16th Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Sivarajah

Mark Sivarajah, University of Bristol.

Migration Facts and Political Principles


Political philosophers have been spilling a lot of ink discussing migration and citizenship. This paper addresses how political philosophers have addressed these topics. In turn asking whether the facts of migration generate changes in practical requirements or action-guiding principles? This paper stipulates that facts do ground normative principles. The resultant claim is that one of the main objectives for normative theorists of migration is to remain cognisant of a changing empirical landscape. This paper highlights how this may be done and the need for political philosophy to engage more with social sciences and the empirical landscape, whilst also remaining cognisant of certain limitations social science poses. Largely the latter is achieved at a theoretical level in assessing which facts are to be chosen.

The initial section is essentially classificatory and examines the fact-independency thesis which stipulates that normative principles should operate independently of facts. Section two examines and affirms the practice-dependent critique that alternatively posits that social practices do shape principles. Section three examines how this approach may apply to the problematic case of immigration policy. It is further posited that certain practices are permissible by virtue of whether they undermine other larger institutions. It is argued that the changing practice of citizenship demands a refocus to what the aim and purpose of immigration and citizenship policy are. For instance, the disaggregation of social, civil and political rights that constitute citizenship status creates constellations of citizenship statuses for non-citizen residents that stand in need of recognition. It is concluded that many of the methodological strategies deployed by normative theorists are not adequate to task. Moreover, that normative principles need to be grounded in facts relevant to a social context.