The Migration Crisis and the Racialisation of the Neoliberal Order

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This paper focuses on the relationship between neoliberalism and the European migration crisis. Although neoliberal theories are not in themselves xenophobic, the paper illustrates how generalised competition advocated by neoliberalism draws on state power and ethnic hierarchies for the defence of the European market economy. For Dardot and Laval (2013) neoliberalism is a specific global rationality that compels populations to engage in an economic struggle against one another. Contrary to popular perceptions, current austerity and fiscal consolidation programmes in the EU demonstrate that neoliberalism does not denounce state intervention as a hindrance to private interests but instead encourages the state to provide the necessary conditions for positioning competition at the centre of all socio-political activities (Hayek; Foucault). A vital aspect of these conditions is the dismantling of welfare and social security systems. Dependency on such systems creates irresponsible individuals incapable of rational economic calculations. Drawing on the EU-Turkey “Joint Action Plan” for the return of irregular migrants with no need for international protection in conjunction with political discourses on cultural homogeneity and national security the paper argues that the EU perceives the current migration and refugee crisis as a force that threatens organised competition and increases dependency on systems of social security. This argument derives from two different yet interconnected political actions. First, from the state deployment of military force evident in the presence of NATO warships in the Aegean Sea, riot police on the borders between European states, and the building of fences in the Balkans for blocking the route of refugees towards their desired destinations. Second, from the belief that EU’s neoliberal society with an already limited welfare provision can be accessed by a limited number of people qualifying as EU citizens with a shared culture and heritage. Consequently, xenophobia etymologically understood as the fear of strangers, becomes a legitimate defencive strategy supported by EU member-states for protecting their national economies and social cohesion. The paper concludes by presenting EU’s response to the migrant crisis as an incorporation of neoliberal rationality and exclusive ethno-culturalism capable of producing an Other to the European citizen.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2016
EventNew Racisms II: Neoliberalism and its Others - University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Jun 201610 Jun 2016

Academic conference

Academic conferenceNew Racisms II: Neoliberalism and its Others
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Neoliberalism
  • Racism
  • EU
  • State power
  • Hayek
  • Welfare
  • Prisonfare


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