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Integration Policies

Comparative studies are also a tool to understand what conditions account for the emergence of different integration policy models as well as the factors that explain recent trends of convergence in both policies and practices. To explain such differences, various typologies have been developed. One of the most cited is the study by Brubaker (1992) of citizenship policies in France and Germany arguing that the different nation-building histories of France and Germany have led to distinctive conceptions of citizenship. Focusing on the degree of accommodation or acceptance of minority group cultures, another highly cited categorization is that by Castles (1995), which distinguishes between differential exclusion, assimilation, and pluralism. Though these typologies are based on rich historical accounts of integration policy development in different European countries, their relevance has been increasingly questioned. The multitude of national models of integration policies in existence has been criticised for overlooking the importance of the transnational and local levels as well as for minimizing internal incoherencies and changes over time.

During the past decade, comparative studies have rendered the analysis and explanation of integration policies significantly more complex by taking into account the supranational (particularly European), regional, and local levels; by focusing on particular policy domains; and by examining the impact of a set of compound factors such as politics and the party system, the constitutional courts and judiciary power, welfare state regimes, and the role of civil society, the media, experts, and civil servants. At the local level, Alexander (2003, 2007) was one of the first scholars to look at the city as the central unit of comparison, building a theoretical model to explain local policy reactions to migrant settlement over time and across a wide spectrum of cities and policy domains. Based on the concept of “host– stranger” relations, he distinguished four types or phases of local policies: a nonpolicy, a guest worker policy, an assimilationist policy, and a pluralist policy. Though Alexander's typology has been criticised as teleological, as well as for paying insufficient attention to policymaking and implementation (Caponio 2010), his comparative model is still a key reference in the literature on local integration policies.

An early example of comparative studies on particular policy domains is the comparison of the institutionalization of Islam in the Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK in the post-war period by Rath et al. (2001). Among the questions posed by that research were to what extent are Muslims being given the opportunity to set up their institutions according to their own agenda and how are public manifestations of Islam regulated, like mosque building and Islamic religious education in schools? These authors find significant variation in the institutionalization of Islam in timing, content, and direction in the three countries considered and between different cities. Looking at policy implementation and bureaucratic practices, comparative studies show important trends towards convergence. Particularly with regard to access to services, civil servants, NGOs, and professionals seem to respond similarly to similar everyday pressures, regardless of very distinct policy contexts. For instance, in a study of how Amsterdam and Berlin policymakers and policy practitioners deal with youth unemployment among immigrant groups, Vermeulen and Stotijn (2010) point to important similarities in terms of targeting relevant groups regardless of whether local governments pursued general or targeted policies.

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