Responses to David Goodhart's Demos pamphlet from five commentatorsby Neal Ascherson / June 25, 2006 / Leave a comment
The five articles below are responses to David Goodhart’s pamphlet “Progressive Nationalism: Citizenship and the Left,” published by Demos in May 2006, on which Goodhart’s Prospect essay “National anxieties” is based. To read the complete text of the Demos pamphlet, click here.
Neal Ascherson When David Goodhart wrote his famous “Too Diverse?” essay in Prospect two years ago, he probably had little idea of the impact it would create. But it arrived at exactly the right moment, especially for those who claimed to detest what they thought it stood for.
The media, academia and the party political world, all in their different ways, had been discussing obsessively the questions of immigration, asylum-seekers and “Islamic fundamentalism.” Could British society absorb all this? It was easy to find voices to say that it could or should, or that even to associate these topics was “inappropriate.” But few people could be found to argue convincingly the other way. Then Goodhart’s article suddenly produced the missing member of the cast: a commentator who was not a BNP thug or racist, but who—from an intellectual, even liberal point of view—argued that multiculturalism in Britain was failing.
His position was exaggerated out of recognition. It must have hurt Goodhart to be repeatedly put up in media cockfights as a spokesman against immigration (which he was not), or interviewed as if he were Britain’s answer to Pim Fortuyn (“No More Room for Foreigners”). None the less, he became a familiar figure on the “multiculturalism” conference circuit, endlessly trying to explain that he was concerned with threats to social solidarity, not with lurid scenarios of ethnic swamping and terrorism.
Goodhart’s conversations with his critics, in or out of conference halls, seem to have persuaded him that his views needed to be refined, or at least expressed in a longer, more reasoned way. This pamphlet is the result. It’s seriously and closely argued, and a lot of it is new. The underlying ideas, however, are the same. And I still have the same problems with them.
Crudely, his core proposition goes like this: more and more people from non-European cultures, especially Muslim ones, are entering Britain. The British majority considers, rightly or more often wrongly, that these incomers make little effort to integrate, that they debase wage levels and that they are in general “free riders” on social benefits. These grievances are leading the majority to conclude…