May 9, 2013 § 3 Comments
A week on from the local elections, and there seems to be no end to the debate about UKIP’s success. Explanations fall into two broad categories. Some insist that UKIP garnered merely a temporary midterm protest vote. Others see Nigel Farage’s outfit as a lasting threat to which the main parties must respond by adopting more hardline policies, especially on Europe, immigration and welfare.
Both views are right. And both are wrong. UKIP does draw the protest vote. But the very character of the protest vote is changing.
The traditional party of protest in Britain was, of course, the Liberal Democrats (or the Liberals as they were before they got hitched to the SDP). Once a party of government, the failure of the Liberals to win power for most of the twentieth century made it an ideal vehicle for the protest vote – a safe, mainstream party to which to turn at relatively irrelevant elections as a means of temporarily expressing dissatisfaction with one of the main parties before returning to the fold; a way sending a message but not of upsetting the system.
Once the Liberal Democrats became part of the Coalition government after the 2010 election, they could no longer play this role. But something more fundamental has also changed. « Read the rest of this entry »
May 6, 2013 § 1 Comment
David Goodhart, in his response to my review of his book The British Dream, raised three major issues. First, he suggested, mass immigration undermines stability and continuity. Second, he claimed that I ignored the fact that immigrants come not as individuals but as members of communities and cultures. And third, he challenged me to set out my concept of integration. I dealt with the question of stability and change in a pervious post. I will write about the meaning of integration in a future post. Here, I want to take up the question of community and culture.
In defending mass immigration, Goodhart suggested, I am forced ‘to adopt a sort of methodological individualism’, to imagine that ‘there are only individuals, floating free of culture, tradition, language, ways of life, who can just slot into modern Britain without changing anything’. This, he added, ‘is the left’s equivalent of “there is no such thing as society”’.
I have, in fact, long been critical of liberal views of individualism. I have many times made the point that humans are not individuals who become social but social beings whose individuality emerges through the bonds they create with each other. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 26, 2013 § 8 Comments
On Saturday I reviewed David Goodhart’s book The British Dream which explores, in the words of its subtitle, the ‘successes and failures of post-war immigration’. Goodhart, I suggested, ‘touches on some of the critical issues that we face today’. But ‘his insistence on seeing contemporary problems primarily through the lens of immigration only obscures those issues and makes it more difficult to formulate adequate responses’.
Goodhart responded to that review, suggesting that my attempt to marry a critique of multiculturalism to a defence of mass immigration was ‘plain eccentric’. There were three key points to his argument. First, he suggested, ‘decent societies with high levels of trust between citizens require a degree of stability and continuity’. Too much immigration undermines such stability and continuity. Hence ‘the government’s goal of net immigration of “tens of thousands”’ was ‘a necessary but not sufficient part of an integration strategy’. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 22, 2013 § 9 Comments
On Saturday I posted my review of David Goodhart’s book The British Dream. Here is Goodhart’s response to that review. My thanks to David for a generous reply. I will post something later this week in response to the main challenge he raises about immigration, multiculturalism and integration, and about whether I adopt the left version of ‘there is no such thing as society’. I have also added a comment to this post which deals with some of the other issues he raises. I hope this turns into a fruitful discussion.
I have learnt a lot from Kenan over the years, especially about the failings of a certain strain of multiculturalism. And I cannot complain about much of his recent review of my book The British Dream. But I still think his own position of being in favour of as much immigration as possible – presumably on global justice grounds – while opposing ‘putting people into boxes’ multiculturalism, is plain eccentric.
To imagine how this might work Kenan has to ignore the economics of large scale immigration which even the mainly pro-mass immigration economists regard as negative for people at the bottom end of the labour market. He also has to adopt a sort of methodological individualism – there are only individuals, floating free of culture, tradition, language, ways of life, who can just slot into modern Britain without changing anything. This is the left’s equivalent of ’there is no such thing as society’. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 20, 2013 § 7 Comments
In 2004, David Goodhart wrote an essay called ‘Too Diverse?’ in Prospect magazine, of which he was then editor. Liberals, he suggested, had to face up to a ‘progressive dilemma’. Too much immigration undermined social solidarity, particularly in a welfare state. We had to choose between the two. The essay caused considerable controversy, but became a key point of reference for many communitarian thinkers, both Labour and Conservative.
Goodhart, now director of the centre-left think tank Demos, has developed that essay into a book. At the heart of The British Dream are three key themes: first, the chasm between the elite and the public on the issue of immigration; second, the corrosive effect of immigration on community solidarity and traditional identities; and third, the problems caused by what Goodhart calls ‘laissez faire multiculturalism’. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 3, 2013 § 10 Comments
My big book – on the history of moral thought – will be published by Atlantic next spring. Before that comes a little book. Multiculturalism and its Discontents is an extended essay that pulls together much of my thinking and writing over the years on the subject. It will be published by Seagull this summer (Amazon says June, though it is more likely to be August). And here is the introduction.
On 22 July 2011 Anders Behring Breivik planted a car bomb outside government buildings in the Regjeringskvartalet area of Oslo. The explosion killed eight people and injured more than 200. Two hours later Breivik, dressed in an all-black paramilitary uniform, launched an attack on a summer camp organized by the youth division of the Norwegian Labour Party on the nearby island of Utoya. For an hour and a half, he walked around the campsite, firing indiscriminately with machine guns, unzipping tents and gunning down people cowering inside. Sixty-nine people were killed in the homicidal rampage. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 30, 2013 § 39 Comments
At the heart of the current debate about immigration are two issues: the first is about the facts of immigration, the second about public perception of immigration.
The facts are relatively straightforward. Immigration is a good and the idea that immigrants come to Britain to live off benefits laughable. Immigrants put more money into the economy than they take out and have negligible impact on jobs or wages. An independent report on the impact of immigration commissioned by the Home Office in 2003, looked at numerous international surveys and conducted its own study in Britain. ‘The perception that immigrants take away jobs from the existing population, or that immigrants depress the wages of existing workers’, it concluded, ‘do not find confirmation in the analysis of the data laid out in this report.’ More recent studies have suggested that immigration helps raise wages except at the bottom of the jobs ladder where it has a slight negative impact. That impact on low paid workers matters hugely, of course, but is arguably more an issue of labour organization than of immigration. « Read the rest of this entry »