304: Exodus by Paul Collier

by Gerard

304.8: Collier, Paul. Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. 212 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-539865-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Science
  • 300 (division): Social sciences, sociology, and anthropology
  • 304: Factors affecting social behavior
  • 304.8: Movement of people

Paul Collier says right off the bat that he is the descendant of immigrants. In fact, a large percentage of us are. I myself am the culmination of two sets of immigrants: my father’s ancestors immigrated from France and Denmark; my mother’s from Mexico. At any given time, there is always some group of people moving from one region to another. Collier’s book Exodus investigates the phenomenon of immigration from a global sociological perspective to help get to the core of some of the issues at hand so that we can stop viewing immigration in an emotional context and place it in more of an economic one.

The issue of migration incorporates feelings of nationalism, classism, and racism. There is an unhealthy  correlation between migration and the twin ideas of contamination and assimilation. Collier’s attempt at demystification leads to some interesting findings on the subject. He contends that migration is a natural byproduct of the world’s bimodal wealth distribution (a lot of rich people, a lot of poor people, not a lot of middle-income folks). Waves of global migration lead to some of the following outcomes: economic and social destabilization, multiculturalism, workforce revitalization, governmental policy change, or nationalistic uprising. This is definitely not a comprehensive list; migration could cause combinations of these or even new reactions, but Collier tries to encapsulate the world of migration is this sort of model.

This is not necessarily a “fun” book to read, but there are lot of really well-thought out ideas. When Collier decouples the idea of migration from emotion, he makes us better able to talk about it. He also understands that talking openly about the rhetoric surrounding migration carries the risk of being ostracized, but much like him, I believe that these ideas can be discussed without things getting too heated. He does not hasten to label migration as either good or bad, but rather lays out a theory for how the causes and effects of migration work on a global scale. Collier’s prose is a bit dusty, I suppose, but sociological and economic treatises tend to be that way. If you’re looking for a new perspective on a historical issue, then pick this one up.