The subtitle is Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities, and might this be the must-read book of the year? It is “to the right” of my views on immigration policy, but still I found it informative, fascinating, and relevant on just about every page. Here is the author’s opening framing:
First, why are right-wing populists doing better than left-wing ones? Second, why did the migration crisis boost populist-right numbers sharply while the economic crisis had no overall effect? If we stick to data, the answer is crystal clear. Demography and culture, not economic and political developments, hold the key to understanding the populist moment.
Kaufmann, by the way, is Professor of Politics at Birkbeck in London, but hails from Canada. As for the basics, there is this in addition:
Much of this book is concerned with the clash between a rising white tribalism and an ideology I term ‘left-modernism.’
If you wish to understand “all the stuff that is going on today,” maybe Whiteshift is the best place to start? Kaufmann, by the way, is not a mega-pessimist and he seems to think that “broadening the category of white” will lead to a “good enough” solution for many of the Western democracies. Still, much of this book is disturbing, especially for readers who might consider themselves to be on the left. Most of all, he sees “whiteness” as a legitimate cultural interest, and one which, if we deny, will lead to more overt racism rather than less.
Here is Kaufmann on Brexit, brutal but I think largely correct:
…many analysts bring a political lens to their analysis which inclines them to want to tell a story about wealth and power. Over half the country voted Leave and we can’t condemn such a large group. So we pretend populist voters are motivated by the same things we are: economic stagnation (for fiscal conservatives) or, for left-liberals, inequality and resentment of the establishment.
Kaufmann also has strong evidence for the “immigration backlash” hypothesis, for instance:
…a higher immigrant share is a consistent predictor of higher opposition to immigration over time…in Western Europe there is a .63 correlation between projected 2030 Muslim share and the highest poll or vote share a populist-right party has achieved.
On top of all of its other virtues, Whiteshift provides the best intellectual history of the immigration debates I have seen. It also has the best discussion of why Canada seems to be different when it comes to immigration, and I may cover that in another blog post.
Kaufmann does very much argue that the left-wing values of diversity and solidarity stand very much in conflict. How is this for an “ouch” sentence?:
Casual observation would suggest that being black in diverse San Francisco is not necessarily better than being black in white-majority Fargo [North Dakota].
By no means am I convinced by everything in this book. I don’t think European politics can handle systematized refugee camps in Europe itself (rather than Turkey and Lebanon), and most of all I am not sure that recognizing whiteness as a legitimate cultural concern will diminish rather than boost racism. I wish he had said much more about gender, and how immigration and gender issues interact.
Nonetheless this book has more points of interest yet, including an original and persuasive take on residential clustering, a good analysis of racial intermarriage, and a sustained argument that avoiding the “no dominant ethnic group” approach of Guyana and Mauritius is imperative.
Strongly recommended, it is out next week, you can pre-order here.