Democracy and the Foreigner
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What should we do about foreigners? Should we try to make them more like us or keep them at bay to protect our democracy, our culture, our well-being? This dilemma underlies age-old debates about immigration, citizenship, and national identity that are strikingly relevant today. In Democracy and the Foreigner, Bonnie Honig reverses the question: What problems might foreigners solve for us? Hers is not a conventional approach. Instead of lauding the achievements of individual foreigners, she probes a much larger issue--the symbolic politics of foreignness. In doing so she shows not only how our debates over foreignness help shore up our national or democratic identities, but how anxieties endemic to liberal democracy themselves animate ambivalence toward foreignness.
Central to Honig's arguments are stories featuring ''foreign-founders,'' in which the origins or revitalization of a people depend upon a foreigner's energy, virtue, insight, or law. From such popular movies as The Wizard of Oz, Shane, and Strictly Ballroom to the biblical stories of Moses and Ruth to the myth of an immigrant America, from Rousseau to Freud, foreignness is represented not just as a threat but as a supplement for communities periodically requiring renewal. Why? Why do people tell stories in which their societies are dependent on strangers?
One of Honig's most surprising conclusions is that an appreciation of the role of foreigners in (re)founding peoples works neither solely as a cosmopolitan nor a nationalist resource. For example, in America, nationalists see one archetypal foreign-founder--the naturalized immigrant--as reconfirming the allure of deeply held American values, whereas to cosmopolitans this immigrant represents the deeply transnational character of American democracy. Scholars and students of political theory, and all those concerned with the dilemmas democracy faces in accommodating difference, will find this book rich with valuable and stimulating insights.
is on the side of Ruth’s remaining in her own country.”35 Ozick’s reading is not implausible, but there is nothing in the text to rule out other rival readings: the social rationalities of the situation are unclear, after all. It cannot have been easy to return to Moab as the childless widow of an Israelite.36 Desperate to get out of there, Ruth may have spoken to Naomi neither out of love, nor faith, but rather out of immigrant practicality: please take me with you, she pleads, knowing that
and to her god. Indeed, Kristeva’s cosmopolitanism depends upon similar pledges of allegiance from French citizens and immigrants alike.57 The enduring attachment of many Algerian immigrants to their culture and homeland and their option since 1963 of citizenship in an independent Algeria have led many of them either to reject French citizenship or to relate to it in purely instrumental terms. In response, those on the French Right have in the last ﬁfteen years been calling for tighter controls
ﬁgured as rooted, bounded, structured, full of trust and meaning but capable of erring on the side of zealotry.86 The same sort of debate circulates with reference to citizenship: Is it instrumental or affective? Should it operate on the register of use or virtue? The caricature of cold cosmopolitanism versus warm nationalism (often revalued as cool, level-headed cosmopolitanism versus hot, irrational nationalism) is seductive enough that many liberals have recently given up their seemingly
Obsession with History, pp. 26ff). 16. Said Solovyev: “Try to think of Russian history from the exclusive national point of view. Even if the Scandinavian origin of our state could somehow be explained away, it cannot be denied that the introduction of Christianity into Russia by the Greeks at once brought our nation into the sphere of the supernational life of the world” (Solovyev, The Justiﬁcation of the Good, p. 428). 17. Pritsak, The Origin of Rus’, pp. 6–7. 18. This argument recirculates
Lind’s The Next American Nation. 83. I borrow from one version of this account, but I distance myself from psychoanalysis’s reliance on the model of an original maternal relation. Separation and transition are issues not just for children or immigrants but for all of us throughout our lifetimes. I also seek to avoid the progressive trajectory of developmental accounts. That trajectory infantilizes the immigrants whose transitions are part of what is at issue here, and it works to afﬁrm Western