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Border Coercion and ‘Democratic Legitimacy’: On Abizadeh’s Argument Against Current Regimes of Border Control

  • Uwe SteinhoffEmail author


Arash Abizadeh claims that ‘[a]nyone accepting the democratic theory of political legitimation domestically is thereby committed to rejecting the unilateral domestic right to control state boundaries’. He bases this conclusion on the premise that ‘to be democratically legitimate, a state’s regime of border control must result from political processes in which those subject to it—including foreigners—have a right of democratic participation’. I shall argue that this premise, even if it were correct, does not support the conclusion since ‘democratic legitimacy’ (in Abizadeh’s sense) is morally irrelevant: that something is ‘democratically illegitimate’ in no way suggests, let alone implies, that it is also morally impermissible or contravenes a moral right. I shall consider counter-arguments advanced against this objection by Maxime Lepoutre and Abizadeh himself and argue that they fail. Thus there is no valid democratic argument against border coercion.


Arash Abizadeh Borders Coercion Democracy Immigration Maxime Lepoutre Permissibility Rights 



The research presented in this paper was supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. HKU 17,612,817). I am very grateful for this support. I also thank the participants in the May 2018 workshop on ‘Public Reason’ at the School of Philosophy of Wuhan University for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I owe special thanks to Elizabeth Hemsley, Wai Tak Choi, and an anonymous referee for very helpful written comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and Public AdministrationUniversity of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong

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