual skills and affiliation with culture, and more about access to resources on a collective level. This indicates that living conditions involve a mutual relationship between the individual and society, where the individual can access and employ resources – for instance, education and work opportunities – and society must provide these resources on an equal basis. According to this approach, this relationship is measured at the group level, showing positions in society related to social resources for various social groups. This is a different perspective than the previous focus on social care related to individuals.

Research and social policy on living conditions also included immigrants, and it is quite clear that the epistemology and methods of measuring living conditions also could be applied to analysing integration. We could go so far as to say that the measurement of integration and living conditions can be understood in practically the same way, when applied to the immigrant population. According to the research on living conditions, high score on these conditions, or these indicators would also imply a significant level of integration.


Surveys on living conditions that compare population groups are the most common way of measuring integration. The results do not present a complete picture, and must be supplemented by more qualitative data. But data on living standards are indicators of the situation. Measuring living conditions is crucial for maintaining welfare politics. Systematically low results for one group compared with other groups in the population are reasons for concern. (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): 28)


With surveys on living conditions, the diagnostic framing in social policy was improved and more targeted. Immigrants became a dominant target group, and the surveys revealed indications of unemployment, low income, housing problems, health problems, and various other social troubles.

This perspective on living conditions represents an economic and statistical rationality that deals with measuring of welfare. By analysing living conditions, a scale of high and low standards for welfare was introduced, while average standards of normality were defined in the language of statistics. When defining a statistical standard of normality, one also presents those who deviate from these standards. In this sense, diversity in Scandinavia tends to appear as a relationship between normality and deviance, between the resourceful and the disadvantaged, between natives and those from other cultures (Vike, Liden & Lien, 2001). The use of categories in statistics and in social welfare, combined with strong media influence, contributes to societal production of knowledge and the understanding of defined categories as true and natural. On the other hand, this use of categories implies the commodification and cementation of extending, changing, and situational identities (Gullestad, 2002).

Through the analysis of living conditions, groups and people are scaled; a broad set of indicators yield an image of a group in a population to illustrate and document their position in society in terms of resources (Ihle, 2008). In this way, integration had more to do with the societal inclusion of immigrants as a target group for welfare in many areas of society. This led to a number of discourses and public debates. The most extensive had to do with equality and assimilation (Gullestad, 2002; Tjelmeland & Brochmann, 2003; Vike, Liden & Lien, 2001). Another had to do with categorisation and labelling of the term immigrant (Gullestad, 2002; Ihle, 2008; Rugkåsa, 2012). Another debate concerned a multicultural society and the position of being a majority vs many minority populations (Eriksen & Sajjad, 2006). 

The shift in discourse here regards the previous understanding of integration as an aim for the individual. With the surveys on living conditions, the unit of analysis is no longer the individual, but ethnic minorities – very often portrayed as a single target group despite the internal differences. Over time, the understanding of immigrants as a target group for welfare has been severely criticised, and the diagnostic framing has been differentiated and has gradually begun referring to factors more specific than simply immigrant status, such as nationalities, continents of origin, gender, duration of stay, education, ethnic groups, and generational differences.

The prognostic framing following the emphasis on living conditions is a broad approach to welfare that involved many sectors of society – the labour market, education, health, housing, voluntary organisations, etc. This meant that what was previously a single immigration policy was now split into two areas: immigration and control, and internal integration. Internal integration, since the 1990s, was controlled by the UDI (the Directorate for Immigration), and responsibility for minority integration into society was placed on departments representing various sectors. This implied considerable differentiation of responsibilities, both on the state level and the municipal level. The amount of changes – bureaucratically, legislatively, and in policy implementation – was enormous during the 90s. We can single out three important change directions that are fundamental to the prognostic framing. The first was previously mentioned: the differentiation of policy across the field of welfare in all sectors and levels of society. The second came as a direct result of the living conditions surveys that revealed large concentrations of immigrants in the cities, especially Oslo. These concentrations appeared in combination with other indicators like poverty, poor housing facilities, low education, and health and social problems. Large programmes in specific geographical locations were established with state sponsorship. These programmes focused on renewing buildings, erasing poverty, bringing people into activity, and avoiding the development of social problems. Many people who lived in these areas, including non-immigrants, showed a low score on income, work, and education, and a high score on negative factors. Thus, these measures in the big cities could be referred to as integration schemes. 

The third direction of change within the prognostic framing had a direct emphasis on qualifications for newcomers. In 1999 a national committee known as the Introduction Committee was appointed; its role was to examine and develop a proposal for a new law to mandate municipalities to offer an introduction programme for refugees who recently arrived to the country. The Introductory Act of 2003 emphasised the work line as part of Norwegian social politics in general, which entails both ongoing effort towards persons not easily absorbed by the labour market as well as working for a generally inclusive labour market (Ihle, 2008). This policy was introduced by the Brundtland Government in the Report to the Storting on rehabilitation (St. Meld. 39 (1991-1992)). Participation in this specific programme for refugees was made mandatory, and participation was connected to a standardised income, work and education preparation, and language training, combined with knowledge of Norwegian society. Participation in the programme should amount to 37.5 hours per week at a “normal” job, and existing rules for the labour market should be applied (NOU 2001: 10). The programme should have a standard timeline of two years.

These implementations were introduced basically to make the system of receiving immigrants more efficient and economically viable. The differentiation of politics and diffusion of responsibilities to various sectors was also important, signalling that immigrants were not “specific” clients of particular services, but part of the responsibility of normal institutions in society.



2000-2005: Absence of structural barriers, racism and discrimination

A legal development alongside the policy development of the new Introduction Act is connected to an official policy against racism and discrimination. Even though Norway is not an EU member, it does adapt various EU regulations and standards. The EU approach to social questions and human rights has undergone profound changes over time. Since the mid-1990s there has been a broad agreement on the need to effect measures against discrimination on grounds other than gender. The Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 established protection against discrimination along many dimensions, among them race and ethnicity. In Article 13, the Commission proposed two directives:


               The right to equal treatment independent of race or ethnic origin, and protection against discrimination in many areas (2000/43/EF),

               The need to prevent discrimination across a multiplicity of grounds (2000/78/EF).


When a National Action Plan against racism and discrimination was presented in 1998, it was a response both to the developments within the EU and also to reports of increasing discrimination taking place in Norway in the 90s.

By the end of the 1990s many investigations and reports questioned the extent to which discrimination and racism existed in Norway. Many reported a shortage of documentation of these issues and the need for better surveillance and reports (NOU 2001:10). The diagnostic framing is centred first and foremost around the labour market, public services, school and education, police/prosecution/courts, the Internet, and the local community. A report based on investigations in 29 municipalities in 2002, initiated by the Directorate of Immigration, states that there is a basis to claims that discrimination is a typical phenomenon in Norway, especially in the labour market, the housing market, at schools, and in public services.


Many municipalities report that exclusion is the most visible form of discrimination against immigrants. The term here covers the actions that, consciously or unconsciously, contribute to the fact that immigrants are not able to enter the labour market or that immigrants in work positions are isolated or pushed out of work. Exclusion can happen in the process of hiring, in labour adaption programmes, or at actual workplaces. (Author’s translation; Utlendingsdirektoratet, 1999-2000)


An important question for discussion was whether the high number of unemployed immigrants was caused by discrimination. In the Report to the Storting on Immigration and the Multicultural Norway it is stated that unemployment among non-Western immigrants was nearly three times higher than among ethnic Norwegians during the 90s (St. meld. 17 (1996-1997)). Berg shows how structural, cultural, and individual factors mean that immigrants end up last in the queue (Berg, 1996). The report concludes that efforts against discrimination and racism should have high priority (Berg, 1996). Djuve and Hagen (1995) were one of the first researchers who wrote about immigrants and living conditions. In 1995 they suggested four different explanations of what they call “the low integration level among immigrants” (basically referring to the labour market). The first had to do with the immigrant’s limited resources – income, language, network, education. The second pointed to discrimination. The third pointed to ‘cultural hesitation’- how culture in some instances would restrict people. The fourth emphasised institutional barriers.

All reports agree on a complexity of reasons behind the high rates of unemployment among immigrants, but they all also underline the existence of discrimination and exclusion. NOU 12 clearly states that “there is a reason to believe that discrimination is one of the reasons behind the high unemployment among groups of immigrants” (Authors translation)(NOU 2002:12). According to the statistics at SMED (Center Against Ethnic Discrimination), in 2003 there was an influx of registered legal cases related to the labour market, and also a large amount of cases related to health and social services, police, and immigration authorities (SMED 2003).

Three important responses constitute the prognostic framing of racism and discrimination. As racism and discrimination arose as an issue during the 1990s, many activists and voluntary organisations emerged. Examples of these are the Anti-Racist Centre, OMOD (Organisation against Public Discrimination), NOAS (Norwegian Association for Asylum Seekers), the MIRA Centre (Resource Centre for Minority Women), SEIF (Self-help for Immigrants and Refugees), and many more. Public initiatives came forward both as a result of the EU’s anti-discriminatory frameworks, as mentioned above, and pressures from the organisations and the media. The most important outcome in the process was first the establishment of SMED (the Center Against Ethnic Discrimination) in 1998 and later the preparations for new legislation against discrimination. The anti-discrimination efforts could be seen as an extension of the established gender equality politics that began in 1972 with the establishment of the Gender Equality Council and was followed by other institutions to secure gender equality. In the government session 2004-2005, the government suggested the establishment of a new ombud office to focus on issues of inequality and discrimination along the lines of gender and ethnicity. The Ombud of Equality and Discrimination came into office in 2005 to combat discrimination on a multiplicity of grounds: gender, ethnicity, disability, language, religion, sexual orientation, and age. This ombud was accompanied by a new act, Act Against Discrimination 2005. The purpose of this act was to protect against discrimination and incorporate various laws concerning discrimination, such as the Discrimination Act, the Gender Equality Act, the Work Environment Act, and the Housing Act. The motivational framing of this development relates to the government-proclaimed goal of offering equal opportunities to all members of society. Equal opportunity is incompatible with the existence of discrimination of any kind.



2003 and forward: Living conditions, identity, and belonging

Stortingsmelding 17 (1996–1997) on Power and Democracy describes an unfortunate development for the immigrant population in which a large portion of the population does not participate in the Norwegian system. The report expresses concern that parts of the immigrant population might become a new underclass consisting of people who work in low-income professions or are outside the labour market” (St. meld. 17 (1996-1997)). Moreover, many immigrants experience powerlessness in their encounters with Norwegian society. This might manifest as long waiting periods at asylum centres, dependency on social benefits, language problems, marginalisation in the labour market, and as we have seen various forms of ethnic discrimination (ibid).

The diagnostic framing of the 1970–1980s was related to individuals in need who were of a different cultural background than the majority population. The 1990s had more to do with measurements of living conditions, structural constraints, and the position of minorities as a social group. This approach emphasised that the concept of integration should be understood as a mutual relationship between individual and society. Individual skills and resources mattered, but society also would have to open up to facilitate immigrants’ access to different parts of society (St. meld. 17 (1996-1997)).

At that point there was an overall immigration policy that gradually became more complex, both by the Schengen Agreement and by the introduction of new member countries into the EU, but also by the consequences of war and natural disasters around the world that substantially increased the number of refugees into the country. This meant a strong focus on immigration control. At the beginning of the 2000s there was also a focus on providing new immigrants with a better introduction to society, resulting in the aforementioned Introductory Act of 2003. The process of differentiating the integration policy into various sectors was also underway, so that gradually one would find more references to aims for integration in education policy documents, in documents on urban housing and on health, and especially in policies concerning the labour market.

During the ongoing efforts to develop more sectorial responsibility for integration and create legitimacy for a more ‘colourful community, Norway was in the early 2000’s confronted with shocking news on cultural practices of forced marriages and female genital mutilation in other countries. This knowledge created distance between the majority population and parts of the minority population regarding how to react to certain cultural values and practices. Training programmes were severely criticised. The identification of cultural practices that violated basic human rights seriously challenged the previous glorification of multiculturalism and cultural relativism. It also led to many legal changes. This was not a situation of the majority versus minorities. On the one hand, it had to do with the right to practice one’s own culture and religion, and, on the other hand, it had to do with protecting individuals from practices rooted in culture and religion that violated basic human rights (Brochmann & Kjeldstadli, 2008).

“Diversity through inclusion and participation – responsibility and freedom” (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)) is a Report to the Storting that attempts to redefine policy by drawing some lines and establishing a new epistemology. It presents the new policy as a politics for inclusion and diversity that aims beyond existing integration measures in the form of language training and qualification programmes.


Society must include everyone to reach the goal of a peaceful coexistence. An effective introduction and integration policy that shortens the time it takes for newcomers to stand on their own two feet without public support will provide great economic benefit for society. (Author’s translation; ibid: 25)


Integration politics here, on the one hand, has a more limited focus and is directed towards newcomers and first-generation immigrants. The politics of inclusion and diversity, on the other hand, is directed at all members of society and emphasises the following:


               the relationship between individual rights and regards for the community,

               the relationship between minority and majority,

               the conditions for harmonious coexistence.


The diagnostic framing of this paper is more complex and brings to the fore some important aspects of the immigrant experience:


               basic variables like gender, age, nationality/ethnicity, education,

               duration of stay in Norway,

               the fact that high participation in one area (like work) could mean low participation in other areas, and vice versa,

               the difference between first-generation immigrants and their descendants.


These considerations were shown by the living conditions surveys presented above.


The government ascertains that the sum of the living conditions surveys shows that many people are loosely attached to society – more than what is desirable. Many have not learned the Norwegian language sufficiently; many live in isolation from society at large. This applies especially to some of the women. This isolation can be due to individual choices, or it can be due to pressure from the environment. At times this situation can be described as a result of discrimination, marginalisation, and poverty problems. Other times personal preferences, traditions, and customs negatively coincide with poverty and living conditions. (Author’s translation; St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): 25)


The way this information is presented reveals a shift in orientation. The previous interpretation of living conditions surveys arranged groups vertically according to high and low standards of material living conditions. This represented a way to measure and evaluate the distribution of ressources in social groups. the new orientation focused on the horizontal level of being inside versus outside society, or in more scientific terms, being included or being marginalised. According to the “Diversity through inclusion and participation” paper, loose attachments to society were the main problem. This problem is documented in the living conditions surveys, where that the objective measures are also accompanied by an emotional dimension. The paper refers to young people who express not knowing whether they are wanted as part of the Norwegian society (ibid, p. 25). A broad detachment from society is seen as a threat, and detachment would have to be met with broad inclusion measures.

The prognostic framing of (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)) presents considerations for strengthening attachment and affiliation, along with four areas for more long-term political change and development.



Attachment and affiliation

Ceremonies of citizenship.

Norway as home country.

New ways to be Norwegian, new identities.

Ending racism and discrimination.

Societal structure and national symbols.

Attitudes and responsibility of the media.

Use of terms, prejudice, and social contact.

Attitudes in the population.

Areas for long-term development

Responsibility of adults.

Equal opportunities in education.

Incorporation and opportunities in the labour market.

Adaption of public services.

(St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): chapters 7 & 8)


The motivational framing behind this approach is that as a community, we want to strengthen the attachment to society in two ways: first, by securing welfare and equal opportunities, as described above, and second, by trying to enhance affiliation to society, meaning “that everyone who lives in Norway should be respected for who they are, and should have the opportunity to feel at home” (ibid, p. 35). The aspect of affiliation was a new element introduced by (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004)), which encourages individuals to reflect upon who they want to be, how they can express who they want to be, and to what degree society recognises and values who they choose to be (ibid). The government emphasises the human rights of all individuals and will not tolerate the restriction of individual choice on the basis of skin colour, religion, or cultural background.



2011 and forward: Influence, participation and activation

In April 2010 a central committee was established to evaluate integration in Norway, and the policy areas associated with it. NOU 14: 2011 states the mandate like this:


Lift forward challenges and possibilities in today’s multicultural Norway, and based on this suggest measures in the inclusion and integration policy. The committee should take existing research and knowledge as its point of departure, and in its work emphasise the labour market, education, and participation in democracy and civil society. (NOU 2011:14)


In Norway there has been an overall aim in welfare and integration to enhance equal opportunities for all. The report claims that this goal has been reached to a large extent. It suggests a definition of integration in line with an international understanding of the concept, such as the EU’s greater emphasis on results rather than opportunities. The report divides the policy into two parts: short-term integration policy directed at newcomers and first-generation immigrants, and a more long-term inclusion policy directed at the entire population in Norway. Implied in the concept of inclusion is the “long-term development of the lifecycle of immigrants and those born in Norway with immigrant parents – their participation and affiliation to Norway” (ibid).

As a diagnostic framing, the report asks “what is the state of integration in Norway?” With improved diagnostic tools, along with the amount of research being done in the field of immigration, the question is not easy to answer. First, there is a focus on the system itself, where inefficient aspects of the system are seen as part of the problem. When evaluating the situation, the Inclusion Committee finds that “the current policy failed to yield sufficient results on central dimensions like economy and distribution of resources, participation in the arenas of society, and recognition and inclusion in the societal community”. This implies a consistent critique of sectorial authorities and others who don’t deliver according to their assignment. It also implies a critique of the use of measures that are not efficient enough (NOU 2011: 14). System inefficiency is defined as a problem on its own terms. To meet the goals of better efficiency, the committee suggests establishing a yearly integration monitor that documents results and deviations in important areas, and including new aims and indicators. Second, in the diagnostic framing, it seems that this report does more than just “describe” the “facts” from the living conditions surveys. In addition to presenting the numbers of immigrants, unemployed, or those dependent on social benefits, it attempts to sharpen the analysis to show how ethnicity correlates with class, poverty, and gender. “Immigrants are more exposed to persistent poverty when compared to the rest of the population. Poverty has a more permanent character in the immigrant population” (ibid. p. 86). A staggering 12–15% of immigrant children grow up in poor families. On average, immigrants have lower levels of education and higher rates of unemployment, lower levels of income, and less participation in elections and in civil society (NOU 2011: 14). At the same time, these average numbers conceal great differences within the immigrant population based on gender, age, and nationality, and therefore it would be wrong to define the whole immigrant population as a new underclass. The report also presents the prognosis that if immigration continues at today’s levels, and the current problems remain unresolved, there will be an increase in immigrants who are unemployed, “passive”, and on permanent social benefits.

The term “passive” in the living conditions surveys refers to people who are not registered as unemployed, as students, or as recipients of social benefits or social assistance. They are in many ways outside the system, and as such they are difficult to influence and socialise in terms of common values. The report thus discusses the problem of analysing activity and participation. Some people might be active in the sense of having a job, but it might be a low-skilled job with no social interaction. Others could be inactive in the sense of being unemployed but might be very active in community work and voluntary organisations. Activation seems to be a new trend in the changing welfare state. It is a central element in the European employment strategy to promote the transition from welfare to work (Djuve, 2011). It is possible to distinguish two types of activation: the activation for work and the human-capital activation that emphasises the development of skills for increasing one’s capital and enabling one to find work in a variety of fields (ibid). In a way this reflects two different theoretical orientations: activation as vertical social mobility and activation as a way to increase social capital, where mobility could also be seen as horizontal.

The high unemployment and poor living conditions are most often seen from a universal welfare point of view. In the NOU 14: 2011 the same conditions are referred to from a more political point of view.


There is a substantial risk for society when many of those with immigrant backgrounds are not integrated into society and end up with permanently poor living conditions. This creates an environment of distrust and rejection of common values, and lays the basis for radicalisation and increased conflict. (Author’s translation; NOU 2011:14)


In this report, the risk of distrust and the rejection of common values is the core of the diagnostic framing. This can be associated with Putnam’s argument that ethnic diversity contributes to the breakdown of social trust in society (Robert D. Putnam, 2007). In terms of social capital theory, one would assume that people of different cultural backgrounds would contribute to “bridging” – making contact across differences. On the other hand, one could also assume that increased heterogeneity leads to in-group bonding – focusing on contact with the people who resemble oneself (Ivarsflaten, 2011). Many European researchers question Putnam’s study and state that the situation in Europe is different from the situation in the US, the focus of Putnam’s 2007 research. The European studies emphasise the significance of socioeconomic resources in the explanations of what builds trust or eventual distrust. The degree of equality in society thus becomes important in a policy whose aim is to build trust and support of common values (Rothstein & Uslaner, 2005).

If society is in the process of developing more and more inequalities, a beneficial prognostic framing would be to promote and strengthen the common values of society. The Report to the Storting on Diversity through inclusion and participation articulates the challenge as a “balance between respect and maintenance of diversity and individual rights on the one hand, and common goals, shared values, and mutual loyalty on the other” (St. meld. 49 (2003-2004): 311). These aims are stated in the same report but are also listed in the state’s budget for 2010–2011 as “knowledge and support of laws and basic rights and duties, the feeling of attachment and inclusion in society, experience of affiliation and respect, understanding of the basis for the Norwegian society” (author’s translation).

The Official Norwegian Report on Integration includes specific chapters on democracy, participation, formal and informal arenas for integration, unity, values, and conflict resolution. The motivational framing here has to do with inclusion and active participation. This report has an overall emphasis on measurements and monitoring, but recognises that indicators in this field concerning the more political forms of integration to a minimal extent are treated in the policy documents rather than in the state budget (NOU 2011: 14).




In this paper we have been trying to map different interpretations of the term integration into contexts of policy frameworks in a defined timeline. What appears in the materials of policy documents in this field seems to be a growing complexity of concepts, and a gradual diffusion of the original policy. Integration and inclusion is now in almost every public policy document in education, health, housing, labour market, culture, and democratic participation and many others. This is a wanted development. Integration and inclusion should not be something extraordinary on the side of public sectors, but incorporated in every area of society. What also appears when we look into the developments in this field, is a that the politics of integration and inclusion has over years been a state policy, but in the recent years has become more and more significant at the local and municipal level (Bak Jørgensen, 2012). What is also apparent is that the debate on the social economics of immigration and the welfare state is still very present, and has a strong influence on policy documents.

Based on what have been presented I will identify six concepts of understanding integration, and in every frame I will present the concepts of diagnostic framing, prognostic framing and motivational framing.



Conception of integration

Diagnostic framing

Diagnostic framing describing immigrants

Prognostic framing

Motivational framing

Integration as social care


Improvement of skills and individual conditions in order to achieve   equal access to ressources

Individuals needing welfare and services in order to become functional   in society

In need


In crisis


Provision of services, skills, training, care

Compensatory programs for targeted groups and individuals

Unconditional benefits given to targeted groups and individuals to:

-help indivudals in need

-reduce differences


Unconditional welfare for those in need


Equal access to ressources


Integration as the preservation of culture


Assimilation as a threat

Culture as an obstacle

Culture as a condition

Culturally different

Deviant, deficient

Lack of competence


-Support cultural activities

-Restrict different culture

Individual choice


Cultural enrichment to society (food, dance…)

Cooperation, mutuality and tolerance

Integration as upheaval of living conditions in specific groups


Surveys on living conditions where

immigrants show low score on welfare-parameters

Social inequality



Low score on welfare and access to ressources


Large surveys on living conditions to target and evaluate policy.

Three directions:

-System differentiation

-City concentration programs

-Introduction programs


Universal welfare

Responsibility of sectors

Local government





Integration as absence of structural barriers, racism and   discrimination


Elimination of structural barriers and factors of exclusion and   discrimination


Occurrence of discrimination and exclusion mechanisms




-Support to organisations


-New legislation against discrimination


Equal worth

Social Justice

Human rights




Integration as attachement to society


Living conditions, identity,   and belonging

Inclusion of various believes, practices, and identities as part of   Norway as a community

Diverse society

Loose attachment to society


Not belonging



Rights and duties

Societal contract

Inclusive practices

Inclusion and respect for different identities


Diverse society

Integration as influence, participation, and activation



Social Democracy

Large part of immigrant population not participating in civil and   political society.


Distrust and rejection of common values


System inefficiency

Critique of sectoral authorites


Low trust

Activation programs




Efficiency, Measureability


Integrational monitor


Participation as learning and sharing values

Conditional benefits


Participation socially and politically

-a condition of social democracy

-prevention of radicalization


Efficient integration helps the sustainability of the welfare system



In the identification of these frames, we can see various shifts in orientation, and we can assume a large landscape of recent intellectual discourses. The mapping of frames as it is done here, does not fully explore the various discourses, but the frames developed can be used as reference points for establishing discourses. The mapping can also be traced to various understandings, showing how different understandings can affect political policy. Verloo and Lombardo states that frame analysis should:


– expose conceptual prejudices,

– detect inconsistencies,

– challenge generalisations,

– and give visibility to the processes of exclusion

(Verloo & Lombardo, 2007).


The table above summarises these points, where the conceptual prejudices have been exposed. The inconcistencies that has been detected in the course of the analysis, has been within how the concept has been defined – like unconditional of conditional benefits when it comes to welfare, or assimilation or integration when it comes to culture. But inconsistencies can also be found between the diagnostic, prognostic and motivational framing. These inconsistencies should not be seen as separate, but twined as lines of history. Discovering these inconsistencies, might in one phase lead to redistributive claims, in another phase lead to culture preservation claims, in another again to claims for recognition or participation (Fraser, 2009). This is where Foucault’s term geneaology comes in, as collective representations evolving into new forms as reactions to inconsistencies that can be brought forward as new discourses in society (Foucault, 2012). The mapping of frames into a defined timeline as we have done in this analysis, underlines Foucault’s point of ‘power of practice’. This practice is embedded in the institutions, and through the practice, knowledge is constructed, maintained and transformed through ongoing discourses from positioned subjects.



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1 Before 1988, immigration policy was under the Department for Social Affairs. It was after transferred to the Department of Municipal Affairs. As mentioned above, when refugees arrived in their given municipality, their needs were taken care of by the local office of social services (Government Report 74, 1979–80). Social services then were mandated by the Social Care Act to provide basic financial support, housing, etc. The costs from this support was reimbursed by the state in every single case. The amount and the extension of this support was not specified but left to the assessment of each local social service.