Res Publica:1-9 (forthcoming)

Peter Higgins
Eastern Michigan University
In order for a state to rightfully exercise self-determination by means of setting policies concerning migrants and migration, they must be legitimate, Gillian Brock argues in Justice for People on the Move. Legitimacy, in Brock’s view, requires that states satisfy three conditions: they must respect their own citizens’ human rights; they must be a part of a legitimate state system; and they must adequately contribute to the maintenance of this state system. In her new book, Brock also argues persuasively for a variety of migration-related policies that states ought to adopt. In previous work, Brock has compellingly defended the justice of policies designed to allay the harmful effects of brain drain. In this commentary, I wish to argue that the legitimacy standard Brock defends in Justice for People on the Move is an obstacle to the justified adoption of the migration-related policies Brock demonstrates here and in previous work to be substantively morally justified, if not required by justice. If a state is not legitimate, then it lacks the moral standing to adopt migration policies that are otherwise morally justified. I do not intend to question the importance of the concept of state legitimacy for political philosophy generally. However, I wish to argue that that in the context of migration justice, considerations of state legitimacy may be contrary to the goal of defending a view on what policies a state ought to adopt. It may be more useful simply to consider whether or not there is moral justification for a particular state to adopt a particular policy.
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-021-09532-1
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