In recent years, scholars have observed a restrictive turn in West European immigrant integration policies towards ‘civic’ conditioning, including testing of competences in the language, history and political values of the recipient society, political loyalty, as well as employment relevant skills, as a condition for permanent residence and citizenship. Broadly speaking research presents two opposing accounts of this development. One line of research sees a ‘liberal’ convergence towards a model of civic integration with a focus on labour market integration and universal liberal values. Here, national distinctiveness, as well as nationalism as a driving force, is losing ground to a common West European approach, which responds to common structural conditions. Another line of research maintain that national models are resilient, and that though variation in policy instruments may diminish, we still see significant – if not increasing – variation in how countries use these instruments in terms of difficulty, sequencing and scope.
However, as the field tries to progress, no broadly accepted definition of its central concepts such as ‘civic integration’, ‘national model’ and ‘convergence’ has emerged. Secondly, talk of convergence rarely specifies the scope across policy dimensions (e.g., all or only some policy goals, instruments and settings) and policy areas (e.g., residence, citizenship, family reunification, education, anti-discrimination?). Thirdly, the so far scarce dialogue between ideational (e.g., national identity/culture), institutional (e.g., path dependency), structural (e.g., globalization) and power (e.g., strength of radical right) explanations of national differences/similarities needs to be cultivated and advanced. Moreover, convincing empirical tests must be developed to show these mechanisms at work. Finally, the normative evaluation of civic integration policies remains strangely undeveloped.
This workshop invites empirically founded, theoretical-conceptual, comparative, policy-oriented and normative papers addressing all these interconnected questions, to be developed, hopefully, in a special issue of a good journal in the field.