Citizenship and immigration in Western Europe: national trajectories under postnational conditions? A qualitative comparative analysis of selected countries

by Thorsten Wallbott

Working Papers WP 14-12
October 2014
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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Citizenship rights for immigrants have emerged as a major point of reference in public and academic debates surrounding the regulation of ethnic and cultural diversity across Western European states. In this regard, the modern institution of citizenship can be described as an effective mechanism of social closure that is based on legal criteria of national membership. This Working Paper investigates under which conditions Western European countries of immigration have added liberal elements to their citizenship laws in the post-war era while others have maintained rather restrictive configurations. Employing a historical-comparative research design, the study brings together concepts of national path dependency, the role played by political actors as well as postnational approaches focusing on multilateral treaties. Here, the method of fuzzy-set QCA is particularly suited to reveal modes of causal interaction and equifinality that basically shape contingent policy developments across states. Looking at a diverse sample of seven European countries between 1980 and 2010, the empirical results point to the importance of specific legal traditions in explaining the direction and timing of liberalizing change. Yet, they only serve as the context for ongoing political contestations over access to citizenship for immigrants which in turn inhibit convergent or even postnational patterns of policy change. Rather, preexisting cross-national differences are continuously reproduced in nationally specific ways.

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