In Between: Immigration, Distributive Justice, and Political Dialogue

17 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2010

See all articles by Hans Lindahl

Hans Lindahl

Tilburg University - Faculty of Philosophy

Date Written: June 1, 2009


How is distributive justice possible with respect to immigration if political decisions about entry and membership cannot be grounded in the symmetry of a prior commonality, human or otherwise, that could guarantee reciprocal relations between members and nonmembers? This paper deals with both aspects of this question. Initially, it engages critically with Seyla Benhabib’s plea for “dialogical universalism,” showing why the strong discontinuity between political and moral reciprocity precludes understanding distributive justice as the process of mediating between political particularity and moral universality. Subsequently, it suggests that a way out of this conceptual and normative impasse can be found in the fact that boundaries create a double asymmetry. This double asymmetry is constitutive for the “dia” of the political dialogue that sepa-rates and joins members and nonmembers. This “in between,” which eludes control by the parties to a dialogue, is the realm of distributive justice.

Keywords: immigration, borders, distributive justice, political dialogue, cosmopolitanism

Suggested Citation

Lindahl, Hans, In Between: Immigration, Distributive Justice, and Political Dialogue (June 1, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Hans Lindahl (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - Faculty of Philosophy ( email )

Postbus 90153
5000 LE Tilburg
+31 13 466 3062 (Phone)
+31 13 466 2892 (Fax)


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