Border walls don't make us safer or stronger, says political scientist

phys.org | 2/15/2019 | Staff
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When President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, he vowed to build a "big, beautiful wall" between the United States and Mexico. But the more than 700 miles of barriers already in place at the border—mostly built in the 1990s and early 2000s—have already created more harm than good, says Wendy Brown, a professor of political science at UC Berkeley.

In her 2010 book, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, Brown argues that the recent demand for walls arises amidst crumbling nation-state sovereignty, itself an effect of globalization, and especially the global movements of capital and labor. But instead of nations becoming safer, the opposite happens.

Berkeley - News - Brown - Walls - Problems

Berkeley News talked with Brown about whether walls work, the problems they cause and the U.S.-Mexico border wall today.

Berkeley News: In your book, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, you argue that leaders build walls when they're feeling out of control, and that wall building is essentially a symbolic political theatrical act. Can you expand on that?

Wendy - Brown - Walls - Sops - Constituencies

Wendy Brown: Walls are almost always political sops to particular constituencies. We have an extreme example of that in Trump's base. The cry to "Keep them out!" demonizes what's on the outside, sanctifies what's on the inside, and denies interdependence—especially American reliance on immigrant labor and, in particular, highly exploitable undocumented labor. The wall has been effective in rallying support for a president who could really care less about whether we build the wall or not, and has surely been given the facts about how irrelevant walling is to either security or economic well-being in the United States. But he knows the political value of building a wall, or carrying on about building a wall, and he's not the first. As the book argues, politicians have been capitalizing on the political theater of fortresses and walls for a long time.

Do people generally believe that...
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