An Unchallenged Arbiter: The Role of British State Agency in Creating Forms of Unnatural Exclusion and Inclusion in Communities

An Unchallenged Arbiter: The Role of British State Agency in Creating Forms of Unnatural Exclusion and Inclusion in Communities

PDF version of the essay

Political Notes No. 201

By Chris Shaw

ISBN: 1856376699
ISBN 13: 9781856376693

© 2016: Libertarian Alliance; Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw is an independent writer and researcher, going on to study an MA in International Political Economy at the University of Warwick. He describes himself as a libertarian anarchist, and has written for a number of libertarian sites, including C4SS, the Mises Institute and the Cobden Centre.

The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee, Advisory Council or subscribers.

In this essay I look at how the British state engenders unnatural inclusion and exclusion of migrants and asylum seekers through theoretical definitions, xeno-racist policies and entry barriers to socio-economic realms of life which limit the capacity of these groups to integrate and participate in civil society. Rather than looking at the framework of migration and inclusion through the lens of either settled populaces and their feelings of racism or through the blaming of migrants for not integrating, I want to see how state policies allow for such narratives to expand which limit the development of both bonding and bridging capital, and, when pushed through certain defined variants of community, create the kind of conditions seen in Sighthill, Glasgow. This then breeds misconceptions about migration, and means the fragmentation of communities among settled populaces and migrant networks.

The movement of peoples around the globe has been an ever present reality throughout history. With the advent of a more connected world since the late 20th century, the ability for people to move has become more prevalent than ever before. This is generally seen as a great benefit on economic and social levels. The former due to the ability of individuals to move to areas where they can prosper and the develop a better way of life. The latter due to the creation of diverse communities and the capability of cultural exchange and a new form of learning.

However, this optimistic picture does not account for large scale issues that have developed over decades of significant movement of peoples. On the flip side, we see arguments made for restrictions due to supposed ghettoisation of migrant communities, increasing inequality and a lack of societal cohesiveness and fast-pace changes that both settled populations and migrant groups have had little say over. Within this, there are debates over the scale of these issues, with some saying they are all encompassing, and others downplaying them as marginal compared to other issues. I take the view that they are important, but above all they are framed in ways that ignores the agency of outside actors, the main actor being the state. Thus in framing this research essay, I intend to look into how the state creates forms of unnatural exclusion and inclusion (Hoppe, H.H. 1998, 229-230). By unnatural, I take from Hoppe the idea that certain movements or settlements of people are not desired or motivated by either the moving or settled populations, thus resulting in outcomes that can create or enhance issues of discrimination and intra-community tension.

Specifically, the essay will look into how the British state creates this praxis, and enforces it to the detriment of both migrant and settled peoples. Firstly, I am going to explore wider theoretical issues of how the state defines ethnicity and community, as well as how states cope with migrants through three distinct policies: assimilation, domination and multiculturalism (Eriksen, T.H. 1993, 123). I will show how these are flawed as they take from local communities the ability to both deal with the movement of people at an objective level and a subjective level. Issues of social and bonding capital arise, affecting the ability of local institutions to integrate with new populations and limiting the capability of creating new forms of community. By the state taking national and local cultures as its prerogative, we see definitions of community and ethnicity that bare little relevance to actual considerations on the ground, simply recreating the mysterious other, an object to be leered at rather than understood.

Secondly, I shall review a case study relating to issues of forced inclusion or exclusion. It is framed around the conceptual case of xeno-racism, Fekete’s concept of the state forcing exclusion upon asylum seekers by limiting access to benefits and housing. This links in with wider ideas of welfare being a local institution that when wielded by the state can be damaged as a form of social capital. Specific examples include the case of asylum seekers being placed in Sighthill, Glasgow and the subsequent tensions that have developed there. A socio-economic link can also be made, with the case of state-enforced entry barriers to occupations and sectors causing entrenched poverty in certain migrant communities. This can all be seen as either exclusionary or inclusionary activities that are traced back to xeno-racist state agency.

Finally, I’ll coincide the theories with the case studies, showing how British communities are damaged by state-induced policies that aim to forcefully include or exclude migrant populations. Problems such as a democratic deficit within communities and a lack of a cohesive, community-based narrative are crafted. Forms of ghettoisation and intra-community tensions come to the fore, rather than the building of friendly relations and the redevelopment and recreation of community connections.

The popular narratives that shape the modern immigration debate place blame either with the settled population or incoming migrants. I believe both are incorrect, as they ignore the agency of the state in the key areas of defining ethnicity and community, and the objective policies that maintain forms of exclusion and inclusion, leading to issues of communal tensions and enforced segregation.

Literature Review

There has been large theoretical work into the understanding of state agency in determining outcomes for migrants, and how the definitions and situations created end up damaging the lives and opportunities of migrant families and communities. However there appears little application of said theory toward real-world circumstances. The majority of such work falls into the category of policy agenda and setting, rather than looking at overarching issues and concepts that are developed. Thus this research essay is not looking toward creating policy for specific circumstances, but instead looking at the locational issues of policy application and the production of situations across Britain overall, and analysing these issues through a theoretical lens of state-defined ethnic and migration-related concepts and how this leads to the paradigm I’ve set out. By looking through the frame of both unnatural inclusion and exclusion, I can understand on both a theoretical and an objective level the effects of state agency in affecting the movement of people.

The main theoretical works I will examine are those of Fenton in Ethnicity, Racism, Class and Culture (Fenton, S. 1999) and Eriksen in Ethnicity and Nationalism (Eriksen, T.H. 1993). The former gives a good examination and definition of ethnicity, both as a ground-up conception and a state-defined boundary. The emphasis on ethnicity as a collective decision of social relations is important as a definition in opposition to state-based definitions which rely on top-down classifications. Following from this I look at Eriksen’s work on how the state decides the definition of ethnicity. This is important for it shows implications for how the state eventually treats migrant populaces. Eriksen himself defines three paradigms that the state uses for dealing with migrants that can from such conceptions of ethnicity. Further theoretical areas I want to research are those of state definitions of community. Ratcliffe’s paper ‘Community Cohesion’ (Ratcliffe, P. 2012) helps show how government definitions of community and community cohesion creates flawed paradigms and thus misinformed policy, entrenching forms of discrimination and not actually addressing issues of ethnic tensions or relations. Ed West’s book The Diversity Illusion (West, E. 2013) also shows issues with state definitions, addressing one of Eriksen’s paradigms, that of multiculturalism, and demonstrating how this has an effect on how communities self-define, as well as how issues of ethnic diversity are understood and dealt with. This area of the essay constitutes the theoretical side, looking into a theory of how states define the ideas of ethnicity and community.

The next part of my essay will focus on specific case studies that I’ve outlined in the introduction. The main example, that of the conceptual case of xeno-racism perpetrated by the state, will mainly come from Fekete’s work in this area. In A Sustainable Enemy (Fekete, L. 2009) Fekete identifies specific state policies and actions that have created conditions of both forced integration and forced exclusion. Elements of a commonweal, such as the welfare state and access to housing, are restricted due to the position of asylum seekers and migrants that are placed upon them by the state. Alongside looking at this broad idea, I intend to combine it with specific examples of the movement of people that have been created by the state. Examples include the movement of asylum seekers to areas they would not have necessarily gone to, such as Sighthill, Glasgow. By analysing media reports on these issues I can understand the impact of this xeno-racism both on migrant and settled populaces. Ratcliffe’s work in ‘Race’, Ethnicity and Difference (Ratcliffe, P. 2004) also provides similar specific examples, as with forms of entrenched poverty that enforce segregation. These types of poverty can be seen to originate from entry barriers, which certain political economists, such as Kevin Carson, show are created by state policies.

The final section focuses on the overall effect on Britain. Taking the theoretical framework and combining it with specific examples of forced inclusion and exclusion, I intend to show how this has affected communities, looking at the effect on public services, social capital and community cohesion. I’ll look into Trevor Phillips’ ideas on things like ghettoisation and multiculturalism, and on the issue of democratic deficits in migrant communities, specifically looking at McGhee’s analysis of Phillips’ work (McGhee, D. 2008). Putnam’s work in E Pluribus Unum (Putnam, R. 2007) on social capital and the effect diverse communities has also informs this issue. In particular Putnam shows the effect of state agency on community decision-making and institutions. Finally, going back to West, we see an analysis of the effects of migration on public institutions such as the welfare state and social housing. This will be combined with Finney’s and Simpson’s work in ‘Sleepwalking to Segregation’? (Finney, N. & Simpson, L. 2009) which looks into the myths about migration on effecting said institutions and creating ghettos.

This grounds the essay in an attempted objective context, but at the same time doesn’t simply give policy advice relative to specific locations. By using both sides of the argument, with Finney & Simpson on one and West and Phillips on the other, I can further investigate claims that don’t rely fully on the particularities of biased opinions, allowing me to understand the impact of migration in Britain through a more complete viewpoint.


For this paper, I’ll be taking a desk bound research methodology, relying on secondary sources and the research of other academics and researchers. The main framing of my argument comes from Hoppe’s analysis of the state creating forms of unnatural exclusion and inclusion. Hoppe writes from what can be considered an anti-immigration perspective. This is not a view I take. Thus in using this framing I’m appropriating it for uses in understanding issues for both migrant and settled populaces in terms of forced movement and exclusion from certain services or ways of life. The primary thrust of my argument will come from the main sources identified in the literature review.

The main resources I’m using are academic books, peer-reviewed journal articles and reports, and some popular, general-reader literature, as seen with West’s book The Diversity Illusion. Further, I use a small amount of news sources to gain an overarching view on the case studies I’m using. I intend to be careful with these sources, coaxing out intelligent arguments where I can.

Due to the scope of this question, it is difficult to not over generalise when drawing conclusions on the effects of migration for migrant and settled populaces from specific case studies. As a result, I want to try and hedge my arguments within the wider theoretical literature and the academic studies done, such as that by Finney & Simpson. By using contradictory opinions I can hopefully find the grains of truth that show state action creating the dichotomy I’ve framed this research essay in.

By maintaining an understanding of the effects unnatural exclusion and inclusion has on both settled and migrant populations, I can develop a coherent, relatively unbiased argument from a wide variety of opposed studies and literature.

Definitions of Ethnicity and Community

In understanding the state’s role in creating forms of exclusion and inclusion for migrant and settled populations, we can look at the way the state creates certain concepts and ideas that surround migration. Definitions of ethnicity and community, as well as citizenship entail certain ideas about what migrants are and how they fit in to the wider populace of a nation. I’ll be taking an abstract look at how state’s theoretically define these concepts and how this effects the dichotomy that shapes this essay.

Nation-states are the vehicles through which migration and citizenship are controlled and defined (Fenton, S. 1999, 24). In this sense the definitions of ethnicity and community, contested terrain as they are, are made indisputable and given a veneer of objective truth rather than the reality that they are subjective claims to particular tenets of networks and ethnicities that are multivarious. As Fenton notes, “all commentators on the concept of ethnic group agree that it refers to the social elaboration of collective identities whereby indi­viduals see themselves as one among others like themselves” (Fenton, S. 1999, 7). Here we see the concept as that of a social decision-making process at the level of the individual. By seeing oneself as defined by certain criteria, one is deciding that they are a constituent part of a grouping defined by “extensions of kinship, and in the regularities of obligations and social bonds” (Fenton, S. 1999, 25). In other words, ethnicity is about “social classifications emerging within relationships” (Fenton, S. 1999, 7).

The issue then comes when we see unequal power relations within contested fields. When claims are made about the “constitution of communities” (Fenton, S. 1999, 25), these are usually funnelled through relations of inequality whereby a central arbiter is able to make the decision about that constitution, this usually being the state. The point can be seen in the conception of boundaries versus borders. Eriksen sees boundaries as “social ones” (Eriksen, T.H. 1993, 39) rather than simply territorial. The idea of boundaries does not mean the limitation of movement of cultural knowledge or even people across them (Eriksen, T.H. 1993, 39), but rather the recognition of distinctiveness in relation to their existence. Contrasting this with borders, we see more in the way of control rather mutual recognition and contestation. Eriksen identifies three mechanisms through which the state comes to control migration and with it create specific ideas of what constitutes ethnicity and that of the other.

The three main paradigms that the state uses are assimilation of “entropy-resistant elements”, domination via forms of segregation, and multiculturalism (Eriksen, T.H. 1993, 123). Like all paradigms, none is fully true for the way states classify and deal with the concept of ethnicity. For example, Fekete has noted that the UK has taken what she sees as a monocultural turn in relation to its treatment of migrants and asylum seekers. In relation to citizenship tests, there has been a “compulsory element” with a “negative manner” entailed which enforces a feeling of hostility (Fekete, L. 2009, 67). In general, within this there is a trend toward “cultural homogenisation and forced assimilation” (Fekete, L. 2009, 66). However, West has pointed out that multiculturalism is a part of the UK strategy of integrating migrants. In the area of education, West has made the point that multicultural education practices that place the importance of others cultures over the settled populations has led to a minimising of social cohesion (West, E. 2013, 142-143) and with it cultural misunderstandings between migrant and settled populaces. Neither picture is fully wrong. The integrative framework that the state creates inevitably faces issues of knowledge, particularly local knowledge. It falls into the framework of classifying certain groups or migrants as “desirable or undesirable” (Castles, S. 2004, 856). The capability to move toward a system of real multiculturalism, as described Eriksen as “a decentralised federal model providing a high degree of autonomy” (Eriksen, T.H. 1993, 123), which would include greater multiplicity in application and integration, is minimised. He further noted two cases of Bow and Battersea in the UK, where local policies led to more homogenisation and stricter migration rules in the former while in the latter something of a “polyethnic” city was developed, with greater choice and ability to enter various realms of social life (Eriksen, T.H. 1993, 133-134). Neither particular policy is right or wrong. But an integrative framework engendered with particular definitions from the beginning entails the capability to develop unnatural exclusion or inclusion, with the marginalisation of democratic engagement in contested terrains of defining ethnicity and characterising migration.

The same can be seen in the realm of defining community. Ratcliffe has shown that in the realm of defining community, the state has had a pernicious effect in understanding community cohesion i.e. the capability for strong, stable communities to be developed and maintained. For example, prior to 2001, Asian communities were seen as models of British morals and behaviour, while after 2001 Muslim communities were targeted as an enemy within and a hotbed for extremism (Ratcliffe, P. 2012, 3). Unnatural exclusion is developed through this model, as Muslim populations are marginalised and criminalised, placed outside the framework of community. In a similar sense, West has noted the capacity for state-based multiculturalism put through a top-down system to limit the capability of kinship and long-standing communities. In particular, he noted that residents in an area of Shropshire were denied the ability to build social housing for children of long-term residents as it was claimed it would break race relations law (West, E. 2013, 109). This is effectively an example of top-down knowledge limiting the capacity of furthering an ability to develop community.

Fundamentally, community is a contested concept, with ideas of its cohesion constituted by variations, ranging from inequality to issues of integration. In the hands of the state, there is the facility to implant and command conceptions of community that are alien to the actual situation. In terms of cohesion, it means forcing onto communities the cohesion of different communities with the assumption that they are separated due to ethnic issues (Ratcliffe, P. 2012, 10). The politicisation of community at the level of centralised decision-making then means a colonising of the lifeworld of settled populations that draws boundary lines not necessarily conceived outside of this paradigm if decisions were decentralised. In effect, a Foucauldian will to power occurs as the state uses set ideas of community to create divisions and set forms of discriminatory policy (Alleyne, B. 2002, 622). Rather than community being a reflection of “solidarity, reciprocity, mutual concern and mutual caring” (Olin Wright, E. 2009, 53), it is forced onto situations irrespective of the variables.

Fekete’s xeno-racism shows a distinct way in which the state has engendered this colonisation of the lifeworld of diverse communities, and of the migrant’s ethnicity, with it creating forced exclusion and inclusion.

Case Studies

Fekete’s concept of xeno-racism shows a good example of the British state enforcing forced exclusion via the means of the welfare state. The introduction of the 1996 Immigration and Asylum Act “removed all rights to housing and financial support from asylum seekers who failed to claim asylum at a UK port of entry or who received a negative decision on their asylum claim” (Fekete, L. 2009, 28), leading to direct discrimination against asylum seekers and the moving of responsibility away from the government toward local authorities, particularly in London, who were already stretched with issues of destitution and rising property prices. As a result the “dispersing” of asylum seekers occurred, being farmed out to poor seaside towns in the South East or even further afield. This breaks the networks of migrants and refugees, leading to the breakdown of “social capital” which would allow for the provision of “help with work, housing and other needs on arrival” (Castles, S. 2004, 858). This is particularly important for asylum seekers, “whose choice of route and destination is strongly influenced by existing connections” (Castles, S. 2004, 859).

This xeno-racist turn in migration was compounded by New Labour rhetoric and policy direction as they turned to a policy of “deterrence” with a desire to “‘minimise the attraction of the UK to economic migrants’ by removing access to social benefits and making cash payments as small as possible” (Fekete, L. 2009, 29). With this in mind, the ability to live in the UK became much more difficult. Housing rights were removed and asylum seekers were placed under administrative control via NASS, the Labour government’s strategy for controlling housing and refugee and asylum claims. Under this system, applicants were shipped to different parts of the country with no consent or choice (Fekete, L. 2009, 31). This led to applicants being placed into poor neighbourhoods of council estates and private landlords, which led to landlord fraud and poor living conditions (Fekete, L. 2009, 34). With this we see the colonisation of the migrants lifeworld [and there body by those in immigration control (Ratcliffe, P. 2004, 55)]. Any capability to develop inclusiveness or cohesiveness is destroyed as migrant networks are ignored and actively pushed against through voucher systems in welfare provision, forced dispersal and the provision of extremely poor housing (Ratcliffe, P. 2004, 56). By government framing the movement of people as a making a need for “social control” (Ratcliffe, P. 2000, 173), we see a hostile environment take shape that pushes against asylum seekers and other migrants, leading to forced exclusion, as well as forced inclusion through the dispersal of applicants in the UK.

Sighthill, Glasgow an unfortunate case of this forced inclusion. Kirsty Scott in the Guardian reported continued tensions between asylum seekers and the local community, with significant incidents of harassment and assault (Scott, K. 2001). In the end it culminated in the stabbing of “Firsat Yildiz, a 22-year-old Turkish refugee” (Scott, K. 2001). This despicable crime can only really be put down to the forced dispersal which didn’t allow for the development of migration networks which allow for more natural settling and the potential capability for better engagement. But with the Home Office program asylum seekers were moved without any choice to Sighthill, an area of high deprivation and poor council estates. Minimal engagement was made with the local population by the authorities who made those refugees move there. This is a spark for what ended up being a fire. With a complete inability for any sort of cohesiveness to develop, the government’s definitions and conceptions of what constitutes a community come to the fore, as they make asylum seekers out to be the other, the strange group who appears privileged to poor residents of Sighthill but in reality are themselves treated poorly and forced into unwanted situations.

On the other side, strict employment laws for asylum seekers which prevent one working for a period of 12 months (this being dependent on their lack of an approved application), and after that time period being able to apply for a work permit. With this work permit, they are only allowed to “take jobs that are listed on the UK Border Agency’s official shortage list”, which usually only includes occupations with high qualifications and specialised skills (Fink, A. & Kappner, K. 2015, 10). This engenders entry barriers which “put new or smaller firms at a competitive disadvantage” (Carson, K. 2004), thus making national capital more valuable than the social capital of incoming migrants and refugees. This in itself helps destroy bridging capital between local and migrant populations and thus limiting the capability of community capital as housing is restricted, dialogue limited and employment, particularly self-employment, almost outright banned.

Overall, it is state-based definitions of citizenship and inclusion by the UK government that has created these forms of unnatural exclusion and inclusion. Policies of “active citizenship” and compulsory “civic integration” (Kofman, E., Lukes, S., D’Angelo, A. & Montagna, N. 2009, 148) leads to the exclusion of migrants through marginalisation and sometimes criminalisation. With entry barriers to self-employment, certain groups are privileged over others and the ability to create cohesion is pushed away in favour the idea of the other. On the other hand, the xeno-racist policies that come from the same background as these employment laws foster forced inclusion as migrants are dispersed to alien areas with minimal to even interact with their surroundings as their removed from natural networks and migration chains. Equally, the local populations, who live in deprivation and poverty, see asylum seekers receiving any housing and welfare as favourable only to them. They are perceived as “the foreigner” in “imagined geographies of migration” (Gill, N. 2009, 1). Thus dialogue and democratic engagement between the settled and those who aren’t are made practically impossible by the state defining and controlling what constitutes legality, community and ethnic relations.

The Playing Out of the Process

Trevor Phillips has made the point that as a society the UK is sleepwalking into segregation, with focus “far too much on the ‘multi’ and not enough on common culture” (McGhee, D. 2008, 87). Instead of building bridges between and in communities, Phillips sees a trend toward separation and “the effective isolation of communities” (McGhee, D. 2008, 87). As an antidote, Phillips does have the right idea. A focus on “equality, participation and interaction” (McGhee, D. 2008, 88) with mutual recognition from both settled communities and incoming migrant networks. However, as I’ve pointed out, strategies by the government are actually engendering inequality through forced exclusion in the economic realm and minimal interaction through forced dispersal. Rather than any sort of mutuality developing, state enforced monoculturalism at the border and top-down multiculturalism in local institutions is fostering disarray and marginality.

The process can be seen as starting with strict migration rules and the creation of hostility toward migrants and refugees, restricting access to basic necessities such as welfare and housing as well as restricting access to employment or economic activity. This then limits the ability for migrant networks to form communities and “develop their own social and economic infrastructure” (Castles, S. 2004, 859). Active engagement between different ethnicities and communities becomes compromised. Developing shared social capital is stopped, with the importance of trust and shared experience that such social capital brings (West, E. 2013, 92) being limited. Finney & Simpson show that migrants themselves have great capacity for supporting themselves away from state-based institutions. Any capacity for limiting this is more structural (Finney, N. & Simpson, L. 2009, 84), as seen with entry barriers to employment and state-defined concepts of community that limit the building of social and bonding capital. Without high social and bonding capital, there becomes an issue of cross-community relations and the development of democratic institutions (Putnam, R. 2007). This comes from both the minimal dialogue created by minimising migrant’s networks and movement which entails the limitation of developed bonding capital. Thus Phillips’ three ideas for breaching this are important. On the other hand, issues with this “Cantle-Blunkett fixation on weak citizenship and poor integration has been at the expense of understanding the role that social exclusion, racism and oppressive policing” (McGhee, D. 2008, 92) play.

This can be seen in the desires of migrants in areas to integrate and move into diverse areas rather than segregate themselves (Finney, N. & Simpson, L. 2009, 100). However, there are recognised constraints, both economic and social. The former can be linked to employment entry barriers which favour British people over migrants, limiting the capability of social movement and success. With the latter, its blamed on social perceptions of potential racial bias against Pakistani individuals being the first to move into a white area (Finney, N. & Simpson, L. 2009, 101). This can be compounded by issues of government policy linked to deterrence which can foster climates of hostility and hatred against migrants. Things are not helped by tokenistic forms of democratic institutions. As West shows in relation to the encouragement of ethnic outreach after the 1981 Brixton riots, we see the GLC creating forums for meetings between different ethnic groups that were barely attended (West, E. 2013, 146). In fact, on important issues like housing, community tensions could flare up to perceived bias toward immigrants in provision of council housing (West, E. 2013, 148). This is due to minimal dialogue between different ethnicities and communities, limiting the “opportunity to meet and want to be with people with whom they have something in common that is not defined by their ethnicity” (Putnam, R. 2007, 164).

In the end the capacity to develop both bridging and bonding capital are ruled out due to the inability of the existing communities to deal with incoming migration. There are no real democratic forums at the local level or “programs to reach out to new immigrant communities” that “are a powerful tool for mutual learning” (Putnam, R. 2007, 164). This does not mean pure ghettoisation, which Finney and Simpson have shown to be quite mythical in its proclamation (Finney, N. & Simpson, L. 2009, 133) but rather a lack of collective responsibility, imagined communities and community capital, which have been so important in crafting things like the welfare state and national insurance (West, E. 2013, 96-97). Without these, issues of solidarity and engagement can continue unabated. Discrimination against migrants, a feeling of marginalisation among settled and incoming groups of people, and the construction of real communities from dialogue and democratic policy need to be addressed.


By understanding the state’s effect on constructing communities and identities as that of forced exclusion and inclusion, I do not mean to take a turn into ethnocentrism and mythical nationalism, but neither do I want to turn to an idea of the movement of people being a successful venture with minimal issues (Putnam, R. 2007, 165). Rather I wanted to investigate how the state defines community and ethnicity, creating identities and perceptions that do not actually engage in the realities of everyday situations involving local, settled populations and migrants. With “non-commodified societal values and public spaces ‘that keep alive issues of justice, ethics, public opportunities, civic courage, and critical citizenship’…being closed off” (Cooper, C. 2011, 15), the importance of constructing ideas of shared communities and social capital are more important than ever.

State frameworks that come from the top-down, disassociating people from each other and marginalising the concerns of migrants and settled communities in the UK alike, are increasing tensions between people. The need to create the ground-up constructions of community and the removal of discriminatory, ethnicised definitions are important to ending these frameworks. Further research into different areas of public life, such as the Prevent strategy and its effect on marginalising Muslim communities, could compound the central idea of this essay and understand the diversity of state agency in crafting it.

Rather than tolerance being at the forefront of migration, with local networks and institutions being able to develop naturally and spontaneously wherever migrants go which allows dialogue, we are instead seeing the perpetration of myths about ghettoisation and white flight and the idea of migrants taking houses and employment away from white Brits. But equally, the actual policies of multiculturalism, which don’t empower minority communities but rather fix certain definitions of what constitutes ethnicity and limit engagement on issues like education and housing among different communities, allow for scapegoating and lead to situations of forced exclusion and inclusion. Democratic decisions over these things are removed into the hands of centralised state agency. Instead of fostering understanding, it inhibits communication and creates steadfast assumptions. The discrimination seen and the lack of dialogue are two sides of the same coin, engendering the dichotomy of unnatural inclusion and exclusion.

The unchallenged arbiter that is the British state stops a framework of ground-up integration and Eriksen-type multiculturalism that builds the institutions of local subsidiarity between communities, creating the bonding capital Putnam sees as so important to determining social cohesiveness. Theoretical definitions of community and ethnicity, the forced dispersal of migrants and refugees as part of the xeno-racist policy of the UK government, and the fostering of inequality and misunderstanding (leading to rhetoric on immigration that blames the migrant) means the creation of issues that face the UK today. Through this research, I hope to contribute to understanding the complexity of British state involvement in forcing inclusion and exclusion, and limiting the freedom and choice of both settled and migrant populations.


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4 thoughts on “An Unchallenged Arbiter: The Role of British State Agency in Creating Forms of Unnatural Exclusion and Inclusion in Communities

  1. As an example of what’s wrong with the academic world today, this article is quite instructive. Academics now like to play the part of “experts”, dictating left-wing views to the population. I suggest this man is not intellectually qualified for admission to a postgraduate course, and that his presence in university will help to further destroy the quality of the institution he’s studying in. This article is pure state propaganda, dressed up as academic debate. It’s written in poor English too (“the ability for people move”). If this sort of drivel is accepted by a university, it shows the department he’s studying in should be closed down.

    • I’ve scanned through it, and if I were to do the author justice, I would need to read it properly before commenting more fully.

      What is immediately apparently is the way that the paper is thoroughly couched in not just the usual academese, but also the bureaucratese and buzz terminology of left-liberalism, with lots of the usual conceptual precepts – “globalised world”, “flawed paradigms”, “community cohesion”, “social capital”, “community housing” and “community tensions”, and variations on these. There are also new phrases that I have never seen before, including “bridging and bonding capital” and “xeno-racism” [your guess is as good as mine].

      Based on scanning through it (I may change this initial assessment once I’ve perused the paper more closely), it appears the author is telling us the following:

      (i). ethnicity is a top-down notion invented (or at least propagated) by nation-states;

      (ii). this causes needless divisions (hence the formulation in the author’s sub-title: “creating forms of unnatural Exclusion and Inclusion in Communities”);

      (iii). the author doesn’t like this because it results in dissociation “…and marginalising the concerns of migrants and settled communities in the UK alike”, and frames the debate in terms of unnatural divisions in society (i.e. white flight, immigrants taking away housing, etc.); and,

      (iv). the state is not being effectively challenged in this role of deciding who’s in and who’s out, so to speak, thus the state is an “Unchallenged Arbiter”.

      The author is suggesting that in a “globalised world”, there is a “…need for engagement and democratic participation”. The solution, says the author, is for communities to build identities and associations from the ground-up and also “…the removal of discriminatory, ethnicised definitions…”

      I will probably have much to say on all this.

  2. To fully understand and critique this essay, I would need to read most or all of the references too. Too big a task for an amateur!

    Mr Webb is right on one thing, there are too many grammatical mistakes. “The ability for people move” was the first one I noticed.

    But Chris Shaw seems to be saying that, in the academic world, there are two sides on the issue, both of which are simply ploughing away on their own lines, without reference to each other. And broadly speaking, one is on the political right and the other on the left. (I find this quite believable.) What he is trying to do is compare and contrast the two points of view, and highlight the differences between them. That seems to me to be a decent starting point towards an objective assessment of the problems. How well he achieves it, unfortunately, I can’t judge without much more work.

    But I do agree with the following nugget towards the end of the piece: “state frameworks that come from the top-down, disassociating people from each other and marginalising the concerns of migrants and settled communities in the UK alike, are increasing tensions between people.” As so often with anything bad, it’s the state wot dun’ it.

    • Neil,

      One issue I can see with the article (and I admit this is only based on a scan read so far) is that the author seems to want to impose his own pastoral template on to us in solving what he perceives to be ‘the problem(s)’. While he assumes that ethnicity is entirely state-defined, he slightly ironically adopts a very paternalistic attitude himself – and whatever his rhetoric about decentralisation and ‘ground up’ structures, I would argue his true attitude is top-down. I think the paternalism is palpable just reading it. The text drips with condescension, despite itself.

      I accept there is a socio-legal element to ethnicity, but isn’t it in the British case just a political and civic representation of a pre-existing, broadly shared, organic ethnicity? English, Welsh, Ulster-Scots, Irish, Manx and Scots all share certain important national characteristics to the exclusion of others. Of course, there are important differences too, and there are also some commonalities between each domestic sub-national group and foreign ethnies to the exclusion of the other sub-groups (for instance, the English can be said to share some of the characteristics of the Germans,), but the overall picture is of a meta-ethnicity: a Scotsman is closer to an Englishman ethnically than he is to, say, a Frenchman or a German.

      This denial of organic ethnicity is… would the author put it?….’problematic’..? I think Mr Shaw should not presume to act as an unchallenged arbiter of my ethnicity, which anyway is not something I can have a great deal of choice over. I agree with the idea of ground-up structure, but to be grown-up about this, we also need to acknowledge that some things are, by their nature, top-down.

      By the way, I think I’ve finally managed to figure out what xeno-racism is: it seems to be just another term for what simple Celtic-Anglo-Saxons like me would call ‘ethnicism’, or maybe xenophobia, except it involves a structure/ideology that is committed to encouraging fear and hostility towards intra-racial foreignness.

      I must openly confess that I am both a racist and a xeno-racist, in the sense that I do hate it when people presume that I and my ethnic group should give up living space so that nice middle-class people can say nice things at nice dinner parties or so that hip and ‘with it’ spoilt middle-class white people can write trendy articles signalling their virtue. That sounds top-down to me. If we’re going to be ground-up, then I’d like a say in it all – if you don’t mind.

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