On a world scale, distress and social instability are reminiscent of the social inequalities that obtained in a large part of nineteenth-century Europe. At that time the 'social question' was the central subject of extremely volatile political conflicts between the ruling classes and working-class movements. Are we now on the verge of a new social conflict, this time on a cross-border scale, characterised by manifold boundaries – such as those between capital and labour, North and South, developed and underdeveloped or developing countries?
Looking at cross-border migration, this lecture exemplifies crucial mechanisms resulting in the reproduction of old inequalities and the emergence of new inequalities. The lecture shows how the 'transnational social question' relates to political conflicts around the inequalities connected to cross-border migration in immigration and emigration contexts. Among the processes relevant for the understanding of the transnational social question are marketisation, securitisation, and developmentalism.