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Democracy and the Foreigner

Democracy and the Foreigner

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Democracy and the Foreigner
    Book Description:

    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. InDemocracy 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 asThe Wizard of Oz, Shane, andStrictly Ballroomto 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2481-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  4. 1 NATIVES AND FOREIGNERS: Switching the Question
    (pp. 1-14)

    “How should we solve the problem of foreignness?”The question underlies contemporary discussions of democracy and citizenship. Proposed solutions vary. Political theorists deliberate about whether or to what extent social unity is necessary to sustain social democracy. Courts rule on the extent of government’s obligations to its noncitizen residents. Economists debate the costs and benefits of immigration. Sociologists argue about the (in)effectiveness of multilingual education. But, notwithstanding their differences, participants in contemporary debates about foreignness all reinscribe foreignness as a “problem” that needs to be solved by way of new knowledge, facts, or politics. In so doing, they reiterate the...

    (pp. 15-40)

    In a book aboutThe Wizard of Oz, Salman Rushdie offers a fresh reading of that canonical American film as a tale not of home yearning—the conventional reading—but of adventurism. Rushdie’s Dorothy is an eager émigrée, anxious to be off and away from the stultifying gray of her Kansas home.¹ Boredom and colorlessness (but also a certain felt neglect at the hands of her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry [“Not now, Dorothy!”]) prepare the way for Dorothy’s eventual home leaving. But injustice and felt powerlessness provide the final push. Dorothy finally leaves because her aunt and uncle bend...

    (pp. 41-72)

    The Book of Ruth is not usually thought of as a foreign-founder text, but all the basic elements are there. The Israelites are in a period of corruption. A foreigner arrives and her presence among them works to effect two significant changes. Ruth, the Moabite, is the vehicle of a regime change from rule by judges to rule by kings. In that sense, she is a kind of founder, even if not exactly a lawgiver. But Ruth is also a (re)founder in Rousseau’s other sense: she (re)founds a “people.” Traditional Jewish readers see in Ruth a shining example of virtuous...

    (pp. 73-106)

    “A hero is missing from the revolutionary literature of America,” says Louis Hartz inThe Liberal Tradition in America. “He is the legislator, the classical giant who almost invariably turns up at revolutionary moments to be given authority to lay the foundations of the free society” (p. 46). Hartz may be right that the lawgiver is absent from the scene of American founding, but the figure of the foreign-founder is not. Again and again, the American democratic theory literature turns to foreignness to found the regime or return it to itself. True, the vehicle of this foreign supplement is not...

    (pp. 107-122)

    Reading foreign-founder texts like Rousseau’sSocial Contract, Freud’sMoses and Monotheism, the Book of Ruth, and the myth of an immigrant America together suggests that sometimes the (re)construction of the national may require or depend upon the violation of the national. Democratic law, which is said to be fully willed by the people but never truly is, may call on an iconic foreign-founder to make sense of the felt alienness of that law and of the ongoing mutual opacity of a people that is supposed to develop (but rarely does) a sense of kinship and commonality in the joint enterprise...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 123-172)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 173-198)
  11. Index
    (pp. 199-204)