And gangs in the military are not a threat?
In this week’s podcast we were joined by Eric Kaufmann, Birkbeck politics professor and author of Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities, in conversation with the BBC’s Razia Iqbal. In a challenging and wide-ranging conversation, they discussed how demographic shifts are transforming our politics, and what we should do about it.
Liberalism, a political philosophy that grew out of the Enlightenment and champions reason, freedom, and equality, has lately been criticized by some religious thinkers in the West. Liberalism, in their view, only “atomizes” individuals, weakens society, and ultimately corrodes all faiths.
Yet other religious intellectuals think that there are many reasons to appreciate liberalism, including the very freedom that the believers have found in liberal societies to practice and manifest their faith and to be free from the persecutions that have defined much of human history. Moreover, they think that under liberalism, religions flourish in healthier ways — through persuasion rather than coercion, and through civil society rather than state power.
This discussion is particularly relevant for Islam, since Muslim opinion leaders are often ambivalent, at best, on whether they should accept liberal standards of human rights or rather reject them as alien and detrimental. If liberalism is rejected even by Western Christians, whose religious traditions have been much more at peace with liberalism, Eastern Muslims will not even consider it.
Blake Pagenkopf is the author of The Great Conflation; Why Left Versus Right Isn’t Right Versus Wrong, which asserts that a simple spatial model can be used to explain the political misunderstanding that now rages across America. (See the chart belowin these show notes.) He is also an architect and construction manager currently renovating mixed-use buildings on small town Main Streets in the Midwest. He lives in the Kansas City metro area.
“The big question of our time is less, ‘What does it mean to be American?’ than, ‘What does it mean to be white American in an age of ethnic change?’” writes Eric Kaufmann in his new book Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities.
Kaufmann’s book is unusual in two respects. First, it’s explicit (and persuasive) in its argument that demographic change and the white backlash to demographic change are behind the rise of rightwing populism across the West. Second, it argues that the right response is to slow demographic change and calm the fears of white majorities.
I think Kaufmann’s framework of what’s driving political conflict right now is correct. I have more trouble with his vision of what to do about it. But this is a book, in my view, that gets to the core debate of contemporary politics and takes it on directly. That’s why I wanted to have this conversation.
The Ethnic Origins of Nationsby Anthony D. Smith
The Cultural Contradictions Of Capitalismby Daniel Bell
NEXT AMERICAN NATION: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolutionby Michael Lind
Michael Brendan Dougherty is a senior writer at National Review and the author of My Father Left Me Ireland, a moving, lyrical memoir about fatherhood and identity. It’s also a stirring defense of nationalism, an attack on wonks, and a critique of some of the core assumptions of liberal modernity. When I opened it, I didn’t expect it to be quite so on point to my interests. But here we are.
This conversation starts a little slow, but it accelerates into an exploration of some of the biggest questions this podcast has approached. What’s the purpose of the nation-state? Where does identity come from? What kinds of historical inheritances matter? How do human beings discipline their emotions and intuitions without losing their souls? When is violent revolution or resistance merited? And what does it mean to be a wonk?
One of the nice things about a conversation like this is it required both of us to articulate and defend some core beliefs that often go unquestioned. So there’s a lot here, including, at about the 32nd minute, probably the clearest description of my moral approach that I’ve offered on this podcast. Enjoy!
The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
Political Writings and Speeches by Patrick Pearse
The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom by James Burnham