28 Sep 2012    Books/ Book Chapters
Lavenex, Sandra

International Migration

International Migration

Book chapter by Sandra Lavenex and Gallya Lahav, in W. Carlsnaes, T. Risse and B. Simmons (Eds.), Handbook of International Relations, 2nd edition, London et al., 2012, pp.746-774.


This chapter offers an overview of the main themes and approaches in the IR literature dealing with international migration. It focuses on the challenges for international cooperation and global governance that stem from the complexity of the migration issue.

The first section provides some theoretical background to examine the policy issues associated with migration in international relations, by focusing on the critical debate on state sovereignty and its limits.

The second section maps this labyrinthine playing-field, and contextualizes migration research in IR along four main themes:  the question of securitization, the human rights dimension, the migration-development nexus, and the new trade agenda. In all cases of international migration, the state (or authority) is invariably central to the analysis.

The third part draws on this multi-facetted characterization of the migration phenomenon and examines the cooperative structures that have emerged at the multilateral, regional and bilateral levels that deal with the regulation of the movement of persons across borders. Against Alexander Aleinikoff’s thesis that international cooperation has hitherto only provided “substance without architecture” (2007), we will argue that the substance of international migration norms does have architecture, albeit a fragmented, partial and multilevel one (see also Kunz et al., 2011b). It contrasts in important ways from the liberal internationalist model of multilateral regime-building that we know from the post-War period, and which is still the model for international cooperation in much of the IR literature.

International Migration