The State’s Objective: Racialized population management on behalf of an international network
In the 1950s, UBC political scientist David Corbett compared postwar Commonwealth Canadian and Australian immigration and foreign policy. He started with the premise of the objectives of foreign policy and domestic policy. According to the political scientist, while foreign objectives are satisfied in policy, domestic objectives are satisfied in politics. Racial management from a British perspective played a central role in both foreign and domestic objectives.
The objective of foreign policy is…prevention of a precipitous move into the communist camp on the part of the non-white populations of the world,” while the objective of “domestic politics” is preserving “harmony among ethnic groups, and the economic strength and national patriotism necessary for a nation to meet its international commitments, defend itself, perform its treaty obligations and carry out its proper responsibilities in the community of nations” (Corbett 1958: 115).
While Corbett used language that tended to hide the sociological distribution of duties and obligations within Commonwealth social contract, it is apparent from the Commonwealth perspective that, along with controlling racialized peoples around the world, domestic ethnic management primarily serves the anti-Rousseauian purpose of permitting the Commonwealth country to perform its obligations to external interests. A postwar liberal might specify those interests in relation to some nations, as Corbett did, and a more contemporary observer would specify those global interests as belonging to an economic network or the capitalist class, and carried by states.
[While critical analysts in the US core can often more clearly see the structure and political organization of the capitalist class, the advantage of the tributary Commonwealth perspective is that it can more reliably apprehend the spatial distribution of that interested class’ network, a perspective that the US lost as it became a financial and consumption core tied to an aging oil-based GPT. Together, they may shed light on the distribution of sovereignty in global capitalism.]
Failing to Conceptualize Postwar Australian Policy
Labouring to jam his comparative case study within a Procrustean bed of liberal notions (Realism, Idealism), Corbett goes on despite himself to demonstrate that the Australian Labour Party was able to efficiently parlay its wartime nationalism brand into the capacity to manage the conversion of working-class interest in reducing working-class competition– via immigration– into the working-class interest in full employment. By instituting full (male) employment, the Labour Party was able to institute mass immigration without contribution qualifications–that is to say, not capitalist but humanist immigration, immigration without structured stigma.
It was very difficult for Corbett to conceptualize the postwar institutionalization of Australian foreign and immigration policy from within a liberal framework. From a liberal perspective, Corbett had to interpret full-employment-embedded mass immigration without stigma as “idealistic” policy. However slippery the Realism/Idealism terms, by liberal definition, anti-capitalist policy is not “realistic.” But in fact, in combination with policy supporting universal working-class access to income, stigma-free immigration is a pro-worker variety of nonelite mobilization.
The normalized mobilization, called simply “immigration,” contrastingly tends to be designed and legitimized by economists, capitalists’ think tanks, and consanguine conservative-liberal policymakers to disrupt and constrain nonelite collective action, in service of the governing objectives Corbett described at top.
It was not that the postwar Australian liberal party was simply, craftily using nationalist credibility earned in the war and solidified in a brand to orchestrate exoteric domestic politics imposing the objectives of international capital, but rather that the Australian working class understood its interests and responded not with the irrationality that liberals and conservatives automatically, tendentiously attribute to the working class’ distinct interests, but with rational cooperation.
[Conservatives and liberals influenced by conservative thought (eg. Hobbes’ tendentiously-narrow definition of non-elite liberty as bodily movement) will not grasp the distinction, but with a socialist recognition that labour mobility can come in both pro-labour and anti-labour forms, what the Australian Labour Party instituted is pro-labour mobility, as contrasted to migration as “a capitalists’ proposal, a weapon against labour” (Corbett 1958: 113).
From a liberal framework that simply naturalizes the working class subjectivity as irrational, Corbett was unable to satisfactorily explain the Australian working-class’ acceptance of postwar mass immigration. In wavering language, he suggested that “probably” mass immigration was imposed upon and sold to an unwitting working class with idealistic messaging (Corbett 1958: 115). He offers this weak analysis, lacking any empirical evidence, as confirmation that under unspecified conditions, Political Science’s Idealist hypothesis is as valid as its Realist hypothesis. This framing begs the question of the conditions under which “Idealism” v. “Realism” may operate.]
Postwar Canadian Liberalism: Immigration Policy
Corbett’s comparative case, exemplifying Realist governance, was Canada, where the Liberal Party leader Mackenzie King presided in the postwar period, as before. The ruling Liberal Party did not institute full-employment policy in Canada, and, despite postwar resettlement needs, maintained the capitalist’s contribution-qualified Canadian immigration policy, only expanding numbers gradually.
Over the decades, the Australian right removed the full employment framework, restoring the working-class disciplining variety of mass immigration.
In Canada, the variety of mobilization, the “immigration” that King maintained was eventually expanded, and has become branded not only in Canada but abroad as well as the model for achieving the state’s domestic-politics objective, the objective of ethnicized population management in service of an external network.
The context for the diffusion and adoption of Canada’s model is the neoliberal milieu, conditions in which (we have begun to recognize) liberalism has been widely reoriented to conservative social-ordering principles of inequality and inegalitarianism. But these social-ordering principles are not how neoliberal delegates sell their transitional work. Historically, conservatives have sold their society as a form of divine paternal protection and cultural patronage. In facilitating the transition to greater inequality and inegalitarianism, neoliberal delegates aestheticize, moralize, center, and normalize the marginal experience.
How does King’s Canadian immigration model continue to reflect and amplify the conservatized liberal consensus? How does it continue to secure the worker-constraining variety of immigration? (TFW.) How does the Canadian model achieve the domestic objective to secure compliance across ethnicity for the benefit of international economic interests? (Multiculturalism.)
With the growth of refugee migration, could the Canadian model lose its glamour again, even for liberals, if pro-worker governments arise elsewhere to institute “idealistic” policy? In that case, it may be useful for the growth industry of Canadian immigration expertise to diversify their portfolio and comparatively consider the virtues of different varieties of immigration policy within distinctive policy packages.
Method: Compare Canadian to contemporary Swedish foreign and immigration policy.
Sweden as Comparator: Immigration & Integration
The utility of Sweden as a comparator in discussions of immigration and cohesion is partially that Sweden is a society that achieved integration, coherence at the turn of the 20th century, though this fact tends to be buried in liberal propaganda characterizing Swedish coherence not as a hard-won social achievement, but as “natural” or “biological.” What is the function of portraying a political achievement as a biological attribute?
Liberal and conservative consensus portrays Sweden as “monolithic,” an inferior or insufficient multicultural model in comparison to “diverse” Canada. While I experientially understand the difficulty of integrating into Swedish and as well Canadian social relations, my analysis is that the Sweden-is-homogeneous framework is an overplayed symptom of global military and economic interests in breaching the country’s democratic-sovereignty boundaries. Any “homogeneity” (cohesion, sovereign democratic boundaries) Sweden has is a hard-won achievement, and those boundaries can be at odds with metropole priorities. Like Canada and Ukraine, Sweden was integrated into the global economy as an extraction (forestry, mining) periphery. Prior to the social democratic reorganization at the turn of the 20th century (not so long ago), it was a highly-balkanized country, in terms of regionalism, elite internal conflict, and relations with global powers–Britain, Germany, and Russia. Capitalist ideology will always paint any degree of working-class sovereignty as an obstructive monolith…a many-headed hydra, as Linebaugh and Rediker observed.
Canadian Multiculturalism: More Than Ethnic Management?
It has been suggested that Canadian multicultural policy serves as a sort of vehicle for deliberative democratic practice, fortifying sovereign democratic development. One researcher starts from the empirical observation (surveys) of dehumanizing and non-compromising attitudes in Ukraine. The idea here is that these attitudes are cultural, not based in ongoing experiences where there are little by way of compromise options. This view sees untapped capacity, multiculturalism not as ethnic management but as Bahktinian carnivale. After all, in the staid old Soviet Union, bureaucrats were also involved in disruptive collectives as critical artists (O. Kulick, 2020). With the addition of multicultural institutions, space could be made within capitalist societies for more deliberative democracy and regional sovereignty, right?
By contrast, I have been viewing multicultural policy as an insufficient vehicle for deliberative democracy in the face of global financial and military interests. I have been living for 11 years in Canada, and, along with studying comparative immigration policy, I am versed in the Canadian and OECD arguments for the virtues of Canadian multicultural institutions–These arguments tend to highlight Canadian multiculturalism as a culturalist vehicle allowing rapid immigrant ownership of the nationality, thus enabling smoother market integration, and as a byproduct, social integration. Canadian multiculturalism is really cultural, taking the form of toleration aesthetics and manners, and food celebrations.
While it is tempting in a context of liberal cultural determinism to imagine that we can negate externally-imposed intra-territorial conflict by simply, stealthily instituting cosmopolitan cultural-appreciation institutions, Canadian multiculturalism is not constructed as a vehicle for the deliberative democracy that can build sovereign democratic capacity, that can set boundaries (to some extent) upon imperial interventions. Canadian multiculturalism is an institution cohering for the global market a colonial society comprised of a selected (“chosen,” with all its divine connotations) influx of contributing labour and capital superimposed over a defeated native population. But even were it backed by similar pro-immigration norms and structural factor requirements, multiculturalism is probably not robust enough to overcome ongoing, externally-imposed alienation.
My research in Sweden was with immigrant groups and the political parties (Vansterpartiet), unions (LO), and national and state welfare and research agencies involved in newcomer integration and advocacy. Multicultural policy in Sweden predates Canadian multicultural policy. While this is a heightened moment of immigration in which conflicts come to the fore, Sweden has been a longtime immigration country (including, per LO-led policy, for distinctly different, particularly war-refugee, economic-refugee, and family reunification migrant populations compared to Anglo-American settler countries, including Canada, primarily managing economic mobilizations). As well, Sweden uniquely exercises particularly strong, institutionalized, sociological self-critical capacity, while maintaining (struggling to maintain, but still struggling) the boundaries that allow for the reproduction of substantive democracy (real equality of opportunity and democratic outcomes).
Consequent to my Sweden-Canada immigration comparison, I tend to view multiculturalism as an oblique contributor to market-centered social cohesion, an adjunct to a national order that prioritizes market autonomy, not deliberative democratic capacity. Multiculturalism helps coordinate market actors and so stabilizes the market–an antidemocratic institution. It also can accommodate or reproduce non-democratic dispositions, practices, and skills. It doesn’t require education for democratic development (Dewey 1915), only communications professionals. It is a policy jewel owned by conservatism still under socialist heat, though multiculturalism was not even pioneered by conservatives or liberals, but by social democrats with socialist backbone. Though it has been posited as a integration resource in Eastern Europe, I think multiculturalism has thin capacity to substitute for or create the conditions for deliberative democracy enabling citizens to collectively organize sovereign boundaries and development. It may not be adequate to the social challenges of tributaries riven by imperial rivalry.
Still, perhaps market-friendly multiculturalism is a possible humanistic integration institution for regions, like Canada, that are confined to asserting symbolic sovereignty?* Sweden was able to assert some developmental sovereignty because a) political organizers prioritized cross-national union and working class development prior to polity strategy, and b) it works in a regional alliance with other Nordic countries serving different imperial masters. That may not be an optional development path everywhere. It’s not desirable in the British Commonwealth network.
Because it becomes institutionalized in an expert market, Canadian, American, and UK policy tends to be overhyped and exported excessively and uncritically, including to Canada’s and the US’s own hinterlands. This expertise can often be counterproductive to tributary regions’ political-economic and social development. Yet as a sociologist always aware of the social construction of our world, I am also committed to the collective, comparativist Enlightenment approach to knowledge building. I continue to think there is a great need for well-specified, interregional-comparative and historical-comparative scholarly interventions.
*Note: It sounds like I’m harshing on Canada. I do not think its immigration and integration policies are good export models. However, I do think there is a Canadian advantage, which some other countries share: It doesn’t have such a big population that it wastes incomprehensibly-vast amounts of cultural capital and human life on junk jobs, rentier activities, underemployment, military keynesianism, policing, surveillance, and incarceration, like the national capitalist cores do. It still wastes a lot of life.
However, what makes the Canadian model tick as a class compromise is that it is a pretty simple capitalist tributary–it never had any ambition to mess around with democracy beyond capital-serving political parties coordinated by metropole bond raters and Anglo-American capitalist core political parties (public goods and services are skeletal and mean, information is hard to get, there’s no white collar crime enforcement, it protects global mining rents from taxation, the police exist to remove indigenous peoples from resource extraction right-of-way); its main form of societal reproduction, the immigration pool, is highly vetted, and charged, for its capacity to deliver over cultural and financial capital; the population is low enough that only indigenous lives are systematically wasted; and Canadian virtue is achieved simply via expressions of nationalism, men’s hockey, and charity. Although it’s a neoclassical econ model, it’s not a societal model.
Econ Efforts to Mobilize Factors of Production
“It has become clear that migration is an essential element in the world
economy. Sending countries benefit increasingly from remittance payments
and the return of skilled migrants, receiving countries benefit from younger
workforces, and migrants themselves find new opportunities through their
move to a new country. Migration redistributes wealth at the world level and
plays a central role in development and poverty reduction. Moreover, within
the current globalization process, which favours an increasingly free
circulation of goods, information and capital, it is worth considering including
free movement of human beings as well.”–A. Pecoud, Universite Paris, paragraph 3 in Migration without Borders, 2007.