07 May 2022

Migration of whos

In my last post I wrote, "The freedom of movement of thingified value is the hidden highest value of liberal democratic societies". This value asserts itself invisibly behind our backs, outside the reach of the democratic mind-set that floats above it on the surface. Here's an illustration:

Today there is a global crisis of migration with multiple sources, including the increasingly tempestuous, violent, encroaching climate change. The rise of defensive nationalism under unsavoury demagogues who know how to skilfully bring out the worst in their voters and stoke hatred and fear among their populations has raised political tensions across the globe. Nation states strive to implement border protections against what some media call tendentiously a "flood" of undesirables into the country. The right to asylum, that is an item on the list of human rights, is watered down to become a perverted inversion of its original purpose.

Gone are those halcyon days in past times when nations were hungry for immigrants and welcomed them with open arms, either permanently or, disgracefully, as Gastarbeiter. The criterion for being more welcoming back then? The nation concerned needed more workers for its economy's workforce, and the respective government set the criteria for whether a given prospective migrant was up to scratch on the yardstick of potentially valorizable, human material. 

In certain phases, migrants can be welcomed not as who they are in their multifaceted, estimable whoness, but as bearers of labour power willing to thingify themselves for wages. In other phases, such as today, migrants have to jump over a higher bar of skill and qualification to be a desirable addition to a country's workforce; otherwise they are undesirable and have to be kept out by all means, including nationalistic, lying, demagogic politics. With exquisitely nauseating hypocrisy, politicians vow to "protect" would-be migrants from human traffickers, to the satisfaction of their xenophobic electors who are intent on preserving their comparatively advantageous situation as citizens.

The right of free movement of free persons is supposed to be among those 'values' in the catalogue of human rights cherished in liberal democracies, but the 'right' of free movement of free persons across the globe is heavily conditioned. Who the prospective migrant is in all his or her existential fullness does not count; only what the migrant is estimated to be as a bearer of labour power that can potentially be profitably thingified under the wage-form of value counts.

Compare this with the global freedom of movement of thingified value in the guise of investable money-capital. Countries vie against each other to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) for the sake of developing and strengthening their economy that is, in truth, on the subterranean level, the continually augmentative movement of thingified value in myriad circuits of capital. The global freedom of movement of these whats, investable money-capitals, trumps the liberal freedom of movement of whos as migrants. Whos have to subjugate themselves to the movement of whats to be estimated and esteemed as having any value at all.

Since thingified value as such is invisible, but demands sufficiently deep thinking to come to light, it is necessarily omitted from debates on the surface of society over 'our' democratic values engaged in by economists, sociologists, historians, ethicists, journalists, politicians, &c. The maintenance of the status quo depends upon this obfuscation.