What is it about?

John Rawls is the most important liberal political philosopher of our century, yet his theory of immigration is far from the political realities of 2022. In this article, I reinterpret the Rawlsian theory for the case of provisional immigrants, that is, immigrants who are in the receiving state and have their life plans situated there.

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Why is it important?

This work is important because: (1) there are no clear political or philosophical views regarding how should states treat territorially present immigrants, who hold residence permits that can expire; (2) the political reality of immigration in our era, including political polarization in the immigrant receiving societies, is not captured by Rawls' views on immigration. However, his theory is rich to offer other tools to better adress ethics and politics of immigration, that Rawls himself did not directly use. I reinterpret Rawlsian theory to highlight its relevance for immigration by highlighting Rawlsian views on fairness and democratic stability.


I believe we should change the framing of the public debate on immigration away from 'immigrants'.This is a debate about the quality and fairness inside the state for everyone, immigrants and citizens alike. My aim has been to offer this particular angle by reinterpreting Rawlsian theory, so that ethics and politics of immigration could be discussed in a more constructive way.

Esma Baycan-Herzog
University of Geneva

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Inclusive Membership as Fairness? A Rawlsian Argument for Provisional Immigrants, Danish Yearbook of Philosophy, April 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/24689300-20221058.
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