Professor Panayiotis Ifestos, international relations – strategic studies
University of Piraeus
 Summer School, University of Siegen – University o Piraeus.
λαθρομετανάστευση2By all means, analyzing the question of migration is a difficult task, especially if one follows a value free description and interpretation.

In the first place, it should be underlined that migration like all other aspects of civilized human life is a political phenomenon.
Even more so in the contemporary statecentric international system that lacks a connecting kosmosystemic empire, state politics define the normative and legal structures of the world.

The central political question is the following: To which political group individuals belong and in what legal, social and political terms.

In contemporary international relations and especially after 1945 when the world is definitely territorially demarcated, all individuals without exemption, are, legally speaking, citizens of the one or other state.

It follows, therefore, that it is necessary to highlight both the political features and the related legal framework that governs the phenomenon of migration in historical and contemporary context.

Irrespective other criteria, the basic distinction when we refer to moves of humans across states’ boundaries, is between legal and illegal.

States, international institutions and international conventions when they deal with migration, expectably they all consider this distinction as fundamental.

Central to our reflections is the fact that all states are distinct sovereign entities.

I use the word “entity” in purpose, in order to underline that political groups dispose ontological attributes.

Late Panagiotis Kondylis pointedly referred to historic socioontological outcomes that define the intrinsic attributes of the international system.

Central and relevant is also a factor which is located at the core of all political entities:

The anthropological alterity of all sosiopolitical entities is ontologically rooted in a way that historically speaking establishes a spiritually, materially and socially heterogeneous and differentiated world.

Λαθρομετανάστευση 1At issue was always the question as to what is the impact of migration regarding the process of composition, constitution and endless construction inside the boundaries of a social entity.

This point lead us to an extremely politically sensitive issue, that is, the fundamental question as to what are the determinants which constitute, compose and hold up together the members of a Polity or as we call it in our days, a nation-state.

It should be stressed, at this point, that at all times and in all political entities, rule of law, external security and domestic orderliness are basic objectives.


Political responsibility means political rationality.

Regarding migration, political responsibility means to weight and balance every position in relation to three specific points.

1) The diachronic aspects of human civilization which regards human life precious and invaluable.

2) The interstate and intrastate sociopolitical context to which we refer in legal and political terms, and

3) The legal aspects of interstate and intrastate relations.


Fostering conflict or causing human disasters are hidden dangers in every politically irrational position.

This is particularly true as regards migration especially if one takes into account the deficit of governance at both the level of the international system and at the level of the EU.


Let us come to a crucial term, that is, POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGY.

Politically rational thinking regarding the extremely sensitive issue of migration among states and between continents necessitates an approach that considers adequately diachronic trends regarding social and political structures, as well as the corresponding anthropological structures.

When a social entity is independent and is gifted with political sovereignty, we could speak about the existence of a political anthropology.

In fact, a viable state is one that disposes a coherent political anthropology and vice versa.


Let us elaborate further on the term POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGY.

In an integrated and integrated societal group its political function is relates to faith, loyalty and commitment to the common purposes which are defined by its members.

Despite and against racial thinking as regards the nature of the Political, all societal entities in history are the outcome of a long process whereby intermixing and partaking among nations was and still is a fact of life.

In fact never a nation’s political anthropology was the outcome of single or a racially defined factor.

The most important differentiating factor of political groups is the heterogeneity of cultural and political traditions.

Politically organized groups of people of similar tribal features are often sharply differentiated in terms of cultural and political traditions.

The racial criteria of political anthropology are not the determinant criteria, otherwise the planet and the regions would had been united in groups of whites, blacks and yellow.

An indisputable fact of life is that sociontological attributes are principally shaped by cultural, religious and all other traditions with which a societal entity is historically gifted.


Political anthropology”, in fact, is an appropriate term to relativize the constitution and the composition of the state’s societal entity in real and realistic non-racial terms.

That is, what we witness as regards faith, loyalties and commitment to common purposes.

Pointedly Raymond Aron once wrote that though he studied the phenomenon of nation for decades he could never be sure whether a nation exists until its members are tested as to whether they are ready for self-sacrifice  to defend their nation.

epa04892976 Migrants who wait more then 48 hours on the Greek side of the border line, jump over razer wire to cross in Macedonia near southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 22 August 2015.Macedonian special police forces arrived yesterday morning and blocked the illegal border crossing between Macedonia and Greece. They don't give permission to the migrants to pass in Macedonia. Macedonian government has declared emergency situation in the south and north border with Greece and Serbia due to rising number of migrants and fugitives from Syria, Afganistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia. From the beginning of the year to mid-June 2015, nearly 160,000 migrants landed in the southern European countries, mainly Greece and Italy, on their way to wealthier countries in Western and Northern Europe, according to estimates by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). EPA/GEORGI LICOVSKI

FYROM 2015

However, the latter observation is one thing, and another to imagine the constitution of a societal entity as a straightforward let alone an institutional matter where a society is a hodgepodge of spiritually unsubstantial individuals whose behavior irrespective cultural and political origins is governed by identical material-utilitarian preferences.

When we refer to criteria such as cultural and political traditions we mean that the individuals that participate correctly claim respect for their personal alterity but at the same time it is politically rational to adhere to the mainstream river in which the state’s political anthropology flows.

This is so because, irrespective of what some single minded internationalists materialistic ideological doctrines support about the construction of a merely functional or simply materialistic and utilitarian anthropology at the regional level or at the level of the planet, human beings as individuals or as nations are not spiritually groundless entities.

Spiritual features with which individuals or nations are gifted are fundamental aspects of their political attributes, of their political desires and of their political behavior.


Either we speak about individuals or nations, their spiritual, moral and political formation in time and in space construct, shape and reshape heterogeneity in all its possible imponderable and unpredictable anthropological versions.

Certainly, in our days, the regulatory structure in which the national heterogeneity it is composed, it is constituted and it is politically expressed, is the nation-state which in addition and for the first time in history it is territorially demarcated.

Now, let us stress an important factor regarding political anthropology.

Whilst in civilized states alterity of other nationalities is normally respected and safeguarded, the broader historic entity inside which diachronically cultures and political traditions are crafted is the nation.

The constitution, the composition and the formation of national political anthropology takes place in the river of each nation’s cultural and political traditions in order, eventually, to take the form of normative structures in accordance to the perquisites of each one nation-state.

Otherwise stated, when a nation is politically independent because it is disposing sovereignty, its nation-state becomes the backbone around which the normative structures are shaped and constructed.

Many streams of extraneous or collateral cultural and political traditions flow into a nation’s river.

Still, the dominating national tradition is the one that constitute, compose and shape political traditions and which defines the main features of the corresponding political anthropology.

The state proper, seen as an administrative organization, by and large, is a normative superstructure whose viability depends from its compatibility with the underlying societal entity which exists and defines the principle features of its anthropological foundations.  

What are the factors and criteria that shape the worldviews (weltanschauung) and moral-normative features of the foundational ever evolving socioontological anthropology and its corresponding political anthropology?

The criteria are innumerous and even more so the torques and their combinations.

I couldn’t mention but some shaping factors and criteria whilst the combinations are imponderable and the outcomes unpredictable.

They shape and finally define anthropological heterogeneity of nations in time and in space:


  • Ways of life and especially distributive justice systems as they shape and as they evolve
  • Metaphysical beliefs and doctrines in its many versions and many interpretations, not necessarily only religious.
    • Here one should not sightsee an important distinction between theocratic, theocentric and anthropocentric metaphysical doctrines and the way they influence political traditions, political anthropology and the moral-normative structures of any one state.
      • In time and in space, in fact, all metaphysical systems rotate in this triangle (theocratic, theocentric and anthropocentric).
    • National myths in their innumerable real or imaginary versions
    • National historical memories derived from historical experiences
    • Local identities, national identities and the way they are historically defined and interrelated.
    • Continuously changing perceptions of other friendly or hostile nations according to each nation’s experiences
    • Collateral ancestrial origins and similarities of metaphysical beliefs and traditions among societal entities
    • Worldviews (weltanschauung) regarding national origins, national orientations and national destiny.
    • Language, arts and literature that cultivate, perpetuate, link and give growth to national traditions.
    • And every other spiritual or material factor or criteria that influence the composition of social entities in time and in space.

Viewing diachronic history including Modern and contemporary times, what we speak about is a vortex of national, regional and international evolution that dynamically and often utterly conflictually constructs the international system in an otherwise very specific way.

History is telling: It is not possible to define and project with precision the features of national anthropology.

            National anthropology is the single most important factor that defines the principal features of a state’s political structures.

            More specifically, irrespective doctrines which claim the opposite, historical experience tell us that the physiognomy and main features of political and anthropological international structures are afterall ontologically determined often in absentia or even against internationalists superstructures.

In this respect, in contemporary terms Russia and the European Union are telling.

Ontology, in fact, is a determinant that is objective and which beyond subjective qualifications or the values and ideology of any one individual.

Not taking into account historic socioontological formation is a prescription of conflict and of unstable and non-viable normative structures.


cropped-images.jpgNow, let us be more specific by referring to contemporary international law: International law properly seen is an attempt to define international order in a way  that the planet is demarcated with decisions that take stock of the historical ontological features of the world.

Imperfectly so, for objective reasons, especially if we take into account the turbulent colonial and post-colonial era which disturbed profoundly the evolution and interactions of nations throughout modern history.

Moreover, the causes of war such as revisionism, hegemonic aspirations or conflicts and uneven growth are all factors that destabilize the rope walking which aims to stabilize international order with agreements and conventions that take adequately into account the ontological differentiation of the planet.

What we support in order to put migration in a civilized, legal and at the same time politically rational context, is that political anthropology is neither a racial matter nor a single factor process, let alone a simply defined materialistically and evolving in an administrative blending-pot constructed on material, functional and utilitarian terms.

Now, let us stress that it should not be overlooked, that legal and mutually acceptable migration among nations has always been an enriching factor of anthropological composition and political constitution.

The opposite is valid as regards massive illegal or even forced migration following a war (as we all know colonization according to commonly accepted principles of international law is an international crime).

 To sum up the argument, at all times composing and constituting national anthropology and its corresponding related political anthropology when a nation-state is created, it is an extremely sensitive process.

ΠερικλήςThe composition and constitution of political anthropology –besides being a sort of miracle, because it encompasses imponderable and unpredictable spiritual factors combined to each other dynamically–, should be seen as a continuous dynamic vortex whereby the participants seek an answer to the principal question of the Political: What kind of common life is guided by our socio-politically grafted COMMON TRUTH.

What is the collective TRUTH then, what moral criteria derive out of this truth and what normative and administrative structures are compatible and viable for the underlying national entity and for the citizens of other nationalities that participate in a state’s life? 

Faith, loyalty, commitment and attachment to common purposes necessitate the existence of a common truth embedded in both spiritual and material factors and criteria.

Humans as individuals are not machines which do not dispose spirit and soul as imagined by materialists philosophers such as La Mettrie and de Sade.

Political construction, we repeat and underline, is a dynamic combination of both spiritual and material factors and criteria ceaselessly combining to one another in order to establish a harmonious and thus social structure.

Political life, especially if it is democratically oriented on the lines of political civilization originating deep into pro-classic times, it has always been and still is a precarious, shaky and robe dancing process whereby the intermixing and partaking of the spiritual and the sensory disposes the prerequisites for continually seeking a collective political life guided by the truth.

Collective political truth is always defined and legitimized by a distributive justice system shaped in sociopolitical instances in line to a nation’s cultural and political traditions.

The terms that institutionalize a social entity’s distributive justice system and the compatible corresponding administrative laws, legitimizes, moreover, as to how normative structures are confingurated.

“Change” and the possibility of legitimated transformation of governing normative structures is the principle if not the main qualitative difference between domestic and international politics.

Likewise it institutionalizes the possession of power, the related social hierarchies and the governing rules as well as the constant change of these governing rules.

Thus, sociopolitical cohesion around COMMON TRUTHS crafted by each societal entity’s cultural and political prerequisites is a vital factor generating social harmony, political stability and peaceful changes of normative structures.

A crucial constitutional foundational factor that composes a national entity, as already implied, relates to the existence of a societal worldview (weltanschauung) that provides a stable strategic orientation into which the Political is constituted and strategically oriented.

At this point, let us stress a crucial distinction which in classical democracies was essential and utterly important: There is a fundamental determinant that differentiates governing laws from justice proper.

Defining justice in a Polity is an endless common endeavor in the endless search of the collective truth and the corresponding collective way of life in a social entity’s life.

In fact, this the basic difference between, on the one side, the construction of political structures and its normative features in accordance to pre-fixed ideological doctrines and on the other side, a democratically constructed Polity whose normative structures and governing decisions are defined by the assignor citizens.

We could further highlight these issues in the terms of the authoritative analysis of Robert Gilpin (p. 304-5) in an important international relations conference some decades ago, when he stressed that all political thinking to be founded, be politically relevant and dispose political rational, could not bypass certain truths and realities which are confirmed throughout known history.

First, throughout known history “the ultimate units of social and political life are not individuals of liberal or Marxist thinking but WHAT RALF DAHRENDORF CALLED CONFLICT GROUPS. Social groups organize themselves into political groups and are either antagonizing each other over the distribution of scarce resources or ally for the same purpose.

We could easily identify the historical fact that throughout history we never had one society.

Instead we always had and continue having many distinct societies gifted with its own distinct spiritual traditions and material prerogatives.

Second, given that SOVEREIGNTY IS THE ULTIMATE POLITICAL METHOD OF SELF-DETERMINATION and freedom of each distinct social group, international anarchy is intrinsic owing to the sociopolitical structure of the world. Gilpin continues underlying the conflictual nature of this system.

I add an important factor here which is valuable in Greek political tradition and to which I shall revert.

This is the institutionalization of the distributive prerequisites of power («θέσπιση της ισχύος») which as already implied is constructed on the foundations of a legitimate distributive justice system.


In fact, we could define political civilization as the institutionalization of power in accordance to the alterity of each society as it evolves.

Degrees and stages of democracy, in fact, are related to the degree to which the members of a sociopolitical group are the assignor of those who exercise government.

Given the absence of a single society and a single sociopolitical system at the level of the planet, anarchy is thus intrinsic and the institutionalization of distributive justice –and the moral-normative prerequisites– belong to the political anthropology of each society.

The third observation to which Gilpin referred is that throughout history all political units took CARE FOR THEIR SECURITY AND FOR THAT PURPOSE ADEQUATE POWER.

Power and security, he goes on to observe, are the principle objectives of human groups.


Gilpin’s positions and what we underlined earlier lead us to the conclusion that political rational makes it imperative that migration as any other phenomenon in interstate and intrastate relations should be judged and decided in terms of political civilization and contemporary political and legal structures.

Let us sum up some principle points.

First, political civilization makes it imperative to consider as of utmost importance human life and political rights as are established and legally defined at the level of the state and by the interstate level by conventions and bilateral or multilateral agreements.

In this respect, it should also be stressed that the waves of migration have their roots in uneven growth among nations and in the turbulence that are caused in many regions owing to hegemonic antagonism.

This cause of migrations is deeply political, strategic and an issue of international governance that safeguards common goods to all states whose existence is a prerequisite for civilized political life.

The bombardment of weak states under various pretenses in order to take control of their resources, for example, is a dead end hegemonic game.


Second, legal interstate and intrastate structures are in a way sacred as they constitute the cornerstone of international political organization.

As it was agreed by all states in 1945 when the UN was founded, the borders of independent states are in principle inviolable.

Non-intervention is the cornerstone of interstate relations and the fact that this principle is often not respected is an importance source of conflict.

In harmony to what I supported above, international law recognizes that the nation-states are the only known institutions which dispose a societal entity and corresponding political anthropologies which could establish socially defined and thus legitimated moral and normative norms and terms of civilized governance, let alone democratic governance.

Let us, at this point, distinguish between international law which refers to international order in the international society composed of independent nation-states –whose demarcation most accept as a fact even if some consider the drawing of the borders unjust– and state laws which are considered socially defined, just and legitimated.

Third, in history the construction of the political structures of any one collective entity presupposes certain common worldviews, common political traditions and in general conducive spiritual and material premises that provide cohesion and common orientation.

As supported earlier this has always been and still is a sensitive, precarious and robe dancing endeavor engaged in spiritual and material partaking endlessly searching for each societal entity’s collective truth and ways of life that are compatible with this truth.

Likewise legal and normative terms and premises that legitimizes the underlying distributive justice system.

Fourth, certainly, the formation, transformation and endless development of the political anthropology is never done in isolation.

Material exchanges, marriages, cultural influences, the impact of scientific achievements and all kinds of human activity has always been a principal feature of the endless construction of national anthropologies.

Nonetheless, one should take into account that imbalances may occur which disturb the construction of the structures of contemporary nation states if massive migration differentiates or even divides the political anthropology of any one state leading to strife and conflict.

Migration as a fact of live throughout history should take into account the following three criteria:

  • All states of groups of states constructing their normative structures as regards migration should make a sharp distinction among legal and illegal immigration.
  • In case of humanitarian disasters when disparate people move massively from their homeland, interstate action, is imperative.

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