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Photo: “European Parliament Strasbourg Hemicycle – Diliff“, by Diliff, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Hue modified from the original

Santi Amantini, Laura. “Populist Anti-Immigratn Sentiments Taken Seriously: A Realistic Approach.” Res Publica, May 26, 2021, 1–21.


This essay argues that the illiberal anti-immigrant sentiments which lie behind the success of populist right-wing parties deserve the attention of political theorists working on the ethics of migration, even though such sentiments exceed the boundaries of admissible disagreement on justice in migration. Firstly, populist anti-immigrant sentiments hinder the implementation of liberal democratic immigration policies and thus they represent a feasibility constraint for any liberal ethics of migration, not only the most cosmopolitan ones. Secondly, there are legitimacy reasons why such views should be neither merely dismissed nor simply contained, since they are voiced by populist political parties which are admitted in the electoral competition and even participate in governments. The main upshot of this discussion is a methodological one: the article argues that, since political theory should deal with the feasibility and legitimacy issues raised by populist anti-immigrant sentiments, a realistic approach is needed. The last section shows that such a methodological change offers the opportunity to extend the scope of normative theorising. In particular, it illustrates how a realistic approach encourages theorists to focus on local-level policies, as well as to devote attention to non-governmental actors and to their role in tackling citizens’ hostility towards immigrants.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.