"Liberalism and multiculturalism have made integrating minorities harder—and have fragmented the majority"by David Goodhart / January 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
The Cultural Defence of Nations: A Liberal Theory of Majority Rights, by Liav Orgad, Oxford University Press, £50
This is an important and timely book. It helps both to explain aspects of current European politics—such as the rise of populism and David Cameron’s repeated appeals to British values—and also provides a rigorous guide to what majorities can and cannot do to preserve their culture and way of life.
Its author, Liav Orgad, an Israeli lawyer, circles his subject with more legalistic detail than most people will comfortably bear. But it is an intellectual ice-breaker and will, or should, open up new territory for others to explore.
The idea of majority rights seems like a contradiction in terms. Majorities, it has been assumed, do not need special legal protection because their culture is dominant and transmitted through everything from schools to national ceremonies. And majorities by definition carry the greatest weight in a democracy, including deciding (at least in theory) the terms on which others can join the society.
And yet it has always been one of the blind spots of multiculturalism and theories of minority rights that they have had so little to say about ethnic majorities. Eric Kaufmann is one of the few academics to write interestingly about multiculturalism’s “asymmetry”—its stress on the importance of personal autonomy, cultural preservation and group identity for individuals from minorities but its failure to see that the same principles, and psychological needs, might apply to individuals from majorities, too.
This was noticed by the British National Party and others on the far right who cynically invoked multiculturalism to defend whites in areas of rapid ethnic change. Meanwhile Donald Trump’s appeal in the United States is surely based in part on the demographic anxiety of lower-status whites—non-Hispanic whites are now just 60 per cent of the US population—the sort of people who, in David Frum’s description, are irked to have to “press one for English” on automated phone systems.
“We got nothing but problems… We’re dying. We’re dying,” declared Trump in a recent speech. He is right. A celebrated paper by Angus Deaton and Anne Case…