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07 2018

Migration and Integration

On the Genealogy of the Central Dispositif in Migration Society

Manuela Bojadžijev

Translation: Kristina Kramer

One of the effects of migration movements is to open and establish areas of conflict within the terrain of the “national-social state” (Balibar).[1] I would like to subdivide the areas of conflict that shaped migration in West Germany in the 1960s and 1970s, promoting massive social and political transformations, into three large fields. Firstly, immigration practices must themselves be interpreted as political practices, insofar as they develop autonomy over state migration policies. Secondly, migrant participation in labor disputes has fundamentally contributed to the crisis of the Fordist social structure. And, thirdly, this has opened the narrow perspective of industrial struggles towards all of the living conditions of migration: everyday life and reproduction, language and culture, and, last but not least, the living conditions that formed the decisive crystallization point for the migrant struggle, alongside the factory.

The various approaches this struggle developed over time remained largely unknown. In wildcat strikes, migrants supplemented demands for higher wages with general questions about labor organization. They raised awareness of the miserable living conditions of their barracks, and the surrender of their private lives in dormitories. They established the first squats and rent strikes. They laid down their work in response to unreasonable and overpriced canteen food. With the slogan “One more mark for all” [Eine Mark mehr für alle], they formed the basis for across-the-board wage demands, overcoming divisions within companies. They established centers for organizing health and legal counseling events. They fought against the reduction of child benefits. They revolted against immigration bans in some areas of the Federal Republic. They undermined cessations on undocumented immigration recruitment, and generously extended family reunion allowances. They organized protests for their right to stay, and enforced temporary legalization. They raised awareness about their children’s disadvantages in education, and the high unemployment rate among migrant youth. Significantly, they resisted racist hostility by challenging the institutional boundaries between “Germans” and “foreigners” in many of these struggles, and found and created common ground in the conflicts. At the same time, these debates opened up a new starting point for their political organization, since they repeatedly asserted the freedom of political action, which was limited by regulations both on strikes and on foreign residents.

In several ways, the year 1973 marks a rift for these struggles of migration,[2] and for the social and political conditions of the Federal Republic of Germany, briefly summarized here. Despite recruitment contracts, immigration proved to be difficult to regulate, and the migrant mass worker brought challenges to racist oppression and exploitation in labor and housing struggles. At this point, recuperation emerged. The concept of recuperation (similar to Raoul Vaneigem’s “appropriative expropriation,” 1963, or the “differential inclusion” recently elaborated by Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, 2013) indicates the determining processes in which subversive practices are functionalized for the modernization of existing conditions and, eventually, only remain as an affirmative moment. Compared to co-optation, recuperation also permits outlining the approach, in this case self-organized by migrants, even during the transformational processes that themselves restructure and consolidate the paradigm of integration. Recuperative practices do not oppose repressive ones. While, on the one hand, recuperation is an inclusive reshaping of subversive, self-organized practices, it also creates new demarcations of “inclusion and exclusion” (Vaneigem, 1963, 142), of integrative and repressive practices. This occurred on different fronts. With the recruitment cessation, borders were closed and the migration regime was restructured, while work processes were reorganized and the labor market was newly segmented. In the migrant struggle, demands for better educational opportunities and living conditions, and for self-organization in matters of law and health, were to be brought to a standstill in the state imperative of integration. The racist discourse that had adopted predominantly exoticizing and paternalistic features until the mid- or late-1960s, gradually expressed the more aggressive, exclusive sentiments that would create a hierarchy among the migrant groups.

Immigration and Naturalization

Immigration had created circumstances requiring the correction of immigrants’ legal status. While debates initially focused on the costs and benefits of migrant labor, as early as the recession of 1966–67, this shifted towards the question of whether the long-term social costs of migrant labor did not outweigh direct private-sector benefits for businesses. Between 1968 and 1973, the number of immigrants increased from 1.014 to 2.595 million. Migration’s infrastructure costs came increasingly into the foreground, with the additional fear of social unrest (see Herbert 2001: 235). The year 1973—when most of the migrant-initiated and supported labor disputes arose—shows how debates over the alleged excess of foreigners in Germany, and assertions that this was connected to Germany’s infrastructure problems (a shortage of kindergartens, schools, and apartments) led to the “Aktionsprogramm Ausländerbeschäftigung” [Action Program for the Employment of Foreigners]. By increasing its commission fee, this program made it more difficult for companies to employ foreign workers. Under the guise of assistance to immigrants and their “appropriate integration,” the increased commission fee was intended to be applied towards promoting linguistic and vocational education. In addition, the accommodations to be provided by the companies were to be more strictly scrutinized. The Action Program also prescribed a crackdown on “illegal employment,” while immigration into purportedly congested residential areas —defined at the time as districts with “high proportions of foreigners”—was predicated on the federal provision of the “capacity of social infrastructure.” According to the basic assumption of the Action Program, “foreigner employment” was responsible for the emergence of social conflicts. Although the unemployment rate was lower in 1973 than in 1955, the year of the first recruitment agreement, and most companies announced an anticipated demand for foreign labor, on November 23, 1973, the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) imposed a recruitment ban, even in the face of employer pressure. The government sanctioned the recruitment cessation as a political and economic necessity to prevent possible future economic slumps. Up until the mid-1970s, the federal government tried first to persuade and eventually even force migrant workers to return to their countries of origin through a series of legal measures. A number of newly issued requirements for the granting of residence led to the displacement of a large number of immigrants from the Federal Republic, with the purpose of sealing it off from further migration movements. Beyond tourist visas or applications for asylum, which were limited to a maximum of three months, immigration on the basis of the Family Reunification Law was the only legal option for entering the Federal Republic under the recruitment ban, which migrants tried to bend. A number of government practices were intended to counteract this. Discrimination in education, housing, child benefits, and health care, for example, that had been addressed during the migrant struggle, worsened conditions and incentives for family reunification. Every effort was made to prevent the permanent residence of foreign nationals. Expulsion of migrants who had been active in industrial or residential struggles was common practice. In addition, the “relief of the labor market” was enabled through a range of instruments. In cases where the privileged hiring of a German citizen over a foreigner for a job was valid, authorities would not extend a work permit. Unemployment benefits were canceled, residence permits were withdrawn, and expulsion based on acceptance of social welfare was the rule (except for EEC citizens).

Legally, the recruitment ban and the repressive measures against permanent residence abolished the “guest worker.” As a result, a new category was also established, discursively—in the debates of the Bundestag, for example—that of the “foreigner” (see Morgenstern 2002: 252ff.). With an October 1978 change in the General Administrative Regulations, the majority of those who had resided in the Federal Republic for more than five years received a longer-term residence permit, which made their status less precarious. In the same year, the work permit regulations changed, so that foreigners received a permanent work permit after eight years of residence. With this recuperation, which made some of the immigrants into “foreigners” while forcing others to return to their origin countries or into illegal status, a preclusive inclusion was legally installed. In addition, by the end of the 1970s, the classification and hierarchization of foreign nationals was further differentiated by the length and status of residence, completion of education or training in the Federal Republic of Germany, and by German language skills. Categories were also more clearly contoured, including EC citizens, “illegals,” and “refugees,” with the latter increasingly becoming more conspicuous in legal restrictions. The recuperation of migrant struggles took place to a great extent through attempts at border partitions. This was only possible, because, unlike in the struggle of feminism, immigrants, as “foreigners,” were outside of national society, allowing the state to take a more repressive form. The attempt to maintain a homogeneous national societal integrity, however, had to face the challenges posed by the struggles of migration, and the de facto situation of immigration. The newly hierarchic civil rights sorted the political affiliation, while at the same time bearing the traces of the migrant struggle, and the appropriation of rights. With immigration, and in social conflicts, immigrants forced a transformation of the political system, questioning formal institutions and the restriction of civil rights with their social practice. This legal reorganization had special consequences for immigrants. It became of concern for them to secure their stay under the new conditions, from an economic point of view as well. The legally precarious status of migrant workers correlated with their social and economic position.

Migrant workers had in fact become an integral part of the labor market through their precariousness. A large part of them were at the lower segment of the industrial working class and, moreover, did not have full civil rights. Legally, politically, and ideologically, their “foreigner” status and the associated new civil rights underpinned the still-temporary, limited (or subject to future limitation) character of their stays. This newly-established relationship between lawmaking and the deprivation of rights regulated a newly constituted ethnicized class. Repression and demands for integration served to control it. At the same time, it was possible to limit not only international, but also sectoral mobility within production. This affected the composition of the working class and its household structures. Changes in the production process, such as its automation and informatization, as well as structural unemployment, long-term precariousness, illegal employment, coerced mobility, the proportion of part-time work, and so on, characterized its transformation as much as the crisis of the welfare state and family institutions, which were of central importance for the reproduction of the labor force. Unemployment, which generally had a greater affect on migrants, as long as they were not “exported” to their countries of origin, provoked economic activity. To secure their residential status in the face of job dismissals, many immigrants became self-employed during the 1970s, founding businesses such as tailor shops, grocery stores, import stores, trading companies, bookstores, restaurants, and cafés. For some migrants, a new independence linked the will to remain in the Federal Republic with the hope for economic success and an escape from discrimination in the labor market. For others, it presented the opportunity to avoid unemployment and to involve family members and friends in partially informal employment relationships. Simultaneously, this produced a migrant infrastructure that included the level of everyday life and activity. In this context, the social networks and supportive connections formed in migration widened. Among other things, these networks assisted the part of immigration that was forced into illegality—both those who had entered the country without papers, and those who had lost their residency status. The legally displaced were mostly hired on construction sites, in agriculture, in the service area—in other words, in the restaurant industry, for housework, or cleaning building sites.

The Imperative of Integration

As a precondition for granting a residence permit to family members, and for extending it under the framework of family reunification, the social liberal government of the day increased the public housing sector’s prescribed square footage per foreigner to 12 square meters. Even immigrants who had rented apartments in the private housing market were required to verify “proper and sufficient dwelling” (see Morgenstern 2002: 250). From 1975 to 1977, this regulation was combined with the immigration quota for “congested areas”, also referred to as “conurbation areas” (see Samp 1978: 4). Even by September 1972, an interdepartmental planning team in Berlin had developed a policy model for foreigners under the title "Integration of Foreign Workers and Their Families”. Provisions were made for a “demand-oriented integration model”, which wanted see demand in the labor market first met by German citizens, and then by foreign workers. The latter were to be included under “preservation (...) of general security and order”. Welfare associations, municipalities, trade unions, and churches supported integration policies, and publicly exerted pressure on parties to draw administrative consequences from, as they described it—a “de facto immigration situation”. At the same time, there were massive efforts by various state and civil society parties to maintain the position that Germany was not an immigration country. Simultaneously, there was no question of institutionalizing immigration, while, on the other hand, the demand grew for recognition of “de facto immigration” and for political measures to integrate the immigrants. These positions were articulated in the public discourse in the slogans of “integration yes” and “immigration no”. Finally, “temporary inclusion” was the broad formula allowing immigrants’ return to their origin countries to be legitimized, while at the same time supporting integration measures deemed necessary to ensure “social peace”. As the era of “guest worker employment” was terminated, “integration” represented the social compromise that could be forged politically between economic interests that continued to engage with employing “foreign workers”, and nationalist tendencies that sought to prevent any further immigration. This compromise maintained the claim that Germany was not an immigration country, and could never become one. Integration became imperative in the late 1970s. Social, non-legal integration presented itself as progress, an act of emancipation, the granting of a right. At the same time, the assumption of a so-called cultural or national identity of migrants suggests that their integration always remained superficial and incomplete. The preservation of cultural identity in combination with the denial of rights indicates at least that they should ultimately be denied the right of residence. The formula “Integration auf Zeit” (Temporary Integration) ultimately meant targeting their eventual return. The term “foreigner” also indicated a part of the population that lives in Germany, but is not part of German society. The idea of cultural identity, already articulated in these statements, was later elaborated into the concept of multiculturalism. Integration, in the context of the foreign policy measures of the 1970s, called for a recuperation of the resistance practices and struggles of the migrants. Of course, the integration imperative cannot be understood schematically as a functional policy, as a simple “response” of the state to migrant demands and social conflicts. However, there are numerous indications that immigrants have actually increasingly been seen as a political and social danger. The choice was either to integrate and pacify them, or to exclude them. Integration and isolation, as well as exclusion, have thus become the main pillars of policy towards foreigners. Both aspects—integration and separation—were linked in the form of a threat: integration could only be guaranteed if the recruitment cessation was maintained, because Germany could not “cope with another influx of foreign workers”, as Albrecht Hasinger said in a discussion of the "Future Prospects of the Future Children of Foreign Workers”, in the Bundestag, on June 14, 1978 (see Morgenstern 2002: 257). Despite these changes in the migration regime, and all measures of isolation and displacement, the total number of immigrants did not decline during the 1970s, but increased. From 1973 to 1979, the size of the foreign resident population remained stable, increasing as of 1979, so that by 1980 one million more foreigners officially lived in Germany than in 1972, before recruitment was suspended (Fathi 1996: 28). These numbers must also take into account the exclusion of undocumented immigrants. In this regard, ultimately, all government foreclosure efforts have failed. The social networks created in migration seem to be able to organize further immigration.

The Dispositif of Integration

But how can we imagine recuperation through the imperative of integration, if not in a schematically understood “answer”? When migrants mentioned the mechanisms that excluded their children from the national school system in their struggles, this reappeared as a measure for preventing possible future “trouble spots,” in the catalog of integration requirements. If immigrants fought for adequate housing in rent strikes, this appeared repressively and restrictively in the administrative decree that a minimum 12 square meters living space per person had to be guaranteed for granting a residence permit. If migrants demanded a social infrastructure to articulate and represent their “needs,” this was reflected in the institutionalized form of “foreigner education” in the 1970s, which functionalized “foreigners” as a new clientele.

Understanding integration as a dispositif allows us to combine three dimensions in theory, and therefore analysis, which makes Michel Foucault’s term fit for an analytics of power, to designate a network between forces, practices, discourses, power, and knowledge (cf. Foucault 1999). The dispositif of integration disarticulates collective claims, shifts them towards the individual adaptive performance of migrants, and reduces them to infrastructure problems that are best tackled in supporting their return. Above all, however, the demand for equal rights for all is completely absorbed in the dispositive of integration. On the questions articulated in the struggle, the dispositif, in reinterpretation, gives contradictory answers, translating the demand for collective rights into personal services that must be individually adjusted. The population appears dubiously re-homogenized, while rights and obligations seem to be redistributed. Nevertheless, asymmetries return. The unequal social positions of the various “partners” correspond to the degree they are deprived of political and social rights. These rights, especially since they are mediated in the concept of integration, can never be completely suspended, but remain unrealized, and their suspension therefore remains virulent. Embedding this in the national framework of administrative and civil measures has contributed to halting the boom of autonomous migrant struggles. Exclusion and integration pushed possible resistance into the background. In the compromising formula of integration, the division of the working class, having been discussed in the factories, has long since become institutionalized. The slow emergence of the state dispositif of integration since the beginning of the 1970s separates migrants from the historical process of migration. At the same time, it can be interpreted as an attempt to destroy the history and memory of that generation of workers who raised anti-racist demands, and experienced the context of numerous social conflicts. The struggles of migration could never be completely shut down. At this point, in a new attempt, they should find other ways to counter the restrictions of immigration laws, residential conditions, the reorganization of the production process, and racial discrimination in everyday life. Their story, unknown as it is today, can be considered part of today’s situation. It is already part of our experience.


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Bojadžijev, Manuela. Die windige Internationale. Rassismus und Kämpfe der Migration. Westfälisches Dampfboot, Münster, 2008/2012.

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[1] This article is based on reflections and studies from the book Die windige Internationale. Rassismus und Kämpfe der Migration (Münster) by the author, published in its second edition in 2012 (first edition: 2008). As well as an elaboration of the historical forms and practices of migrant self-organization in the Federal Republic of Germany, the book attempts to theoretically elaborate how racism is subject to historical cycles (see Demirovic / Bojadžijev 2002), largely related to resistance against racism.

[2] I borrow the term “struggles of migration” from Mogniss Abdallah (cf. 2002), whose works focus on the traditions and difficulties in migrant self-organization (beyond trade unions, political organizations, and parties) in France.