Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 01/2009

Bringing Hirschman Back In: Conceptualizing Transnational Migration as a Reconfiguration of "Exit", "Voice", and "Loyalty"

Bert Hoffmann

December 2008

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Albert O. Hirschman’s scheme of “exit and voice,” long a classic in the study of migration and its political implications, was conceived within the framework of “methodological nationalism.” However, the rise of migrant transnationalism is eroding the classic migration paradigm. Combining theoretical considerations with empirical insights from Latin American cases, this paper argues that a critical reappraisal of Hirschman’s scheme provides a helpful heuristic tool for conceptualizing the new character of today’s transnational migration. Whereas in the traditional approach to international migration the options of exit, voice, and loyalty are considered to be mutually exclusive, transnational migration can be defined precisely by the overlapping and simultaneity of these categories.