The first British review of the publishing sensation that trashes the pieties of the 1968 generation. Despite its needless racial provocations, it narrows the gap between the public and politiciansby David Goodhart / November 17, 2010 / Leave a comment
Thilo Sarrazin: are Muslims really lowering the intelligence of German society?
Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab: Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen [Germany Abolishes Itself: How we are putting our country at risk] By Thilo Sarrazin (Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, €22.99)
Thilo Sarrazin, a minor German politician on the technocratic wing of the country’s Social Democratic party, has just written what is probably the bestselling political book in postwar Europe (1m copies in hardback and counting). Everyone in Germany knows at least a simplified version of what Germany Abolishes Itself says, and the reaction to the book is helping to drive government policy on minority integration.
The message of the book, in headline form, is that Germany is becoming smaller (thanks to the familiar story of a falling birthrate among native Germans) and stupider (thanks to the fact that educated Germans are having fewer children and the fastest growing part of the population are poorly-integrated Muslim immigrants). That “stupider” is, of course, contested and has led to accusations of a flirtation with eugenics—of which more later.
But Sarrazin is no right-wing populist in the image of Jörg Haider, the late Austrian politician, or even Geert Wilders, the anti-Islamic leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands. Much of the book is a dry compendium of economic and social data. Indeed, I suspect his book is the political equivalent of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time—much purchased but little read. Although controversy has swirled around his comments on group intelligence and the failure of German immigration policy, there is little in German public policy that he does not also take his axe to: welfare policy, education and training policy (apparently Britain now has a much higher proportion of students studying maths, science and technology than Germany), the poverty lobby and more. In fact, it is a meticulously prepared trashing of the liberal pieties of the 1968 generation.
The political and media class’s initial instinct was to denounce the book, and Sarrazin was forced out of his job at the Bundesbank. But as sales started to take off and as the new social media—the bloggers and emailers—lined up overwhelmingly behind Sarrazin, the reaction of political Germany shifted, albeit grudgingly. Chancellor Angela Merkel opportunistically declared the happy-clappy multikulti of the German left to have “failed utterly.” There was even a respectful and self-critical essay in Der Spiegel magazine by a leading liberal,…