Critique of immigration categories: an analysis of the European Commission's Immigration Policy

  • Stéphane Baele

Student thesis: Doc typesDoctor of Economics and Business Management


The present thesis provides a critique of the categories underpinning the European Commission’s immigration policy, foregrounding the limitations and exclusionary effects of those categories. It advances that the study of categories, which are always socially constructed, is central for understanding that policy and its detrimental effects, and for eventually transforming or modifying it. The analysis draws on Wittgenstein’s theory of language games as a social practice which shapes both thought and activity, the cognitive psychologists who have used that theory to think through the mental process of categorisation, the social psychologists who situated categorisation at the heart of intergroup processes and exclusion, and also Foucault’s theory of discourse as embedded in power relations and regimes of truth. The thesis appraises each of these approaches: it opens by exploring the different schools of thought on categorization from the realist conception of categories as a reflection of existing social objectivity, which the thesis rejects, to the Foucauldian approach which stresses the radical contingency of any meaningful organisation of the world. A new, integrated multidisciplinary method of policy analysis is then designed that draws on these various schools of thought. The thesis then proceeds to apply this framework to the case study of the European Commission’s immigration policy (1999-2012), arguing that the categories which inform that policy are driven by the broader life form or truth regime of neoliberal governmentality, defined by its market morality. This morality defines the categories of immigrants in terms of economic utility and profitability rather than social or moral need. The thesis aims to problematize this system of categorization by highlighting both at once its susceptibility to modification, its flexibility, and its resistance to change.
Date of Award21 Nov 2013
Original languageFrench
Awarding Institution
  • University of Namur
SupervisorThierry Braspenning-Balzacq (Supervisor), Laurent De Briey (President), Christina BOSWELL (Jury), Denis DUEZ (Jury) & Kevin Inston (Jury)


  • Categorization
  • language
  • European Commission
  • immigration policy
  • categories
  • immigration
  • European Union
  • classification
  • Wittgenstein
  • Foucault
  • Lakoff
  • Social Identity Theory

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