Is membership always social?
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To what extent can sovereign states limit or exercise discretion over migration into their territory? Furthermore, once migrants have been admitted, what rights are they entitled to? Joseph Carens’s The Ethics of Immigration, a much-awaited synthesis of his influential previous work on the topic, answers these questions both carefully and forcefully.
Throughout, Carens assumes that his audience, like him, is motivated by what he terms ‘democratic principles’ (2): a web of assorted beliefs that together reflect a basic commitment to the equal moral worth of individuals. This allows him to establish a ‘shared understanding’ (5) between those with a permissive attitude towards immigration, and those with a considerably more restrictive view, rather than accepting the myth that both positions are irreconcilable from the ground up. After all, as Carens notes, ‘there is already a wide area of agreement about immigration among democratic states in Europe and North America, an agreement that...