[OPE] Immigrants (was Soviet-type socialism vs. capitalist market economy)

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Tue Jun 17 2008 - 16:46:12 EDT


I'm aware that selective racist-type discrimination also occurs in settler societies, and I referred to that occurring. Hostility against Chinese migrants was an international phenomenon in the 19th century, including in Australasia. In fact, one New Zealand worker wrote to the London correspondence committee of the First International about the "Chinese problem". Moreover, South Africa as a settler society in the past formally institutionalized racism on religious grounds. So there is no easy social scientific "law" or generalisation possible in terms of cultural mentality of settler societies versus non-settler societies.

Nevertheless I think that my comment contains something that is valid, namely that if the majority of citizens are immigrants or descended from immigrants, they are able to understand better and more sympathetically what life is like for other immigrants, and are less likely to act as if they "own"n (as dinctinct from belonging to) the country in which they choose to live, as against foreigners who do not own it, or, that their own lifestyle is the only natural one - they are more aware of different cultures and lifestyles in the very fabric of their culture. And that creates a different attitude or mentality. Nationalist rhetorics may occur of course, but the vehemence with which dour racist stereotypes are also criticized, says something in itself. Admittedly this is a somewhat speculative hypothesis.

Quantities and types are important here also. Every year now, about one million immigrants obtain legal status to live the US. Of these, in round figures, about 120,000 currently come from Europe, 360,000 from Asia, 143,000 from Mexico, 114,000 from the Caribbean, and 102,000 from South America. Together these account for around four-fifths of all legal immigrants.

Point is, you will nowadays hear in North American public controversy about illegal immigrants, and you will hear specifically about Mexican immigrants, but the principle of immigration is itself accepted as normal and indeed inevitable, and you will not hear much controversy at all about the vast majority of immigrants making a new home there. 

It is estimated about half a million illegal immigrants enter the US each year, and the estimates of illegal residents currently in the US range from 7 to 20 million. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0516/p01s02-ussc.html Question I have is, how is this absorption possible at all, without a high degree of social tolerance in the US? Net immigration levels in Europe and America turn out to be very similar, at about 3 immigrants per thousand inhabitants each. There's a "stock" of about 56 million migrants in Europe, and about 40 million migrants in the US, and half a million migrants enter Europe illegally each year, just as in the US. 

But there are considerable differences in the social response, that is what I am getting at. In places like Holland, Belgium, Germany and Italy you get clear arguments to the effect that "our country is full and we don't want anymore immigrants" as a principle, even although the local citizens assume that they have the right to emigrate elsewhere, if they so choose. It's a different, less tolerant mentality, that grows out of a different historical tradition and different circumstances, which assert themselves regardless of whether additional immigration is objectively beneficial or not. I cannot explain that social mentality, simply by referring to more unoccupied space in North America or Australasia, than in Europe. 

According to a provisional calculation, Europe has about 186 residents per square mile on average, versus about 21 residents per square mile in North America (9 in Canada alone), implying an average population density in Europe that is perhaps 9 times greater than in North America. According to a joke, the number of people that live on a square mile is one. But have you ever estimated how many people can and do live on one square mile? I am told the average population density e.g. in New Jersey is around 1,174 per square mile, and in areas with the greatest population density, the number rises to 2,000-5,000 and in some cases vastly more, in which case you're building up. In Monaco, where the maximal density is reached, there are about 16,670 residents per square kilometre. 

That being so, the social conceptions we have about the allocations of space ought to be treated with some qualification at least... the arguments about immigrants often have more to do with subjective perceptions than with objective realities. And if that is so, the question arises what the origin is of the cultural imagery which shapes these perceptions. That is what my remarks intended to refer to.


ope mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Jun 30 2008 - 00:00:16 EDT