The Rational Agent or the Relational Agent: Moving from Freedom to Justice in Migration Systems Ethics

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (2):355-369 (2015)
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Most accounts of immigration ethics implicitly rely upon neoclassical migration theory, which understands migration as the result of poverty and unemployment in sending countries. This paper argues that neoclassical migration theory assumes an account of the human person as solely an autonomous rational agent which then leads to ethics of migration which overemphasize freedom and self-determination. This tendency to assume that migration works as neoclassical migration theory describes is shared by political philosophers, such as Joseph Carens, Michael Walzer, and David Miller. This paper argues that all three philosophers incorrectly frame migration as a contest between the freedom of the migrant and the communal self-determination of the political community. Migration systems theory is presented as a theory that draws upon a relationally embedded understanding of autonomy in order to begin to develop a migration systems ethics. This paper concludes by arguing that the central ethical category for an ethics of migration is not freedom or self-determination, but justice-in-relation



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The law of peoples.John Rawls - 1999 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Edited by John Rawls.
National Responsibility and Global Justice.David Miller - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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