Migrationspolitiska dilemman: Om idealism och realism i liberal politisk teori

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The refugee crisis of 2015 forced Sweden and its citizens to face a politically and morally difficult question. What obligations do we have toward people seeking refuge? In the public debate it is easy to discern two camps expressing opposing and deeply held moral beliefs. A struggle between on the one hand a primarily national outlook and particularistic ethic in which the interests and identities of the current members of society set clear limits to the obligations that the state should take upon itself, and one the other an universalistic ethical view which highlights human rights and humanitarian needs, and criticices the exclusionary consequences of the nationalistic outlook.

In this dissertation the struggle between these two moral and political views is discussed within the realm of liberal political theory. Liberalism is commonly assumed to be universalistic by its nature, and thus critical of the rights and practices of states to exclude outsiders and prioritize members. But the relationship between liberalism and nationalism is not straitforward. Proponents of what is called liberal nationalism press the point that it is often within traditional nation states that liberal ideals of individual liberty and equality has been achieved, and they argue that liberal theory as well as practise should reflect that egalitarian and democratic institutions are dependent on a degree of cohesion, trust and solidarity that a world organized in accordance with universal principles is unlikely to maintain.

This normative debate in political theory is analyzed, furthermore, in the light of another major debate, namely the issue over “idealism” and “realism” as different approaches in normative theory. The aim of the dissertation is to analyze how differences at this meta-theoretical level – views on the purpose of normative theory, the relationship between ideals and the existing social and political reality, and deep assumptions about humans and political life – affect which ideals, institutions and policies that a normative theory proposes to be right and desirable. When applied to the issue of migration and the nation state, the specific aim is to clarify how different meta-theoretical views underlie central arguments in the debate between liberal universalists and liberal nationalists.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science


  • migration, asylum, nation state, liberalism, nationalism, realism, idealism
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2019 Mar 1
  • Lunds universitet
Print ISBNs978-91-7753-966-7
Electronic ISBNs978-91-7753-967-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2019-03-01 Time: 10:15 Place: Eden auditorium, Paradisagatn 5H, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Beckman, Ludvig Title: Professor Affiliation: Stockholm University ---

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