What’s behind the rise of right-wing populist movements in Western democracies? In his book Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities, Eric Kaufmann makes the case that unease with increased immigration rates, and stigmatization of those wanting slower rates are among the forces fueling phenomena ranging from Brexit to Trump’s unexpected 2016 win. A Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Kaufmann has authored, co-authored, and edited nine books, including The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America. In this wide-ranging interview with CEO Jennifer Anju Grossman (JAG), Kaufmann explores how “the progressive storyline for white majorities is a morality tale celebrating their demise,” and how the indignant resistance to that celebration is helping shape current political trends. Watch the entire interview HERE or check out the transcript below.
JAG: Hello everyone, and welcome to the 130th episode of The Atlas Society Asks, my name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. My friends call me JAG. I'm the CEO of The Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit organization introducing young people to the ideas of Ayn Rand in fun, creative ways, like graphic novels and animated videos. Today we are joined by Eric Kaufmann from London. Eric Kaufmann is a Canadian professor of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is a specialist on cultural politics, religious and national identity, and demography. Professor Kaufmann has authored and co-authored many, many books, including The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, and his latest book, Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities. Eric, thank you for joining us. I know it's a little bit late there and you’ve got a lot going on, but, we're just thrilled to have you.
EK: That's okay. Thanks. Thanks very much for having me. Glad to be here.
JAG: So, I already felt a bit of kinship with you. We share a mixed heritage, Jewish father, lapsed Catholic mother, but you have a much more interesting mix of ethnicities in your background. You also grew up in different countries around the world. So, I'd love to learn a little bit about your origin story and how your experience growing up may have influenced your interest in ethnic, cultural, and political demography.
I spent a total of eight years in the Far East growing up. That kind of gives you a different outlook. And one of the things it clearly does is you don't take nation for granted, and you're more aware of national identity.
EK: Well, thanks Jennifer. Yes, like you say, I am, on the one hand, from a secular Jewish dad and lapsed Catholic mom. But as you said, beneath that, my mom's side: she's sort of half-Costa Rican and half-Chinese, and they met in Hong Kong, and she's from Macau, which is a Portuguese colony. In my early years, my dad was in Tokyo with the Canadian embassy and then with a Canadian firm. So, I spent a total of eight years in the Far East growing up. That kind of gives you a different outlook. And one of the things it clearly does is you don't take nation for granted, and you're more aware of national identity.
EK: That's kind of the beginning of my interest in nations and national differences. I went to an international school where every country has its booth, so you're more aware of national differences, I think, growing up abroad. That was the early origin perhaps of this interest in national identity as a topic. I wasn't initially going to be an academic, but by-hook-and-by-crook, I wound up at the London School of Economics studying sociology and political science. And I gravitated towards the study of nationalism, in which there was an individual called Anthony Smith—he passed away a few years ago; he was a leading theorist of nationalism, and there were a number of others like Ernest Gilner as well.
EK: It was sort of a center for the study of this. I just kind of accidentally bumped into that and that was fortuitous. Then, of course, I guess on the ethnic side, having a few different elements in my background growing up in a suburb of Vancouver that was predominantly what you would call WASP, or British ancestry and population, being aware of some differences there. Also, being in a city that was like some US cities undergoing rapid ethnic change, say from overwhelmingly European to having a larger Chinese component in the population. So, these are all things that might have influenced my interests. And, I did my doctorate at the London School of Economics, looking at this confluence of migration and national identity. That led into my first book, The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America, which is really about the decline of the WASP as an ethnic group in the United States, demographically and politically in the 20th century.
JAG: Yes, it's interesting. And Canada is its own special case. Perhaps we'll get to explore some of those differences in terms of their approach to multiculturalism. But, I see that these themes are evolving throughout your three books, and in the book that you wrote in 2010, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, you discussed how on average some religious groups tend to have more children than their secular counterparts. How have those projections held up 12 years later, and how might the higher fertility rates of, say, haredi Jews, the Amish, Mormons impact the demographic and political change you explore in Whiteshift?
EK: Yes, very interesting. What I would say is that book, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, was a little bit of a departure in the sense that I was looking more at religious differences within ethnic groups. So, as you see ultra-Orthodox Jews versus secular Jews, conservative Protestants versus lapsed or liberal Protestants, that's sort of the kind of difference I was looking at. So it was a little bit moving away from the ethnic politics, but what you see is, yes, substantial fertility-rate differences. And if anything, I think those have widened and not declined since I wrote. A good example would be the Jewish population of the UK and US, which is projected to become majority ultra-Orthodox in the second half of our century.
EK: That's an example of the process I talk about, which is really through higher, differential birth rates. Religious demographics really are powering this change, and there have been examples of that in the past as well. If you look at evangelical Protestants in the United States, there's a good paper by Michael Hout, Andrew Greeley, and Melissa Wilde, which really shows that three-quarters of the growth of conservative Protestantism in the US in the 20th century was demographic through higher birth rates. And that was one of the reasons you had this shift from about one-in-three Protestants being conservative to two-in-three in the course of the 20th century. So, yes, those are just some examples and I don't see any change in that, incidentally. I mean, if you look at developed countries in the West today, the difference between those who are regular religious attenders and those who are sort of non-religious or religious-nones is on the scale of about a half-child, or in some cases, a full-child taking over generations; that'll have quite a substantial effect.
very fundamentalist world-denying sect groups like the Amish, like the ultra-Orthodox Jews, they're almost entirely European in origin. These are the groups that are very much defying this shift to below-replacement fertility rates.
JAG: I think you talked about it as a kind of time-capsule whiteness. Is that correct?
EK: Well, there's the religious side of things. What this leads to is a big expansion in religiously conservative populations. But then the question is how does that affect the ethnic picture? Because what we have going on in terms of ethnicity is clearly a decline in white majorities across the West, whether in the US or whether in Europe. So you have these declining white majorities, but then a lot of these, what I call endogenous growth, religious sects, these very fundamentalist world-denying sect groups like the Amish, like the ultra-Orthodox Jews, they're almost entirely European in origin. These are the groups that are very much defying this shift to below-replacement fertility rates. If you run projections ahead, if nothing changes, then these groups are going to be a very large chunk of the population that's going ahead two centuries.
EK: Right? So that's assuming things change, but in Israel or in the Jewish world, it's going to happen a lot quicker. It could be, as I mentioned, the UK and American Jewish Diaspora is projected to become majority ultra-Orthodox in the second half of the century. That's really only 50 years, well, 30 to 50 years away. It'll take a little longer for that to happen to Christianity. But, you know, if you really look at the projections, if things continue as they are, there could be 300 million Amish in the US in the 2200s. Now, of course, that assumes a lot, but their birth rates, the birth rates of these groups do not decline as they get wealthier. As the society gets better educated, they—the ultra-Orthodox in Israel—have maintained, in a modern society with modern contraception and health and education, birth rates 6.5 to seven children per woman on average.
JAG: All right. Now, I'd really like to dive into Whiteshift, Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities. I'm actually on my second reading.
EK: <laugh>. Good for you.
JAG: There's a lot to absorb. Also, I found the way that you approach your subject to be refreshing in that it's both deeply researched, but also open-minded and even-handed, as you unpack issues that are often avoided because of stigma and political correctness. So, first, what is whiteshift and how can a better understanding of both the demographic changes underway and majority reaction to them help to lower the temperature on political polarization and contribute to a more informed public policy debate?
EK: Well, thanks. Thank Jennifer. Yes, the basic meaning of whiteshift, whiteshift 1.0, if you like, is what's happening in our century, which is the decline of white majority groups in Europe and North America and Australasia. Just in terms of the trajectory, you're probably familiar with the US trajectory, which is something like 50% of the population being non-Hispanic white around 2050, the number jumps around, et cetera. Something very similar is happening in Canada, Australia, New Zealand; they are also going to be kind of majority-minority sometime around mid-century, maybe slightly later for Australia. In Europe, it'll happen towards the end of the century. So that's really quite substantial given that, particularly when we think of Western Europe, immigrant populations in most West European countries were 1 to 2% of the total in 1900.
EK: And you know that it's extremely small. So this is something quite new. And even though there have been small migrations to Western European countries, generally speaking, the scale is much, much higher. As an example, the Jews who came to Britain at the turn of the 20th century, I think at the peak, were going to be about 10 to 15,000 per year, whereas the immigration levels, net migration levels in Britain have been above 250,000 since 1997, and just this year it hit 500,000. So, the scale is of a completely different order of magnitude. Now that's really the change which is reconfiguring our politics because battles over the rate of this ethnic change as symbolized by the issue of immigration, are central to understanding the rise of right-wing populism across the West.
EK: Whether that's Brexit, whether that's Trump, whether that's Le Pen, whether that's the Sweden Democrats. This immigration is at the heart of this. And, in the book, I really look at large-scale survey data where you can generalize. What you can do is look at who votes, say, for the Sweden Democrats versus other parties. And there was a survey that showed 99% of Sweden Democrat voters say immigration should be reduced. A hundred percent of Alternative for Germany voters in the, I think it was 2018, Bavarian election agreed with the statement, Germany is gradually losing its culture. So, this sort of cultural, psychological underpinning to immigration opinion, which in turn is underpinning the populist vote, is absolutely vital for understanding what's happening. And, in that context, what occurs is that instead of talking just about left-right economics, welfare state versus low tax—that conversation was very much a later 20th century conversation—we've seen a sort of reconfiguration from that economic axis to a cultural axis, which we might call globalist-nationalist. Some have said open-closed, some have that liberal, conservative, cultural dimension which cuts across the old economic dimension. So, what you find is a lot of, in fact, slightly left-of-center economically working-class voters voting for national populist parties of the right, because they're attracted to their cultural message.
JAG: Yes, it's tricky because for those of us who want to make the case for less government and for lower taxes and for more capitalism, this whole shift has taken the conversation to another place. And, I think until we really understand what's going on and find a way to address it, we're at a loss, like, “oh, do we just kind of make the case and try to lump-in with these people or what?” So, it's interesting, and I think that there is sort of this sense of an adversarial dynamic going on as well. In Whiteshift, you observed that, “the progressive storyline for white majorities is a morality tale celebrating their demise.” And you argue that much of today's populist reaction stems directly or indirectly from this repulsion at this kind of celebration. So, unpack that dynamic for us, if you would.
Cultural-left ideology has evolved over time. It's been a very powerful force, particularly since the mid-1960s. What you saw was the left becoming a little less concerned with, for example, the proletariat and the working class, and becoming more concerned with identity groups.
EK: Well, basically the book is about the intersection of ethnic and national identity, but particularly what I'm focusing on are ethnic majorities who have not received as much attention from a lot of academics. So, ethnic majorities and how they're affected by migration and demographic shifts. But then the third element is ideology and the role of the cultural left in all this, because cultural-left ideology has evolved over time. It's been a very powerful force, particularly since the mid-1960s. What you saw was the left becoming a little less concerned with, for example, the proletariat and the working class, and becoming more concerned with identity groups, chiefly around race, but also gender and sexuality. The concerns around race, which are emerging in the late sixties, start to lead to a situation where discussions of immigration are beginning to be painted as racist and illegitimate.
EK: And, therefore, talking about restrictions is something you don't do in polite society. And that narrowing of democratic debate of the Overton window of what you are allowed to debate in a democratic society then means these topics are not being debated by mainstream parties because mainstream politicians, they want to be respected by, or respectable in, polite society, in the media, and so on. Now, what that actually does, however, is a bit like in the Soviet Union where you can only make one color pair of pants while a black marketeer is going to pop up to supply the blue jeans and the other things people want. Similarly, in this case, if the main parties aren't talking about immigration levels, then a black-marketeer politician, i.e., a populist, is going to pop up to provide that. And, it may be somebody like Trump in the US, or Sweden Democrats in Sweden (you know, in 2013 when they were getting large-scale, beginning to get larger influxes from other parts of the world, the interior minister in the moderate-conservative government said, well, we should probably have a discussion about immigration levels in Sweden).
Political correctness is in some ways a force that creates populism because populism is popping into this vacuum created by these speech restrictions.
EK: He was shouted down as a racist in the papers. Then, the next year, the Sweden Democrats, the populist party burst onto the scene with 12.5%. And in the most recent election, they were 20%, and are looking like they're going to be in the governing coalition. That's an example of what I'm talking about. This is where the mainstream really didn't feel comfortable addressing an issue a lot of voters wanted to address; that creates a vacuum that the populists will fill. And, so, the rise of populism. It would be very hard to imagine that if the mainstream parties were on top of this issue and having a debate that said, “okay, well, we hear the voices of people who want slower ethnic change, people who want faster change, we're gonna somehow meet in the middle.” But that debate doesn't happen because of all of the taboos that surround this subject. So, yes, that's one of the reasons I say that political correctness is in some ways a force that creates populism because populism is popping into this vacuum created by these speech restrictions.
JAG: So, sticking with the ideology for a second, where did this progressive storyline, not just a sort of obsession with minority identities, but a kind of denigration of white identity come from? You talk about the origins in terms of left-modernism. We've talked about it in terms of postmodernism, with leftists adapting the conflict dynamics of Marxism after Marxist economics was discredited, and adapting the conflict to identity politics. Are we talking about the same thing? Is it just a difference of definitions and terms?
EK: A really good question. I think there's an overlap, right? So, I think you can actually take it back to World War I. I do in the book. I take it back to the World War I period and the first kind of bohemian intellectuals who were modernist. Left-modernism is, in my view, a distinct ideology from socialism, because left-modernism combines two elements, one of which is a sort of identity-based or cultural leftism, which had a different feel to it prior to the 1960s, but it was there, just in a different way. And, this modernism, which is this strong anti-traditionalist pursuit of the new and different. So, what you saw amongst the group of bohemian intellectuals known as the young intellectuals, they were very much iconoclastic. One of their beliefs was that the WASP group of which they were more or less all members was boring.
EK: Randolph Bourne is an example. He's a key figure. He's of a New England Yankee background, like many of these intellectuals. But he says, well, our group is kind of boring; they don't create anything interesting; they just want to ban alcohol and dance; and they're not particularly interesting, but quite a parochial group. So, this is a first example of somebody denigrating their own group. Then, that takes hold in the 1920s once you have Protestant-initiated legislation like the prohibition of alcohol and the 1924 immigration restrictions that come in. There was a real attack on white Protestant America by these generally white Protestant-origin intellectuals. That's kind of the origin. But it had a different feel in the sense that their main line of attack was that this group is sort of boring, and they have no culture, and they're not very interesting.
You already had an anti-WASP paradigm, but then in the mid-sixties you get someone like Susan Sontag saying, oh, white people are a cancer on the planet, and the US is a racist society to its core, this kind of radical stuff that you didn't find back with the young intellectuals.
EK: If you fast forward, that was sort of the paradigm through the twenties and arguably even through the beats in the fifties. It's not till we get to the mid-1960s with black-power radicalism, that the feel of it becomes much more recognizable. You already had an anti-WASP paradigm, but then in the mid-sixties you get someone like Susan Sontag saying, oh, white people are a cancer on the planet, and the US is a racist society to its core, this kind of radical stuff that you didn't find back with the young intellectuals. So, this time it has a much more leftist edge. It's about oppressors and oppressed. It has much more of that language. So, I think we have a changing of that culture of majority repudiation to be much more aggressive, borrowing very much from both the black-power radicalism and the European anti-colonial, because don't forget, the European empires were decolonizing at this time.
EK: And this third-world socialism was less Marxist and more about the third world Lumpenproletariat versus the West. That was the paradigm. The Western left imbibed all of that, so Franz Fanon's book, 1961, The Wretched of the Earth, which is sort of this third-worldist socialism, The Forward was written by Jean Paul Sartre, who was a western leftist. And so, you get that cross-fertilization. Then since the mid-sixties you just have had a ratcheting up, the scaling up, of all this. So when Michael Brewer, or people like that, or Sarah Jeong taking a shot at white people, that's now in a tradition that goes back to the mid- to late-sixties. But, it's just that there are more of these people around, because more of them have been produced in the graduate schools.
EK: And, you've got social media. For all these reasons, we're hearing more and more of this anti-white rhetoric, critical race theory, of course, which generates a lot of this as well, has migrated off campus into the media and into schools, which is somewhat of a more recent development. But, what I would say is these ideas have been circulating for some time, and they also impinge, of course, on the immigration discussion now. For the Democratic party to deport illegal immigrants is much more difficult than under even Obama, because this ideology has really percolated right into the party.
JAG: So, returning to populism, and of course, historically there has been left-wing populism, resentment of financial elites, and belief in the muscular classes, the proletariat. Why, today, are right-wing populists doing better than left-wing populists?
EK: Yes. We are seeing some left-wing populism. You can think about Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, Sanders in the US, or Syriza in Greece. But, in general, the right populism is doing a lot better. Why is that? I think because the left populism thrives on economic issues for the most part, the right populism is largely an immigration and ethnic-change-driven phenomenon, and that is just much more present, I suppose because of the pace and scale of demographic change is just a lot more advanced now. So, that simply gives a plausibility and has created more fertile soil for the rise of the populist right. It's also worth saying, by the way, that the populist left has some force, but perhaps some of the raw deprivation isn't perhaps as acute now as it might have been in earlier times.
JAG: One of the issues that we focus on a lot here at The Atlas Society is envy. And I don't know if you're familiar with the German sociologist, Rainer Zitelmann. I interviewed him recently about his book, The Rich in Public Opinion, which looked at levels of envy in different countries, assigning a social envy coefficient, even looking at levels of envy within different generations in those countries. Traditionally, populism is thought of, as I mentioned, an antipathy against elites, including economic elites. But, from my reading of your book, it doesn't seem like envy or an obsession about income inequality is a major driver of the new right-wing populism. Is that right?
EK: Yes, that's right. If you look at the data, people who have high incomes, low incomes, there's no real difference in terms of the likelihood of them voting for populists. Economic factors, whether you've lost a job, that's not a major driver. And, likewise, in the economic structure of a particular country, whether it's a relatively unequal country like the United States, let's say, compared to a country where they have a very strong welfare state and more equality like Sweden, that, too, is not a major predictor of whether somebody is going to vote populist. We've seen populism movements in the north of Europe which has a strong welfare state, in the south of Europe where it's not as strong, and in the United States. So, yes, I think the evidence is overwhelmingly that this is not about economic resentment or envy.
EK: And, to the extent that that exists, that's going to be more of a left-populist issue. This is mainly about these cultural issues, about cultural change being too rapid for people, than the sense that they're losing the country. They've known that one of the best questions for picking out sympathy towards right-wing populism is to ask, “were things in America better in the past,” but especially “was American culture better in the past?” That kind of a question is much better than anything economic at identifying who will support these parties.
JAG: To give us a context for current concerns about immigration. Is there a point in modern history where the numbers sharply increased? And if so, why is that?
Up until the 1970s, immigration to North America was predominantly from Europe, and now it is overwhelmingly to the tune of 80% from outside of Europe. So, there's just a longer cultural distance there. And, that certainly plays into this because part of the population sees difference as disorderly change, as loss.
EK: Well, we're seeing significant population movements, north-south migration, in the world right now. Compared to 1970, it's been, I think, a doubling of the share of people who were born in the global south, living in the global north. Even though migration around the world, the share of people who were born in another country around the world hasn't changed that much actually. So, yes, we are definitely seeing an increase in migration numbers and especially from non-traditional sources. Up until the 1970s, immigration to North America was predominantly from Europe, and now it is overwhelmingly to the tune of 80% from outside of Europe. So, there's just a longer cultural distance there. And, that certainly plays into this because part of the population sees difference as disorderly change, as loss.
EK: And, that's very psychological and it's significantly heritable actually. This is not necessarily something that people can be taught out of. Karen Stenner in her book, The Authoritarian Dynamic makes this point that because of the heritability of these dispositions, there's a certain part of the population that simply responds negatively to these kinds of developments. Now, it could be other kinds of diversity, could be ideological diversity, but people are wired. To give you an example: You can even have people look at dots on a screen, if you prefer dots that don't have a regular pattern versus those that are more ordered, if your desk is messy versus tidy, if you like dress codes in tennis tournaments or not. All of that actually is connected to views on immigration. It's very interesting. And as Stenner points out, thinking that you were going through some program of education to teach this out of people, actually, has the reverse effect on reaction. There've been a number of psychological experiments that show the more you push this idea that ,if you say Trump is a racist, if you say the Confederate flag is racist, then you actually get a backlash effect and more people supporting these things in these psychological experiments. So I think this is really a lot of what's happening. You're getting rapid demographic change interacting with certain kinds of human psychology.
JAG: All right. Well, I'm going to have to ask for patience from our audience because I know I asked for questions, but as I mentioned, I'm on my second reading of this book and I'll be reading it again because there is just so much to get into. We could have a three-hour interview and we wouldn't even get into it. But, I do want to get to similarities and differences between how immigration-fueled populism played out in both the UK's Brexit and the 2016 election of Trump.
EK: Yes, I think these things are much more similar than different. For example, the same characteristics which predict a Brexit voter will predict a Trump voter. So a question like things in Britain were better in the past, a question even about views on the death penalty are a much stronger predictor of your support for Trump or Brexit than anything economic, such as whether you've lost a job or whether you're richer or poorer, and so, yes, just very powerful similarities and we see them also, of course, in the issue of immigration being an absolutely key predictor. So, I think these things are both very similar. And, you can also look at the fact that in both countries, the mainstream parties were arguably not, um, you know, so in the United States case for example, there was a lot of difficulty in talking about the immigration issue within the Republican party.
EK: It was seen that the Republican party wanted to pursue an interventionist foreign policy, for example, neo-conservatism, low tax, and religious conservatism. But, it was very reticent to really pursue immigration restriction. And that's where Trump was the only candidate that made immigration central. Now, it's not that Romney and other candidates didn't talk about it at all, but it was a subsidiary issue. Trump really goes right after this, and he also goes after political correctness, and you see a lot of these sorts of dynamics happening with European populist right parties as well. They're doing the same thing. So I think there is that connection between the two. I see the two as much more similar than different, whereas if you were to compare a figure like George W. Bush to a European conservative, there's a massive difference between those two because the issues George W. Bush was talking about, like religion, had absolutely no resonance in Europe, whereas these issues around immigration and ethnic change are exactly the same issues. And in that sense, I think Trump is a much more European figure than George W. Bush.
JAG: I thought that was interesting in your book when you talked about when we arrived in history at Trump that the politics of the United States actually became more recognizable and intelligible to Europeans than previously.
EK: Right. Yes, absolutely. Yes.
JAG: <laugh>. All right, promise, I'm going to get to some of these questions. Jake Stein on Facebook is talking about a speech, maybe that you gave earlier this year, on surveys showing how bad or not as bad current political correctness and woke cancel culture is. Does that ring a bell? And what was the main takeaway?
EK: Yes. Well, essentially what's occurred is you've had an evolution of the political correctness of the eighties and nineties. The dial's gone from about an eight to about an 11 <laugh> because there are simply more graduates of the radical programs. And, also, I think the other thing to bear in mind is these were being talked about in academia. There's a great study by David Rozado that looks at millions of academic abstracts and also millions of newspaper articles. And you can see that the academics were talking about sexism and racism at very high levels from the seventies and eighties and nineties. But then in the mid-2010s, the newspapers got hold of it where before they really weren't paying much attention. So, these ideas from the campus really spread off campus. The ideas I call cultural socialism, including this anti-whiteness, really migrates in a big way into the press, partly because of social media, because social media connects academics and journalists, but also because the newspapers are moving to a more clickbait-eyeballs model of revenue generation and less of a classified ads model.
EK: And so, they're going for more partisan appeals. All of that allows these radical ideas to migrate off campus. But, what I would say is these ideas, these hot cancel-culture ideas are only working because of a substrate, an existing banal wokeness or banal cultural socialism, which was already there from the sixties, which involved hypersensitivity to anything that might offend minority groups that's already there in the sixties. Racial sensitivity training has been there from the seventies. And affirmative action, disparate impact, all of this lingo and all of these precedents and high sensitivity are already there in the population, and whenever activists try to go crazy on it, in the past they were never really resisted. So, there are episodes of academics being canceled as early as the 1960s, and certainly in the 1970s, never any real pushback because of the power of the taboos, which was already established. It's just that there were fewer foot soldiers, and they were less well organized. Social media and everything allows them to organize. And there are more graduates of these radical programs which produce more foot soldiers.
JAG: All right. Alex Tremor on Twitter asks for data showing the relationship between the number of immigrants and how many actually integrate into the society they enter, which gets to the various ways of handling whiteshift, whether it's the salad bowl or the melting pot.
EK: Well, it's a tricky one to say that more rapid immigration leads to an ethnic diversification of the population. Whereas, like in the US when you had that immigration pause between the mid-twenties and the mid-sixties, eventually that led to ethnic neighborhoods breaking up, more intermarriage, particularly across lines like Protestant, Catholic, Jew, which had been relatively unheard of. And that melting process, what that then does is it reduces diversity in the population. So you get this sense of, yes, if there's less diversity, then there's less of a driver for the kind of right-wing populism we see. So, it takes some time because I think a lot of this is due to multiple generations. It takes many generations for immigrant groups to eventually start to move out of their areas, but especially to intermarry and especially to change their identity.
EK: And what we've seen in the last 20 years—well it's certainly in Europe in the last 20 years, but in the US as well—with the rising foreign-born population share is that you're getting a rise in this diversity and the perceived assimilation is not proceeding fast enough to affect that. I think that's the equation really. Now, whether a country pursues the salad bowl or the melting pot, I actually don't think that makes much difference. What the politicians talk about in France, they say we are the republic, and in Britain or in Canada, they say multiculturalism on the ground. I don't think it makes an enormous difference, really. I think that, in fact, it's very difficult to find any government-led integration program that really makes a vast difference. Perhaps in Singapore where the government can tell you where to live, they make sure that every housing block is perfectly representative of the total population. But in a free society where people can choose where to live, you're going to have segregation and it's only a matter of time, and multiple generations that will break that down.
JAG: So, getting back to the situation in the US, given Biden's defeat of Trump, and the recent muted midterm gains by populist Republicans in particular, does that mean that the populist moment has faded, or that the issue of immigration despite the images of utter anarchy at our southern border has lost its salience?
EK: I think definitely not. What I would say, however, is this, that when people are worried about a pandemic or they're worried about the cost of living because of a war in Ukraine and because of supply-chain constraints and things like that, when the economy is a bigger issue then immigration is a smaller issue actually is the relationship we see. So right now we're still living through a difficult economic situation. We've had a pandemic. All of those things are things that tend to dampen, not increase, populism. Now, as that starts to fade, and it will at some point fade as an issue, we will be back to normal economic times and inflation will start to go down, then I would expect concern over the economy will start to decline. That's what happened prior to Brexit, prior to Trump: people were less concerned about the economy.
EK: Because after the 2007-8 crash, the economy had started to fade in people's minds as a big issue. That gives more room for other issues to come up. I think we are actually at the beginning of a period where we're going to be returning back to what we saw prior to 2016. Now, I'll give you an example from Britain. Immigration, people's concern over immigration, which had risen steadily up until the Brexit vote then went into substantial decline because the government had to implement Brexit, it had to worry about the economy, then the pandemic hit. Now, we've got cost of living concerns because of the Ukraine-Russia war. But now what's occurred, there's been very high immigration and just in the last little while immigration's shot back up the agenda. I would predict this is going to happen in Europe as well.
EK: And, these questions? No, they absolutely haven't gone away. Not only that, they've been overlaid by the secondary culture-wars battle over speech boundaries, over critical race- and gender theory, which I think is mapping on top of these battles over immigration and diversity. So, I would predict now it might be Ron DeSantis instead of Trump, for example. I think Trump himself and his personal characteristics and perhaps some of his obsession with his image and things, and questioning the election, and all this sort of stuff, no doubt had an impact on how well the Republicans did. But, I think if you see a person like DeSantis in there, he will be pushing these issues just as hard, and I think will probably have success with them.
JAG: All right. Now, one of the very interesting dynamics that you talked about, I mentioned at the top, if you are actually interested in less government, less redistribution -- but let's look at the flip side of that. If you are progressive and you want more spending and more government intervention and regulation on climate change, let's talk a little bit about the relationship between rapid immigration-driven demographic change and social trust, and how does that play into the progressive dilemma that you describe in your book?
EK: Right. So this is really a debate which Robert Putnam, the Harvard political scientist, raised, he kept seeing in the data, and now it's very well established that areas that are more diverse, let's say a local neighborhood. The higher the diversity level, the lower people's trust in each other, that is, if you ask people how much can people be trusted? If you left a wallet on the street, would it be returned? And even people have done experiments where they leave wallets on the street, right? And so, in all of these measures, you get a lower trust outcome in a more diverse community. Now, what's less clear is what happens at the national level because you can have diversity, but it's very concentrated in certain urban areas and most populations are unaffected. So it's not yet clear whether the greater diversity at the national level feeds into loss of trust at the national level.
EK: However, we do see relationships between, for example, greater diversity at the national level leading perhaps to the rise of populism and that rise of populism partly being predicated on low trust in elites, which is partly based on their inability to handle immigration. And so, I do think there is a relationship between this increase in diversity that is the immigration outrunning the ability of the society to assimilate and melt that population. I think that that does seem to be related to the rise of populism and the rise of polarization. Now polarization, for example, it's not just the United States. Canada, for example, is now I would argue as polarized as the United States. If you look at, for example, Canada’s conservative voters’ approval of Justin Trudeau, it is typically in low-single digits and has been for a long time.
EK: That is in many ways more extreme even than in the United States. Republicans’ approval of Biden would be marginally higher than that, or switching between parties. Now it’s becoming extremely rare switching between the conservatives and, say, the liberals or the NDP, which is the more left-socialist party. So, I think issues are defined increasingly along cultural lines where it's harder to reach agreements. You know, it's harder to reach an agreement on whether to raise or lower the Canadian flag in response to what is perceived to be some kind of issue with indigenous genocide. That's largely, I think, an incorrect read of history. But those issues are much harder to compromise on than the tax rate where people can say, okay, you want it higher, I want it lower. We'll have a fudge in the middle. So, yes, I think that there is this relationship between, and it's not strictly speaking, diversity leading to polarization.
It’s diversity and different attitudes towards the diversity amongst, largely, the white majority. So, the polarization is much more intense within the white population; in the US African Americans are not particularly polarized, whereas white Americans are very polarized.
EK: What it is, it’s diversity and different attitudes towards the diversity amongst, largely, the white majority. So, the polarization is much more intense within the white population; in the US African Americans are not particularly polarized, whereas white Americans are very polarized. And so, it's polarization on racial attitudes, not polarization. It's not about white versus black, it's about attitudes towards Black Lives Matter: Are you against it? Are you for it? That's the kind of thing that really polarizes, but it has a second-order relationship to issues that are around identity.
JAG: So, you have talked about how people are less concerned with the economic implications of mass immigration than they are about the rate of cultural change, and that such concerns historically have been dismissed, or even condemned as xenophobic or racist. So, what might such knee-jerk reactions miss? For example, you've looked at research that shows preference or solidarity with one's own ethnic group does not necessarily equate with an antipathy for another group. Is that correct?
EK: Right. Yes. There tends to be a very knee-jerk reaction, particularly on the progressive side to discussing these issues. Instead of talking about people wanting change faster or slower, the way it's collapsed is into this dichotomy of you're either an open person or a closed person; if you don't like the rate of change that exists, now you are a closed person. Instead of saying: well, there's a continuum between people who want it faster and slower, and people are on different points on that continuum, and we have to meet somewhere in the middle; it's: if you disagree with me, if you are a closed person, then you are a deplorable, that sort of approach, which is very polarizing. If we also look at this issue of attachment to one’s own group, my own research would show, for example, that something like racial identification is very much an outgrowth of ethnic identification.
EK: If you ask somebody in the US, how attached are you to being Irish? If they're of Irish background, the stronger their attachment to being Irish, the stronger their attachment to being white. Because white is sort of European, which is a bit like the outer skin of an onion to the inner skin, which is Irish. You can do the same thing for Hispanic American. How attached are you to being Cuban? The more attached you are to being Cuban, the more attached you are to being Hispanic. It's not actually that mysterious and it works the same way across all groups. It's a bit like extended family. Some people are into their extended family, that's meaningful. For others it's not meaningful. Both of those should be fine. Also, I should say, they aren't related to hatred or antipathy to outgroups.
EK: So, in the US American National Election study, which is the gold-standard political-science data set, people are asked to give a thermometer rating, zero-to-a-hundred, how cold or warm are you towards a whole bunch of groups. The warmer you are, if you're a white American, the warmer you are towards white people, actually the slightly warmer you are towards black people or Hispanic people. So there doesn't seem to be this relationship that if you feel really warm to white people, you're really cold to black and Hispanic people. It doesn't work that way. And, the psychology literature where they've been doing experiments on this for a long time, makes this very clear that ingroup attachment and outgroup hatred are separate dispositions except where you've got a war going on or direct conflict over resources. For example, if you feel really warmly toward the Republicans, yes, you feel cooler towards the Democrats. That's a zero-sum relationship in the data. But black, white or black- or white-Hispanic, that's not a zero-sum relationship. Yet, so often we see these two things lighted and conflated, and it makes it impossible to have a rational discussion.
JAG: I can imagine, yes, people calling you racist or xenophobic. It's not a really a good icebreaker for a productive conversation. So, what are the downstream possible consequences when people call for slower immigration or less-rapid ethnic change, when those voices are more marginalized and stigmatized?
Progressives think, in this case, well, we'll just follow that script and we'll just make immigration a toxic subject and then lo-and-behold, everyone will have to come to our side. But that's not really the way it's turning out with this issue.
EK: Well, I think the first obvious thing that happens is the rise of populism because the mainstream parties are caged in by these speech norms. So, the mainstream Republicans or Conservatives in Britain, if they feel they can't really address this, then the only people that will address it are Nigel Farage or Donald Trump or a figure who is willing to walk across that red line. Now, of course, it's tricky because sometimes you do need to have a red line. You know, there was George Wallace who wanted segregation and the main party said no, and they were right to say no. And eventually public opinion came and followed. But, I think the progressives think, in this case, well, we'll just follow that script and we'll just make immigration a toxic subject and then lo-and-behold, everyone will have to come to our side. But that's not really the way it's turning out with this issue. Because it's not the same sort of issue as discriminating against people within your own country. This is more about access to membership and at what level it's a different type of question. So, yes, I would say that the results of suppressing that debate is more populism and more polarization.
JAG: And, potentially, violence right down the road.
EK: Potentially, violence, too. There is this question about radical white-nationalist terrorism. Well, what we see, interestingly, is there seems to be an inverse relationship. When national populism is doing well, there seems to be a lower rate of radical white-nationalist terrorism. That is not to say there's a very strong correlation, but that seems to be the relationship. So where you have a democratic outlet for some of this sentiment, it seems like you get less of a violent element. I think that this is an example of where it's better to air these issues. Now, ideally, I would not have the populists taking this on because with the populists, you don't know what you'll get. You might get somebody who's got a lot of problems like Trump or even Salvini in Italy; some of the things that he said about immigrants really are counterproductive and racist.
EK: So you've got to loose canon when you're dealing with populists. Ideally, you really want to have this within a mainstream party as a perspective, and you want accommodation and bargaining over where the level should be now. Without that, yes, you're right, it does introduce more alienation into the system, more anti-elitism. If the elites are perceived, if all the institutions are perceived as upholding this taboo, which is seen as illegitimate, then that delegitimizes a lot of the institutions. And, we're seeing a little bit of this around these questions of speech boundaries and critical race and gender. If that's being propounded in schools and in corporations and in government agencies, then those lose trust. Some of the findings now are that Republican voters have lost a lot of trust in the media, in universities, and in schools in a way that wasn't true even 5, 10 years ago. So, that's not a good thing. Ideally, you want the citizenry to trust the institutions and the elite institutions of the society.
JAG: And, you want those institutions to be trustworthy. too.
JAG: Alright, we just have a couple of more minutes and, you know, we've looked back. I want to look forward. You've called for something that you term multi-vocalism as opposed to multiculturalism or modern civic nationalism. So, what are the differences and how might multi-vocalism facilitate a more harmonious whiteshift, if you will?
EK: Well, yes, this really refers to national identities. This is the territorial political-cultural unit, the United States, for example, as opposed to white Americans, which is the ethnic majority. But, if we think about national identity as, say, American, then part of my argument here is that people depending on their ethnic group and their politics are going to have a different picture of what's important to them. And, we see, for example, that people on the left in Britain or America, they're going to value diversity and immigration as more important national symbols. They are going to say that what makes America is the ethnic diversity. That will be something that is going to appeal more to a Democrat and especially a liberal Democrat. Whereas somebody who's a Republican might value, for example, landscape and history, even to some degree, the traditional ethnic composition of the country.
EK: Some of these more slow-changing elements are going to be more important for them. And, I think that's actually okay. My view with multi-vocalism is everybody's oriented towards the nation that they're living in, not a homeland somewhere else. So, it's not multiculturalism, but I think it's perhaps only natural that people in different parts of the country from different ethnic backgrounds or political backgrounds are going to be attached to different symbols in the national mix and construct their sense of nation differently So allowing people to have a different route: there are many ways to be American, many ways to be British or French or whatever. But what's been occurring, I would argue, is an attempt to shut down certain ways of being. Particularly, those people who identify with being many generations in the country or identify with landscape or particular aspects of history, like the arrival of the Mayflower or Western settlement, they try to say that's not a legitimate way to be American. Whereas, what I would say is, actually, it is a legitimate way as long as you accept that other people have different ways of being American, that should be perfectly tolerable. So, I think that's my plea for tolerance of different ways of being national.
JAG: Which fits perfectly into the open Objectivism that we practice here and promote at The Atlas Society. So this has been fantastic. Again, appreciate it. I know it is late over there in the UK, Professor Kaufmannn. Again, folks, the book is Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities. I know I promote all of the books of the authors that we interview here, but you're not going to regret this one. I highly recommend it. The links are in our various feeds, so I really appreciate it. Thank you, Professor Kaufmannn.
EK: Thanks very much. Thanks for your time, Jennifer.
JAG: All right. And I want to thank all of you who joined us for this 130th episode of The Atlas Society Asks. Apologies if I didn't get to all of your questions. As you could see, I was really into this topic and, if it's any consolation, I had twice as many questions that I wasn't able to get to. So, thanks for joining us. If you enjoy this kind of content, the research, and the work that we put into it, please consider making a donation to The Atlas Society, tax deductible. It's that time of year, and please be sure to tune in next week when Dr. Aaron Kheriaty will join us to discuss his book, The New Abnormal: The Rise of the Biomedical Security State, on the next episode of The Atlas Society Asks. Thank you.