Hub Dialogue

Sociologist Eric Kaufmann on why immigration is key to populism and the future of politics in our unsettled age

Anti-immigration protesters demonstrate in Montreal, Sunday, July 1, 2018. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press.

This episode of Hub Dialogues features Sean Speer in conversation with Canadian-raised, British-based sociologist Eric Kaufmann about his provocative book, Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities.

They discuss the rise of populism, the cultural influence of so-called “wokeism”, and the potential for a long-term political settlement between the Left and Right.

You can listen to this episode of Hub Dialogues on Acast, Amazon, Apple, Google, Spotify, or YouTube. A transcript of the episode is available below.

Transcripts of our podcast episodes are not fully edited for grammar or spelling.

SEAN SPEER: Welcome to Hub Dialogues. I’m your host, Sean Speer, editor-at-large at The Hub. I’m honoured to be joined today by Eric Kaufmann, a Hong Kong-born, Vancouver-raised, British-based, professor of politics, affiliated scholar at the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology at the Manhattan Institute and Policy Exchange, and the author of the provocative and must-read book, Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities. He is one of the most interesting Anglosphere thinkers on our current cultural and political moment.

I’m grateful to speak with him about his diverse and fascinating research, the rise of identity politics, and the prospects for a long-term settlement in our culture and politics between the Left and the Right. Eric, thank you so much for joining us at Hub Dialogues.

ERIC KAUFMANN: Thanks for having me on, Sean. It’s a pleasure to be here.

SEAN SPEER: You’ll have to bear with me, Eric. I’ve been so excited about our conversation that I have a lot of disparate questions that I want to try to put to you. Let’s start with your personal biography. As I mentioned, you were born in Hong Kong and spent a major part of your life in Vancouver, but you also lived in Tokyo for 10 years, and now teach at the University of London. Let me ask you a two-part question. First, how has your global experience shaped your work as a scholar and a political observer? Second, besides hockey, what do you miss most about Canada?

ERIC KAUFMANN: [laughs] That’s a good question, actually. Well, just on the background, my dad was with the Canadian Trade Commissioner service in China and Hong Kong. He was actually in China during the cultural revolution, actually, and witnessed that firsthand. Yes, we lived in Tokyo for a total of 10 years in a chunk of eight and a chunk of two.

That’s had a very important impact in the sense that if you grow up outside your home country, then you become a lot more aware of things like national identity because you have a school day where—I went to an international school, and everybody has their national booth, and so you become more attuned to that than if I just grew up somewhere in the middle of Manitoba, for example.

I do think that makes a difference, and so it then leads you to look at the world in a different way when you do actually come to live, in my case, in Vancouver in the late 1970s. That’s when I first actually went to elementary school in Vancouver and became a normal Canadian again.

SEAN SPEER: You’ve carved out a fascinating academic career that lies at the intersection between ideology, and identity. How did you become interested in these issues, and how, Eric, would you describe your work?

ERIC KAUFMANN: Well, I became interested in the question of national identity through my own personal biography. I also come from a mixed ethnic background. I’m a quarter Chinese, quarter Costa Rican, half Jewish, and so on. I also grew up in Vancouver, which is a city that was and still is undergoing ethnic change, but at the time, this was the rise in the Hong Kong Chinese population of Vancouver was underway. For all of those reasons, I’ve seen a lot of these changes, and that’s both being born abroad and being raised abroad to a large extent and also having a mixed background and also being in a culturally diverse and changing city—I think all that has all incubated these interests. Yes, I’ve long had those interests.

The ideology part though is something I came to later because it’s only as I was interested in this whole question of national identity in ethnically changing contexts that I then came across the role that ideology, and, particularly, a certain cultural Left-liberal ideology, plays into the whole story around, first of all, the reform of immigration laws but also then subsequently speech restrictions or restrictions on the Overton window of what’s acceptable to debate around say immigration levels. Which I think is key to understanding the populist moment in the West starting in 2014.

SEAN SPEER: Your research with the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology has brought empirical evidence to bear on the ideological worldviews of university professors in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. The numbers are really striking in Canada—for instance, roughly three-quarters of professors describe themselves as left-wing and only 4 percent identify as right-wing.

These numbers are powerful precisely because they accord with people’s intuitions about campus life. I guess my question for you is, why? How much of it is a case of left-wing gatekeepers versus a self-selection bias or some other explanation for why we have what you describe as a monoculture on university campuses across the Anglosphere?

ERIC KAUFMANN: Well, Yes. I think this ties in—by the way, I should say my interest in this ties in with my interest for my first book in this ideology which I call Left Modernism, which is a cultural version of egalitarianism that I think is very powerful in our culture and has shaped a number of generations since the 1960s. If you look at the composition of the professoriate and the composition of journalists in mid-1960s America, you could see that there was a ratio of about one-and-a-half on the Left to one on the Right. Or in the social sciences, like sociology, it was maybe three to one.

Fast forward to our time and those numbers, instead of three to one, it’s 12 to one. For media, there’s also been something like a tripling. There’s been a major shift. Yes, it’s the case that academia has always leaned Left, and particularly social sciences and humanities academia, but that situation and the balance between the two has really moved. It’s now starting to move in a number of other professions such as medicine and law. I think it’s worth noting that in fact there’s been a significant change to our elite culture as a result of these recruitment strategies.

Part of this is about political discrimination and in some of the studies that you cited I show that something like 45 percent of Canadian academics that I polled would not hire a known Trump supporter for a job. In Britain, about one in three academics polled wouldn’t hire a known Brexit supporter. There is significant political discrimination, but there is in addition to that, I think, a certain political typing that academia comes to be seen as a left-wing profession, much as nursing has come to be seen as a female profession. I think this combination is really what’s driving it.

SEAN SPEER: You’ve championed institutional reforms to address this lack of intellectual diversity on campuses, including what you’ve described as a “activist regulator.” I have a two-part question for you. First, what do you have in mind in terms of a practical response to the academic monoculture, and second, what would you say to those who would argue that this amounts to ideological affirmative action?

ERIC KAUFMANN: I think there are two parts to this. One, the academic regulators. There’s a higher education freedom bill here in Britain, on which I wrote a report for Policy Exchange, and a number of the recommendations that were in the white paper have been adopted in the bill. Something like the academic freedom bill is mainly about preventing institutions from cracking down on individual academics and students for speech. It’s about interfering with no-platforming to ensure that doesn’t occur.

All of that I think is very important, but it’s only part of the story. I do think that’s important. There’s nothing in the higher education freedom bill that deals with intellectual or viewpoint diversity. I think that is the second big part of the problem, because even if you have University of Chicago-style policies protecting rock-solid protections for staff and their ability to speak, when you have political biases and discrimination at the level of faculty and students, that will lead to self-censorship and chilling.

How do you then deal with this question of declining viewpoint diversity? I’m not advocating affirmative action, but what I do say is, well, anything that we decide or that a university decides to do on gender and race in terms of equity and diversity and inclusion, I think should be matched by equal action on ideological and political equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Now, if they want to do nothing on race and gender fine, but I don’t think it’s consistent to push policy in one area and not the other. Actually, when you poll on this in both the U.S. and Britain, the polling numbers I’ve seen show pretty good bipartisan support. Most people actually agree that if you’re pursuing one form of diversity and inclusion you should be pursuing the other, but of course, that’s not happening anywhere. That would be my take on what needs to happen there.

SEAN SPEER: Yes. That’s an interesting way to think about that subject. Thanks, Eric. Let’s move on to populism if it’s okay. It’s a subject that you’ve thought and written a lot about. Is there a common set of issues or impulses behind right-wing populism across the Anglosphere versus more contingent explanations?

ERIC KAUFMANN: My view is that populism—certainly if we take the post-2014 populist moment—is very much rooted in the issue of immigration and the associated ethnocultural changes that are linked to that. If you look at the survey data, for example, there’s almost no correlation between whether you are poor, or rich, unemployed, in a job, et cetera.

Personal economic circumstances are next to, not totally irrelevant, but certainly, in the case of Trump voting, I would say pretty much irrelevant. In the case of Brexit voting, they have a small effect. This is not really about the dispossessed hitting back against the economic elites. Now, that’s true for left-wing populism, but it’s not true for right-wing populism which is centrally around that question of immigration.

In fact, just to give you some polling numbers, the poll was done of AFD voters in Bavaria after the election, and 100 percent of them agreed with the state and Germany is gradually losing its culture. For Sweden Democrat voters, something like 99 percent favoured reductions in immigration. I think that gives you a sense just of what is the key to this.

It’s very much substantively rooted in a particular issue. Now, of course, you can have populism that’s based on things like being against COVID restrictions. I actually don’t think that that is a significant source of populist movements we see across the West now, even though it has played in Canada. But I think that’s a departure from the pattern that we tend to see across the west.

SEAN SPEER: The Canadian and British Conservatives are in parallel leadership races. Let me ask you, are Pierre Poilievre and Kemi Badenoch populists? If so, why, and if not, why not?

ERIC KAUFMANN: That’s a good question. Actually, right now we’ve just passed 3 o’clock here in London and they’ve made a decision as to who has been eliminated. I’ll have to find that out after the show, but what I would say is I think there’s a difference in that I think Poilievre, in my view, yes, he is striking some populist notes, just as by the way mainstream politicians like even Macron will strike populist notes.

I don’t consider Poilievre to necessarily be part—I think he’s tangentially part of the same phenomenon. Badenoch I would say is much more clearly a populist because she’s really tapping into those cultural issues around wokeness and immigration. Poilievre I think has shied away largely from those issues except in a few places. He’s largely about economics, which in my view is a relatively safe topic.

You’re not going to get canceled for it. In a way, the populist moment really was about parties moving away from just talking about economics to talking about those tricky cultural issues. It’s happened with a People’s Party, but it’s not happened with Poilievre. I guess I would still see that as pretty much a standard conservatism, more of an establishment conservatism.

I understand that Poilievre is going against the establishment, particularly with defunding the CBC, that’s probably his most populist policy, but for the most part, he’s talking about prices of gas and economics and things that are pretty uncontroversial and not going to get you in a lot of trouble generally.

SEAN SPEER: Let me follow up on that answer, which has a ton of interesting insight. It seems to me it begs the question, why haven’t we seen the emergence of that kind of populism in Canada? Is it because we’ve done immigration and pluralism better than others, or is it because of our political climate that effectively discourages or even stamps out heterodox thinking and ideas?

ERIC KAUFMANN: I think it’s because of the power of the cultural Left in Canada. Now, of course, the way the power of the cultural Left works is that it works up until the point it doesn’t work. The suppression works to keep ideas such as reducing immigration out of the political debate until that crumbles, as it did in Sweden. Sweden also had a relatively strong political correctness, but in the face of the migrant wave in 2015 that consensus was disrupted and now the discourse has shifted.

What you see in Canada is you do see the People’s Party raising these issues. You do see that Conservative voters, for example, compared to Liberal and NDP voters, are like 50 points apart on immigration. There’s a natural place for the Conservatives to go, but of course, the media environment and the cultural environment in Canada is very strongly dominated by the cultural Left.

Until you get a figure that breaks through and is willing to take that on, you’re unlikely to see a similar phenomenon to Trump or Brexit or the Sweden Democrats. I would say that if there is an individual willing to do that, I would’ve thought they would get pretty good support. It’s a question of a tipping point and when that is reached, and when that is reached, a lot of the frustration around the suppression will then actually go into this response. But you have to reach the tipping point. I don’t think Canada’s reached that tipping point.

SEAN SPEER: I saw you recently tweet that Badenoch was smart to recommit to the government’s climate target of net-zero emissions. Listeners might be a bit surprised to hear that. It doesn’t seem to accord with conventional understandings of right-wing populism. Help us understand how can a right-wing populist reconcile his or her conservative credentials with an ambitious climate change agenda. More generally, what does this particular example tell us about populism?

ERIC KAUFMANN: Well, I think you have the more economic issues which can have a populist feel to them as well. I mentioned the pandemic. You can talk about low tax. You can talk about the environment. There is a correlation to some extent between views on environment and views on the cultural issues, immigration, free speech, critical race theory, et cetera. However, I do think they are substantially different and the constituency is not entirely the same. I think that those cultural issues are much closer to the psychology of those who tend to vote for right-wing populism and the environment matters.

I guess, and this is partly because I generally do support action on climate change, to reasonable degrees, not ridiculous. I think you can accommodate that while at the same time pushing on what I think are much more substantive problems around culture because I think the cultural issues are very positional. You’re either one way or the other. A lot of these other issues like the economy, COVID, and climate change, they’re about trade-offs and fine points and finding optimum points. I don’t think those are naturally necessarily the issues populist voters are going to rally to. I do think that these cultural issues are much more foundational and that in a way I think those who want to go that route are advised to cleave to the political centre on other issues and focus on what I think are probably more important questions for their base.

SEAN SPEER: We recently had another Canadian-born-and-raised Kaufman, Elliot Kaufman, from the Wall Street Journal, on the podcast who is mostly dismissive of the rise of the so-called New Right. What, in your view, defines the New Right? What do you think its prospects are for overturning, conservative orthodoxy across the Anglosphere?

ERIC KAUFMANN: Well, it depends on what you mean by New Right. Because there are so many New Rights I’m losing track. Like, there is the French far-right New Right. Do you mean the post-2014 populist right?

SEAN SPEER: I think part of that. I’m thinking for instance of U.S. figures like Sohrab Ahmari, Adrien Vermeule, some of the people who were previously at First Things and now are associated with the magazine called Compact.

ERIC KAUFMANN: Okay. Well, I think the religious aspect—the critique of liberalism, the desire for what looks like theocracy—I just don’t see that it has a future. However, having said that, I do think there is certainly a critique of the idea that individualism is the only thing. There is room for a critique of market fundamentalism that doesn’t value social bonds.

I think that’s fair, but I think the more religious almost theocratic thinking, I just don’t see where it’s going to go, this Catholic conservatism. I just don’t. Whereas I think national conservatism is much more in tune with where a lot of voters are, especially in a world where certainly the power of the religious Right, let’s say in the United States, peaked in the 1990s. I don’t think that religious conservatism is really in the ascendant. I think it’s much more the national type of conservatism than I think is going to make more of the running.

SEAN SPEER: If I can just pick up that particular point, Eric. In conservative circles, there is a subtle yet important difference that’s often discussed between so-called social conservatism and so-called cultural conservatism. Can you help listeners understand what those differences are and why, I think if I understand you correctly, you think cultural conservatism may have more salience than traditional social conservatism?

ERIC KAUFMANN: Social conservatism, which is more around issues like religion and family, clearly we’ve got issues around the breakdown of the family. We’ve got issues around people dropping out of the labour force and declining social trust in all of these things. It has a contribution to make. I’m more of, I guess, what I call a negative liberal, to use Isaiah Berlin’s term.

I don’t think you could chuck liberalism out. I think that that is not going anywhere, but I think it’s important to have a range of voices. In general, I think there has been a decline in religious observance and a decline of energy on the religious Right. I don’t see that as the major force that’s going to shape this going forward. Whereas if you take the cultural or particularly national conservatism, if you look at public opinion, their issues have stood up much better than the religious issues in terms of maintaining interest over generations.

Whereas the transgenerational trend on a lot of the religious questions has been sort of in decline, whether it be religious attendance or some of the more religious issues around gay marriage and so on, I think there’s been secularization there. Now, that’s not to say that there still isn’t a valid critique that can come from that tradition, but I don’t think it’s going to be the dominant tradition.

I would say that national conservatism and that cultural conservatism will be more central, particularly as we face this threat from wokeness, or what I would call cultural socialism, which I think is the driving force in the culture. I think that and the response to that is really going to be key going forward.

SEAN SPEER: You anticipated my next question, Eric. I’m surprised when a lot of smart people dismiss the rise of wokeism as right-wing fiction. Let me ask you, what is wokeism, in your view, and how is it manifesting itself in modern society?

ERIC KAUFMANN: Well, the definition of woke. People say it’s a slur. It can be used as a slur and it’s used sloppily by some people to mean anything from, opposition to views on the environment and opposing people who criticize action on climate change and so on. The way I define wokeness is it is the sacralization—that is the making sacred—of historically marginalized race, gender, and sexuality groups.

Once you buy into a framework that these groups are more moral and more spiritual, that they have certain kinds of knowledge that others don’t have access to, that anything that offends the most sensitive member of these groups cannot be permitted, that if you offend such a group or if you go against any policy like affirmative action, any movement like Black Lives Matter then you are a reprobate and you deserve to be expunged—this is the core of wokeness. But wokeness is, of course, the religious aspect to an ideology, which is what I term cultural socialism. That is essentially a repurposing of egalitarianism from class and economics to identity. It involves two major elements, one of which is the redistribution of wealth, power, prestige, and self-esteem from oppressor groups to the oppressed.

Secondly, the protection from harm, especially psychological harm of these totemic groups. Once you’ve got those two elements in place you have cultural socialism, and then once that’s unleashed in the institutions, it starts in the universities and then spreads out in the 2000s to other institutions and comes into collision really with two major forces.

One is enlightenment liberalism, with reason, due process, equal treatment, and free expression. Then, on the other hand, national traditions around cohesion, majority group identity, for example, history. You get critical race theory and you get statute toppling and all the rest of it. I think this is really the expansion and surge of cultural socialism and all the impacts that that’s having that I think is going to be a central issue going forward in Western politics.

SEAN SPEER: We’ll come to the political salience of anti-wokeism in a minute, but before we get there, there’s a tendency to assume that developments in right-wing politics over the past five or 10 years are occurring in isolation, which doesn’t seem quite right to me. How much should we view the rise of right-wing populism as a dialogue with left-wing wokeism?

ERIC KAUFMANN: I think the two are now linked and you can see that in media content analysis, where you see first the so-called “Great Awokening”. You see terms like racism, sexism, white privilege just explode from 2013, ’14, ’15 onward. Then around 2017, you start to see terms like woke, social justice warrior, et cetera, take off. Those are the backlash terms. Now, what is the relationship to populism? If you take the first wave of populism, my argument is that the taboos, the discursive political correctness around issues particularly immigration, meant that mainstream parties like the Swedish moderates couldn’t touch the immigration issue.

That simply meant there was this big untapped market that political entrepreneurs like the Sweden Democrats moved into, or Trump moved into in the case of the United States talking about illegal immigration on the border as this key issue. Actually, without the politically correct restrictions on debate, you would not have had the emergence of these populist actors. Once the populist actors come in, they energize the cultural socialist woke progressive activists, who, in the U.S. case, eight percent are progressive activists, but I would say there’s a wider penumbra of cultural Left liberals, which might be as large as even a third.

They react against Trump or they react against Brexit and Britain or whatever, and then Trump and Brexit say, “Hey, you’re calling us a bunch of racists we’re not and you’re woke”, and then you get this back and forth right. You get an initial difference that emerges in terms of people’s different responses to immigration. Then layered on top of that you get this moral discourse between this woke Left and the anti-woke Right, and we’re into this recursive radicalism right now.

SEAN SPEER: As you mentioned, you believe that anti-wokeism is good politics on the Right. Does that analysis apply to Canada? If so what aspects of wokeism may find the most salience in the Canadian context?

ERIC KAUFMANN: In the U.S. and Britain where I’ve done polling, on most of these issues like teaching children that Britain or America is a racist society built on stolen land, you’re going to get overwhelming conservative opposition to the tune of 90 percent, 95 percent. The Left is actually pretty fragmented between those who oppose and those who support this. What these issues do is they fragment the Left and unite the Right and there is a two-to-one majority against. That means they’re a perfect issue for mobilization. We’ve seen that in the Virginia race with Glenn Younkin’s victory on the critical race theory and schools issue.

Now in the case of Britain, I think Britain’s a little bit behind the curve, but I think it’s moving in that direction. I think I would expect in Canada this to occur as well, but I think Canada’s a little bit different in the sense that there’s more of a 60-40 Left to Right tilt, at least in the English Canadian electorate. Whereas in the U.S. and Britain it’s more like 50-50. It’s a trickier terrain, federally, to navigate. You have a larger share of people who would support woke positions on—for example, if you look at the issue of the residential schools and the mass graves, which I consider to be a moral panic without any evidence base. Still, the fact that that had so much pickup in the Canadian media and even in some opinion polls suggests that at least in Canada, there is more of a split that’s closer to 50-50 than two to one. I don’t know the exact number but I do think that the Conservatives would be well advised to move on to cultural terrain.

The tactic on the Left is to say, “This is a right-wing moral panic. These are non-issues next to the price of gas.” And of course, they’re less important issues than the economic ones right, especially right now. Of course, that benefits the Left because the Left is already conducting its culture war in the institutions, all it needs is for government to stay out of the way and it’s going to be able to remake all of these cultural institutions. It’s only the Right that needs to elevate this issue in formal politics because elected government is the only institution it really controls. Without elevating that issue in elected government, it’s going to be powerless to stop the onslaught, really.

SEAN SPEER: That’s a great insight, Eric. The language of culture war always seems lacking to me in the Canadian context because it doesn’t feel like a culture war, it feels like a one-sided shellacking, so your point about using politics and the political process to confront some of these more extraordinary and extreme positions is well taken.

Let me ask a question that I recently put to Henry Olsen from the Washington Post who you no doubt know: are we living in a populist moment or a populist era?

ERIC KAUFMANN: [chuckles] That’s an interesting one. I’d say populist era in the sense that there is a structural force that I think is making this an endemic feature of Western politics. I think that, increasingly, the axis of politics in the West revolves around culture and not economics. It revolves around this divide between what I call cultural socialism on the one hand and cultural liberalism and conservatism on the other which believes in both the enlightenment and national tradition. And because of that and because of the success of the Left in capturing elite institutions, there was almost an in-built extent to which conservatism has to campaign against existing institutions.

That tends to involve a populism because you’re anti whoever the elite is who controls the institutions. I think it’s a useful stance but I still believe in these institutions; I think they should be reformed and not abolished. But you can see when the other side controls the institutions, there’s an awful lot of incentive to rail against the elites in those institutions.

I think there is a kind of in-built dynamic here where we’re going to see populism as long as there is a very strong cultural Left controlling these institutions.

SEAN SPEER: That’s a good segue to some final questions about your critically-acclaimed book, Whiteshift. You mentioned earlier the role that immigration has played in fueling the rise of some of these political movements. A key insight from the book is that across Western societies we’re seeing a transformation of populations due to high levels of immigration. That is manifesting itself in a renewed sense of identity amongst previously majority populations. Can you just help listeners understand your thesis and the long-term political consequences of these demographic and cultural transformations of Western societies?

ERIC KAUFMANN: Yes, I think the ethnodemographic shifts you talk about are very much linked to the rise of national populism. Now that’s a pretty uncontroversial statement now in academia where hundreds or thousands of papers have now been written on this. For example, Ashley Jardina’s work on white identity politics in the U.S. really makes the point that even when you control for racism, let’s say traditional measures of racism or even racial resentment, attachment to being white and white identification independently predicted a vote for Trump.

The way that we can think about this is hostility to outgroups versus attachment to the ingroup. Even if you feel warmly towards outgroups, and actually, there’s no correlation between hostility to outgroups and attachment ingroup—by the way, for white Americans or white British or white Canadians, by the way, which is an interesting finding. It’s that attachment to ingroup now that predicts support for populism.

That’s one factor that I think is quite important. The other one is that if you take the immigration issue, it’s not the people who said I want more immigration that suddenly switched to saying I want less immigration. What you had in Europe and America was people who already said I want less immigration. Instead of immigration being their number six, seven, eight issue after the economy and health care, it’s their number one or two issue. Once that happens, populist parties really start to take off.

That’s what occurs in Britain really through the 2000s leading up to the Brexit vote and in Europe quite sharply after 2014. There is this very close relationship I think between immigration as an issue and populist-right voting. Now I think people sometimes say, “Hey we’ll look about these cities like London, which have lots of immigrants, and yet they don’t vote for Brexit.”

That’s actually a very misleading analysis. Yes, London has a lot of young people, it has a lot of university-educated professionals, and a lot of ethnic minorities, but if you actually were to compare apples to apples, so a white working-class Londoner and a white working-class Brit from any other part of the U.K., there’s no difference in their propensity to vote Leave. It isn’t so much the case that these complex cities have a culture that is just more tolerant. Actually not really. It’s more a case that they have different types of people who too are less likely to vote for populist parties.

SEAN SPEER: Eric, let’s end the conversation where we started. You talked earlier about how your personal background and experience has shaped your work, and that extends to the thesis of Whiteshift. One of the key insights is that the demographic transformation that you just described will ultimately reach something of a settlement through an increase in intermarriage in countries like Canada, the United States, the U.K., and elsewhere. Do you want to talk a bit about that and the cultural and political turbulence that may occur before we reach that settlement?

ERIC KAUFMANN: Well, yes. I guess, in a way, the Whiteshift 1.0 argument is we have rising diversity and that’s going to be associated with greater apprehension about identity on the part of majority groups. That’s going to be one of the factors fueling populism. But of course, you also have intermarriage, which is significant. I think it’s something like one in two Black Britains marries out and something like one in three Hispanic and Asians in the United States marry out. In Canada, because of the larger east Asian and south Asian populations, there’s a somewhat lower as a percentage outmarriage, but there’s high outmarriage amongst Black Canadians.

The end result of that outmarriage process, I would argue, is going to be a melting and assimilation into a new majority, which is built on the old majority and adopts a lot of its myths and collective memories. This has happened a lot throughout history, by the way, in places like Hungary and Turkey and Russia and so on. I guess longer term, we could imagine a decline of diversity through the melting process, and that will take the steam out of this issue. But that’s not really going to happen in a big way until the end of our century going into the next one.

I looked at Britain, the projections, and based on current intermarriage rates, it’s only reaching about seven percent mixed by 2050. But by the end of the century, it’s 30 percent. Then pretty quickly after it reaches 75 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent in the 21st century. The argument essentially is that we’re going to have this emergence of a new melting pot majority based around the old white cores and that reduction in diversity will take a lot of the heat out of these divisions and a lot of the worry out of the majority populations.

But that’s not going to happen in our lifetimes. I think in our lifetimes, we’re going to see rising diversity and ethnic-based change occurring at a quicker rate than assimilation. Therefore, I think that the configuration for populist politics and cultural polarization will remain. Now, it’s important to note, even though this configuration will remain, the divisions are not so much between whites and minorities as we’re seeing in America. A lot of Hispanics are moving over to the Republican party. I think what we’ll see are ideologies that use racial attitudes. It’s not going to be your race, but your racial attitudes. Your attitudes to policies like affirmative action, to movements like BLM, that is going to be an important dividing line in politics.

SEAN SPEER: Well, this has just been a fascinating conversation, Eric. Thank you so much for helping me and our listeners understand some of the dynamics behind our current cultural and political moment. Eric Kaufmann, professor at the University of London, affiliated scholar at several think tanks across the Anglosphere, and author of the must-read book, Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities. Thank you so much for joining us at Hub Dialogues.

ERIC KAUFMANN: Thanks very much, Sean. Thanks for having me.

Sign up for FREE and receive The Hub’s email newsletter.

You'll get our daily newsletter featuring The Hub’s thought-provoking insights and analysis of Canadian policy issues and in-depth interviews with the world’s sharpest minds and thinkers.