Book Review of Christian Joppke, 'Selecting by Origin: Ethnic Migration in the Liberal State'

5 Pages Posted: 1 May 2008 Last revised: 20 Apr 2009

See all articles by David Abraham

David Abraham

University of Miami - School of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2007


Christian Joppke's volume is a timely intervention into the highly-charged question of ethnicity and its proper role in the construction of citizenship and immigration regimes. If nations and societies are about a common past as well as a common future, how should they choose future members from the outside? Liberal democratic states are committed to laws and preferences that are universalist and meritocratic. Yet considerations of community and commonality, solidarity and identity, inevitably lead to legal preferences for one or another kind of kinsmen - by race, national origin, language, religion, etc.

The solidarity of homogenous collective individuals in the nation, the nation as the totality of society, is gone. What James Scott famously and wrongly called the "high modernist state," namely "society as a military parade," is (and was) a phantasm. The real "high modernist state" is one that has stable democratic institutions and a functioning market economy. It is not much interested in uniformity or nationalism; it is at most an integument for the individual's exercise of liberty, equality, and property rights. Effective human rights are now the measure of, rather than a constraint on, sovereignty. Citizenship is increasingly territorial rather than descent-based, and naturalization increasingly requires only language acquisition and a professed commitment to constitutional democracy. Ethnicity and citizenship are decoupled as never before while dual citizenship is no longer either avoided or disparaged.

Keywords: immigration, ethnicity, germany, israel, us, empire

Suggested Citation

Abraham, David, Book Review of Christian Joppke, 'Selecting by Origin: Ethnic Migration in the Liberal State' (September 1, 2007). University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-15, Available at SSRN: or

David Abraham (Contact Author)

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

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Coral Gables, FL 33146
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