'It’s all their Fault’. Immigrants as Scapegoats and a Mirror Revealing Social Contradictions

Sergio Cecchi


This article analyses the role as scapegoat and the ‘mirroring’ function performed by immigrants in societies where levels of economic inequality are increasing, and welfare structures are being constantly contracted. The central argument of this article is that, in a situation of prolonged economic crisis, political elites can blame certain minority groups for causing difficulties that really arise from macrosocial factors.

In the first section, the article examines the creation in and by the media of the image of immigrants as ‘the enemy within’, demonstrating the arbitrariness of this categorisation and how it acts as a catalyst for the discontent felt by native populations, in particular the Italian people. The social construction of immigrants as potential perils to law and order and as unfair competitors in the job market and in applications for welfare resources (which does not find confirmation in scientific research) also performs the function of legitimising the political elites in a time of enduring economic crisis and changes in the capitalist economic model. The second section illustrates the dynamics, causes and consequences of the growth of economic inequality in economies around the world, with wages and pensions falling. States find themselves in great difficulty trying to counteract these processes of impoverishment in the population with social welfare measures. The third and final section looks at the ‘mirroring’ function performed by immigrants. They act as a convenient catalyst for the anger of the native populations, in part because the conditions of financial uncertainty and social marginalisation in which immigrants so often live are also beginning to seem like the probable future for the natives. Therefore, immigrants show us an image of poverty and uncertainty which seemed to have been definitely defeated through the development of welfare systems but is returning.


economic inequality, immigration, scapegoat

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13136/isr.v9i1.259

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