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Decisiveness and Fear of Disorder Rethinking Germany’s response to irregular migration



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This thesis studies political action in crisis situations, especially around the phenomenon of irregular migration. I identify a political meaning-making strategy, wherein representatives use fear of disorder to side-line rights-based arguments about an identified social problem in favour of their appearing decisive in the eyes of publics and fellow representatives. This logic of decisiveness is sensitive to emotions prevalent within political arenas, specifically confidence and insecurity, and has implications for the implied relationship of representation between representatives and the represented. In their resorts to the logic of decisiveness, representatives present themselves as responsible guardians of the political order, on behalf of the people. In Germany, a leading actor within the European Union and the member state that consistently accepts the largest number of asylum seekers, irregular migration challenges to the boundaries of the political community. At critical junctures in its recent history the influx of irregular migrants was, thus, framed as a threat to Germany’s social and political order. Fear-inspired concerns with representatives’ perceived decisiveness can be traced into a series of irregular migrant rights curtailments, including an amendment to the Basic Law. Part I introduces the conflictual theory of law as a means of evaluating the parliamentary contestation of social problems defined around irregular migration. I then explore decisiveness as a determinant of political action in the face of looming disorder. By analysing how the logic of decisiveness shaped political decisions in the Federal Republic, this thesis offers a new perspective on Germany’s two post reunification migrant crises, namely the Asylum-Compromise of 1992-1993 and the so-called “refugee crisis” of 2015-2016. These case studies are explored in Parts II and III respectively. Part IV discusses the logic of decisiveness’ effect on rights, its application beyond irregular migration and its significance for the crisis of democracy diagnosis.





Da Silva, Filipe Carreira


Decisiveness, Fear, Order, Irregular migration, Germany, Political decision-making, Parliaments, Democracy


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Cambridge Trust Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes