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This review looks to critically analyse two articles, summarising the main points of both, looking at similarities, differences and the persuasiveness of each argument. One takes a more domestic focus of politics, while the other approaches from an international level.
Rogers Brubaker’s article ‘Migration, Membership and the Nation-State’ (Brubaker, 2010) begins by introducing the nation-state and its meaning. He establishes that the nation-state is often seen as an idealised, conceptual model (Brubaker, 2010) and goes on to demonstrate its representation. He sets this up by arguing that the idealised model “posits a set of mappings or congruencies linking state territory, national territory, national culture and citizenry” (Brubaker, 2010). He describes that in this model borders are obvious with culture consistent throughout the territory. Also, that citizenship is clearly defined with all residents permanently residing in a state recognised as citizens.
Brubaker looks at the politics of belonging, arguing that this is able to support his view that the nation-state remains an important locus of belonging (Brubaker, 2010). He highlights this by discussing differences between belonging to and belonging in the nation-state. Brubaker suggests that membership can be formal, where populations believe they belong to one state as they reside in that state. He then adds there may sometimes be doubt about their substantive membership, their “access to, and enjoyment of, the substantive rights of citizenship” (Brubaker, 2010). He uses examples of migrant workers in Europe to support this statement, arguing that work on the rights of these workers has been based on substantive membership rather than their formal belonging in the state (Brubaker, 2010).
Brubaker argues the nation state can create arguments regarding the politics of belonging having both formal and informal aspects. In a formal sense, state membership is defined by documents creating legal nationality. The informal aspect involves the public creating a sense of division using “tacit understandings of who belongs and who does not” (Brubaker, 2010). He continues by looking at internal and external dimensions. He describes how internal politics refers to people residing within a state, but are not members, while external refers to those situated outside, but claim to belong, in some part to that state (Brubaker, 2010). Brubaker uses examples such as Mexicans and their links to the United States, and Hungarians with Hungary and other Eastern European states such as Romania and Slovakia (Fitzgerald, 2009).
Brubaker argues that the idealised nation-state does not exist, and it is the lack of the congruencies that creates internal and external politics of belonging (Brubaker, 2010). He suggests that in this conceptual sense, “there would be no politics of membership” (Brubaker, 2010). He is arguing that in this ideal nation-state it would be obvious who belongs and that there would be no minority populations in this nationalist ideal (Douglas, 1994) (Brubaker, 2010). He identifies sources of internal and external politics of belonging, these being migration, the movement of borders over people, marginal populations and empires. Brubaker argues from a logical sense, these sources are moving away from the idealised nation state. However, he points out that these are “not new incongruencies” (Brubaker, 2010), and cannot be seen to disturb the congruence from a historical sense. He makes a similar point about migration, arguing that from a logical perspective, migration deviates away from the idealised model, but not from a historical sense as migration is not a new disturbance. He goes into more depth with migration, arguing that a “discrepancy between long term residence and citizenship” (Brubaker, 2010) is created. Here he is suggesting that migrants may have been living in a state for many years, but may not be full members. He also discusses how migration can also engender a discrepancy between nation and state, stating this is based on the idea that migrants can only become full members of the state once they have become members of the nation first. (Brubaker, 2010) This can be linked to modern day societies such as Eastern European states and their citizens, migrating for work, yet struggling to become full members of that state, highlighting the significance of the nation-state today.
Brubaker then moves on to discuss other literature on external politics of belonging, and how more recent study emphasises globalisation. He writes that their common view is that globalisation has “engendered a world of newly pervasive and largely uncontrollable cross-border flows of people, goods, images, data, ideas, political projects, and social movements, in which loyalties, identities, solidarities and membership structures increasingly cut across the borders of nation-states” (Barry, 2006) (FitzGerald, 2006) (Brubaker, 2010). Brubaker is critical of these authors’ views, arguing the literature is too focused on the present with not enough detail into earlier migration which would generate external politics of belonging (Brubaker, 2010). Instead there is too much focus on recent globalisation. He argues the literature focuses on movement of borders or people to help identify those who belong, rather than answering the question of why some populations are treated as belonging to a state they do not reside in. He feels the view is not looking into the processes through which states have identified populations as their own (Brubaker, 2010).
Brubaker concludes by reaffirming his argument, emphasising the continued importance of the nation-state. He argues that despite the increased technology of regulating migration flows in a globalised world, the nation-state remains the “decisive locus of membership” (Brubaker, 2010). He maintains the ideal nation-state does not exist. He also argues transborder nationalism indicates the “resilience and continued relevance of the nation-state model” (Brubaker, 2010) as the locus of membership politics. I would argue that Brubaker’s argument is strong as he has used a wide range of evidence to support his views, looking at various examples, as well as looking at the shortcomings of the views of others.
In ‘Depoliticisation, governance and the state’ (Flinders ; Wood, 2014), the authors address the issue of depoliticisation which they feel has been misunderstood and misused. They argue current literature is limited and the work of Carl Schmitt has been completely overlooked (Flinders ; Wood, 2014). Therefore, Flinders and Wood have stressed that depoliticisation as a concept needs to be readdressed.
The article argues new perspectives are needed to help us understand the concepts “that concern depoliticisation, governance and the state in the twenty-first century” (Flinders ; Wood, 2014). It argues because of these times, the original methods and theories that were helpful, “are no longer sufficient for the tasks of understanding the intellectual puzzles that are likely to shape future decades” (Flinders ; Wood, 2014). They go on to place the concepts of state, governance and depoliticisation into their place in history. The authors establish the concept of depoliticisation to be contested, suggesting a modern conceptual definition is needed.
The article then addresses two trends which emerge that look at the “concept of depoliticisation as the lens or prism through which contemporary debates regarding democratic governance and the state appear increasingly orientated” (Flinders ; Wood, 2014). One of these trends is democratic, which focuses upon an increasing distrust from the public concerning politicians, political institutions and political processes one would associate with democracy. The second trend is bureaucratic, looking at “questions concerning governance and the state” (Flinders ; Wood, 2014).
The article discusses the work of Carl Schmitt in detail, looking at his lecture at a conference in 1929. They discuss how Schmitt’s work looked at the concept of the political, and how “for Schmitt, ‘the political’ defined what it was to be a human being in the modern world; it defined friends and enemies and those who were with you or against you (Flinders & Wood, 2014)”. The article also looks at Schmitt’s focus on ‘the age of neutralisations and depoliticisations’, the different domains he has identified throughout history, and then goes on to discuss the ‘state of exception’ (Flinders ; Wood, 2014).
The argument put forward by Flinders and Wood does have identifiable strengths. The argument follows a methodical layout setting out the path the argument will take, making it easily understandable. It does this by establishing context early, allowing readers to identify reasons for the existence of their argument, as the authors have cited the lack of focus on Schmitt’s work. We can therefore understand where the article and argument can situate itself in the literature on this topic. This is a similar strength to Brubaker’s article, as he also establishes there is a gap in the literature, giving reason and purpose for his argument. Re-conceptualisation is another strength. As stated in their argument, depoliticisation as a concept is seen as “strangely nebulous” (Flinders ; Wood, 2014) in recent times, and yet the authors have used Schmitt’s work to address the issue and analyse it, bringing it into the modern age. The authors have paved the way for future literature, offering a way forward in order to expand the analysis and discussion of these concepts in the modern day and beyond.
The shortcomings of the article by Flinders and Wood should also be discussed. By focusing just on Schmitt, their argument could be considered weak to analysts, and the analytical applicability of the findings can be argued to be limited. This raises another question with Schmitt’s work. If the authors are attempting to bring the work of Schmitt back into focus, should work from the 1920s be trusted? Is it practical to apply work from the 1920s into modern politics? In addition, the arguments put forward in the article may also be countered by looking at the terminology. The concept of depoliticisation is a contested term and may lead some to contest conclusions made by the authors.
The article can teach us valuable lessons in relation to politics and IR today. The article not only helps us understand depoliticisation is a concept that needs to readdressing, it helps us to relate this back to the state. The article teaches us that the impact of depoliticisation on governance and government should be addressed when looking at the state, and in order to analyse politics and IR in the modern day, there needs to be fundamental understanding of the concept. We can also understand that concepts are still contested, with disagreements on definitions continuing in the modern period. Because of this, arguments can lack direction and clarity of purpose. This leads to concepts not only being re-evaluated but changed completely, in order for others to propose ideas on the subject. This could be seen as helpful however, as it may lead to a wider variety of literature, leading to more analysis and understanding in the future. It also helps to understand that some ways in which we analyse work at one point of history may not help us at different points, highlighting my earlier point of asking whether work from the 1920s can address current politics.
This article can be placed into study of politics and IR. Firstly, Carl Schmitt was “widely considered a realist” (Flinders ; Wood, 2014), and is challenging liberalism. One focus of IR is the state itself, which this conceptual work addresses, clearly placing it into the study of politics and IR. The article also takes on a philosophical nature, with its focus on concepts. The authors look to move away from the stretching and travelling of a concept put forward by Sartori (Sartori, 1970), but instead to its ability to ‘fly’ (Shapiro, 2005) and move away from normal academic outcomes. In relation to politics and IR, the article challenges the common standing of the state, arguing the traditional state is eroding, with technocrats becoming the main actors. This leads us to ask whether states are still the most important actors when focusing on depoliticisation, or whether the importance of technocrats has risen significantly.
Both of the articles have presented strong arguments by using a variety of other works to help support their own points. Both articles have raised the point that there is a distinct lack of literature in their subject area, and therefore both articles have given reason for their existence. However, as stated earlier, one of the articles appears to focus at a more domestic level of politics while the other looks to address features on an international scale. I would argue that the article by Brubaker is a stronger and more persuasive argument. One reason for this is the lack of focus on a single case of one person and idea, unlike the article by Flinders and Wood with their focus on the work of Carl Schmitt. This for me is too narrow and limits their ability to expand their discussion and conclusions further, especially with the work in question being from the 1920s, and the differences between then and now, a point the authors make in their article. Also, with the evidence and explanations provided, I would argue that Brubaker’s argument is more persuasive, as the nation-state and its significance today is, for me, is not as contested as the concept of depoliticisation put forward by Flinders and Wood.

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