Brexitland-the clashes of identity politics

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We only recommend books by academics when they’re well written and genuinely tell us something refreshing. But such is the case with Brexitland by Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford (CUP 2020). In the tradition of Amy Chua and Eric Kaufman, the authors see ethno-tribalism as a compelling force in human affairs. Its clash with the equally powerful multi-ethnic cosmopolitanism which is the inevitable consequence of free markets is the issue of our times.

The fundamental narrative is how the adherents of the latter, taking their power and goodness for granted, belittled and negated those of the former, until in Britain they were destroyed by them. As Fintan O’Toole observed, the Brexit vote was all about Britain, not Europe. Brexit was the British expression of a long-building cultural war which is playing out in many countries. It generally pits the older and less educated (by no means less intelligent!) rural dwellers against the newer younger graduate denizens of the cities. Consider Trump in the USA. The same drama is played out in countries such as Turkey, whose populations are certainly considered beyond the pale by white nationalist purists.

The fall of Communism did not bring about the perfect world that its advocates promised. The politics of this century are and will be about identity, not class and economics. Yet the authors see hope, as at last these concerns are being addressed, however imperfectly. To which we would add: identities are always contingent and particular, the accidental results of large forces of history and biology. Do you know any Romans? How many of them now would fight and die for that city, as they did in the time of Scipio and Marcus Aurelius? Will Wessex go to war with Mercia this year-or are they happy now to be ruled by remote bureaucrats in London? The concerns of ethno-nationalists are deep, real and won’t go away. But there must be room for other, longer-lasting concerns too.

Eric Kaufman Whiteshift Harry N Abrams 2018

Amy Chua Political Tribes Barnes and Noble 2016

#ethnonationalism #identitypolitics #brexit #culturalwars #donaldtrump #erdogan #conservative #liberal #freemarket

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