Accepted paper:

Respectability and value: questions of class in the anti-immigration debate


Katariina Mäkinen (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of this paper is to advance critical perspectives on contemporary racism and nationalism by focusing explicitly on questions of class in the Finnish anti-immigration debate. In particular the paper looks at how conceptions fo respectable citizenship and economic value are combined within the debate.

Paper long abstract:

It is typical for the populist claims directed against immigrants to combine moral judgments (they are lazy! they are bad mothers!) and economic rationality (they are economically useless!) so that the moral and economic claims re-enforce each other and intertwine with racialized and gendered categories. Such claims are often repeated in the Finnish anti-immigration debate in which the aim is to control and manage immigration from a racist and nationalist standpoint. Combining a particular kind of economic rationality with moral arguments is typical not only for the claims against immigration but also to formations of class. The working class and the "underclass" have long been described as useless "trash" or "excessive people" and have been the object of moral condemnation. The arguments in the anti-immigration debate are full of similar judgments, and what is common both to claims concerning class and to racializing claims is that they are and have historically been ways of excluding certain groups from respected and recognized citizenship. These are claims that are used to justify social injustice by constructing demonized and marginalized figures such as "scroungers" or "asylum shoppers". It is from this perspective of continuities between the claims concerning immigrants and working class or "underclass" that I interpret further how questions of class, respectable citizenship and economic value are tangled within the dynamics of the anti-immigration debate.

panel P030
The future of class