What We Think About When We Think About 'Exile'

24 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2011

Date Written: August 21, 2011


This paper will examine the largely under-theorized political phenomenon of exile, specifically as it appears in modern liberal regimes and whether it can be justified. People flee their nations or cities of origin for a number of reasons, but what sets exiles apart from others (refugees, for instance, or economic immigrants) is that their involuntary departure is political in nature.

Exile was an accepted feature of the political landscape in ancient Greece and Rome. Early moderns like Machiavelli, as well, accepted exile as a risk associated with political action. When Napoleon Bonaparte came to power, he employed exile not only to weaken his political opponents, but also as a method of making other citizens complicit in the punishment of their dissident peers. Germaine De Stael roundly condemns exile as cruel and barbaric, while her friend Benjamin Constant considers the possibility that given the proper procedures, political expulsion could be a legitimate tool of the sovereign power. In the present-day, political expulsion persists, although its political nature is often cloaked in bureaucratic language.

Keywords: exile, expulsion, illiberal

JEL Classification: B30

Suggested Citation

McGinnis, Briana, What We Think About When We Think About 'Exile' (August 21, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1913625 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1913625

Briana McGinnis (Contact Author)

Georgetown University ( email )

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