Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Conceptualizing a Transacted Migrant "Illegality"

The first way to think (or to conceptualize) about migrant “illegality” is that it is transacted.  By transacted I mean that “illegality” represents some form of “currency” or “value” which a vested party uses or employs, at any given point in time and within any given set of defaults, as leverage towards the achievement of some advantage.

The perspective I am proffering that “illegality” is transacted may be beyond the conservative imaginations of “illegality” main actors.  Stated differently, a migrant may not be able to conceive, let alone see, that leveraging and transactions are possible even if the relative size, clout, and influence of the parties involved are different, even intrinsically in opposition.  Indeed, “illegality” by the term itself presupposes a monolithic, all powerful party (the host state) applying a status and its corresponding sanctions on a subjugated party (the migrant).  How can the subjugated, recipient migrant hope to transact “illegality” with its very applier, its source?  Conversely, the host state may by default assume that given all the resources and infrastructure at its disposal controlling mobility through the status of “illegality” is quite straightforward and necessarily unilateral.

But despite the relative implausibility of a transactionable “illegality,” as we saw in the discussion “illegality” is dynamically transacted even among intrinsically opposite vested interests.  The social system within which “illegality” exists is subject to structural conditioning elements that predispose (without predetermining) the agency of its vested interests.   These structural conditioning forces impact intrinsically opposite vested interests in different ways.  Their agency, issued in direct response to these structurally conditioning forces and other relevant conditioning elements, may or may not be consistent with their vested interests which at any given point in time is in flux and thus a moving target, so to speak.

A patent example of this situation I describe above is the Japan Labor Protectionism Matrix (see Figure 4).   A progression (or regression) of the agency of Japan as a host state is plotted in a matrix that shows that it has virtually exhausted the whole gamut of responses on the variables of bases and location.  Each of the plotted 12 responses may be argued to be consistent or inconsistent or a combination of both with the vested interest of labor protectionism as it was currently interpreted and assessed in response to structural conditioning forces at a given point in time in the century-and-a-half span covered by the matrix.

This thus helps explain the possibility of the first paradox that actions of vested interests in “illegality” may at times be incoherent.  This incoherence is due to the continuing evolution or redefinition – processes which I aggregate under the concept of emergence in Critical Realism – of each actor’s interests amidst the ever transforming social system.

As an example of this continuously emerging agency that reflect ever-transforming vested interests I developed the concept of a Compatriot Mechanism as a virtual snapshot of a crystallized response given the imperatives and nuances of the reality of embedded ethnic pockets in Japan.   The particular aggregation of structural conditioning forces that I argue were ultimately traceable to recent historical events were met with specific agency that catalyzed in four distinct expressions of vested interests that I argued all contribute to the sustenance of migrant “illegality” in Japan.

Now, our new understanding of a transactionable “illegality” must go beyond its immediately manifest usefulness, that is, in explaining the first paradox.  Informed by the methodology of Analytical Dualism (Archer 1995) anchored on Critical Realism, we saw that a transacted “illegality” is not in itself a conditioning element external to agency.  A transacted “illegality” is itself an emergent phenomenon arising from (but not wholly explained or attributed to) the instances of Necessary Complementarity that I argued existed in the 1980s and 1990s.   Thus, the monolithic and unilateral powers of Japan as a host state transacted “illegality” in response to the imperatives of embedded ethnic pockets and rising globalization forces by institutionalizing the SRS.  This particular instance of agency that embodied a transacted “illegality” by the state set in motion succeeding structural forces which, in turn, conditioned(not predisposed) the responses by other actors.   On the other end of the spectrum of size/influence/power of actors, the migrants themselves seeing this window of opportunity transacted “illegality” with the host state in their brazen appropriation of any SRS status that allowed them continue working toward their breadwinner role in Japan.  I argued that from this situation of Necessary Complementarity embodied in the transacted “illegality” by migrants emerged the newcomer phenomenon which in the case of the Filipino ethnic pockets gave birth to its particular Compatriot Mechanism.

To summarize this first section, the first way to conceptualize “illegality” is that it is transacted by its vested interests in ways conditioned (but not determined) by structural forces but ultimately consummated by their agency.  In and through this transacted “illegality” vested interests crystallize both their role in and impact to it.

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