21.4.2015 | Von:
Naika Foroutan

Paradigm Shift

Since the 1970s, integration has been primarily regarded as something concerning "foreigners", "migrants" or "people with a migration background" and their involvement in German society. Established barriers and closure processes on the part of mainstream society were not addressed in an adequate manner. It is only slowly that the term integration is expanded into society as a whole.

Bundesinnenminister Otto Schily stellt in einer Pressekonferenz zum Zuwanderungsgesetz im Dezember 2002 eine Broschüre seines Ministeriums zum Thema vor Beginning with the new immigration law of 2002, Germany acknowledged its transition to immigration country for the first time through a change to the country's legal system. German Secretary of the Interior, Otto Schily, presents an immigration brochure at a press conference. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Since the early 2000s, German politics has increasingly acknowledged that Germany has become a country of immigration. In addition, integration measures have been gaining momentum over the last ten years. For the independent Council of Immigration ("Zuwanderungsrat") in 2004, migration researchers Klaus J. Bade and Michael Bommes defined integration as "the measurable participation of all people in the key areas of social life, namely child raising, education, training, the job market, the legal system and social matters, including political participation."[1] This definition makes it clear that the last decade witnessed a paradigm shift regarding the definition of integration and that the concept of integration is, at least theoretically, no longer intended solely for minorities and migrants but has been expanded. However, this paradigm shift has not yet been adopted as part of the general understanding of integration, where the term continues to be perceived primarily as an adaptive effort on the part of migrants. Such an expanded conception of integration is connected to older sociological theories that defined integration as a process pertaining to society as a whole and not as a requirement of individual groups[2].

The incipient paradigm shift, which is increasingly expanding the conception of integration into society as a whole, should now also be evident in integration policy. Integration policy needs to develop integration incentives and sanctioning mechanisms for all of society – a society that, since the 2000s, has been trying to define itself as a society shaped by immigration. Integration thus becomes a political rather than a personal obligation. As political scientist and migration researcher Dietrich Thränhardt noted in 2008, there is increasingly a "far-reaching consensus on the need for integration and government aid for integration, including the fundamental realization that not only immigrants but also society must play a part."[3] This points to the integration efforts that society must make to establish equal structural and institutional social access for all citizens, to address discrimination and exclusion more clearly, and to anchor sanction modalities more firmly. In addition, German society (understood here as an association of citizens, institutions, and normative entities in a nation-state regulated by legislation) should more clearly define the heterogeneity of its collective as the starting point for negotiating values and norms that can co-exist on even footing.

Specific integration efforts can and must continue to be offered to new immigrants, such as new political measures to promote an immigrant-friendly culture of welcome ("Willkommenskultur"). But beyond that, approaches to integration should provide access to limited material and immaterial resources such as education, livelihood, income and social recognition for all citizens to the extent that systematic inequalities based on social, religious, cultural or national status no longer exist. That is why migration researcher Klaus J. Bade together with the Rat für Migration (Council on Migration) and the association DeutschPlus have called for integration policy to be removed from the Ministry of Interior's jurisdiction and instead made the responsibility of labor and social affairs.[4]

This text is part of the policy brief Integration in a Post-Migrant Society.


Bade (2013).
See Simmel (1984); Dahrendorf (1958).
Thränhardt (2008), p. 45.
www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/vor-der-regierungsbildung-integration-muss-weg-vom-innenministerium/8894400.html (accessed: 2-17-2015).
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