In this worldview, cosmopolitanism — the quality of being an open-minded citizen of the world, at home anywhere — is not a virtue. Cosmopolitanism is rootless, unmoored from blood and soil and the basic necessities for ethical living. Worse yet, according to the thinkers of the Counter-Enlightenment and the nationalists who loved them, cosmopolitanism is based on a specious claim to universality.
Cosmopolitanism is empty and alienating. For the heirs of the Counter-Enlightenment, everything good and beautiful and worth living for is local and authentic and full of spirit. Cultural differences are worth preserving. In its most extreme formulation, the integralist attitude towards cultural difference becomes the rationale for discriminatory practices of inclusion and exclusion. Holmes points out, repeatedly, that integralism can be of the Right and of the Left.
Both ends of the spectrum share the narrative that under late industrial, globalized capitalism, we are all languishing in an unbearable, hyper-individualized state of alienation. Now, where your local artisanal cheese-maker and your skinhead white supremacist part ways I hope is in the way they imagine possibilities for resistance. Your skinhead white supremacist, meanwhile, glowers at immigrants and threatens violence against a multicultural order that he feels has been forced upon him.
This is where specific histories matter. The answer to this question in Britain is slightly different than in the US--the lasting consequences of American slavery can't be overstated--but there is a historical link between European and American experiences with class and race that helps us ask better questions. In the 18th and 19th centuries, when European nations were forming out of regional alliances, crumbling monarchies, and an aggressive push to consolidate national languages in schools, newspapers, and civil services, the states nominally associated with these nations were busy holding their colonial conquests around the globe.
The European invention of modern national identity coincided with the rise of middle classes. The middle classes were produced by industrial capitalism and in conjunction with the scientific invention of a racial hierarchy used to justify a violent colonial order. Race, class, and nation emerged in tandem as categories of human belonging through the very same set of historical processes. Middle-class identity emerged in the midst of imperial anxieties about racial differences and what they might mean.
Middle-class European-ness was by definition white. But then came industrial capitalism, new money, and modern warfare. But in the early twentieth century the social order collapsed spectacularly, and with it a cultural framework for understanding class differences as a positive source of identity, solidarity, and reciprocal obligation. As global capitalism sped up in the twentieth century, the imperial legacy made itself felt. Former colonial subjects were invited into Europe as cheap labor , but instead of seeing these new ethnic minorities as potential partners in solidarity against the depredations of global capitalism, poor white Europeans came to see them as competition for increasingly scarce welfare benefits.
Such bigotry requires an intuitively felt integralist theory of society coupled with resentments stoked by state policies that make people feel like they are losing something they had access to before, whether steady employment, public housing, or any kind of social security benefit. This is the theory undergirding the past thirty years of mass deregulation and privatization.
Is there any more powerful evidence of the devastation a theory can cause? So…yes, something something neoliberalism. Yes, something something out of touch elites. Yes displacement, yes alienation, and yes the swelling fear and resentment of the newly poor, or the about-to-become newly poor, whose identities and entitlements have been undermined by the changes late industrial capitalism has wrought upon the social order everywhere.
We are in fact dealing with a white people thing, which is to say, a person-of-European-descent thing.
Fascism has deep roots in European thought, and — it has been argued more than once, by Hannah Arendt among others — is written into the DNA of modern liberal democracy, or will be as long as liberal democracies are rooted in a territorially bounded conception of nationhood. This analysis is a hard sell in certain circles. The American Conservative interview with J. Vance , author of Hillbilly Elegy: Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis , made the digital rounds last month, prompting much discussion of whether Trump supporters are driven by racism or economic desperation.
No argument there — although, to be fair, most of us in the academic Left already balance these perspectives.watch
Douglas R. Holmes - Department of Social Anthropology
But this passage gives me pause:. What is the actual mechanism here?
Vance seems to be suggesting that it never would have occurred to Trump supporters to think racist thoughts before Trump suggested it at a rally. What is Vance thinking? The problem is how we think about causality. How do ideas affect economic conditions and how do economic conditions affect ideas? When fast-capitalism destroys livelihoods, it also destroys material culture, the infrastructure that supports community solidarity; it destroys relationships, values, and psyches.
But in that moment of collapse, we do not have to replace our feelings of social well-being with racism and bigotry. There is nothing inevitable about it. We draw on our cultural repertoires — our theories of self and society — when deciding how to respond to economic disaster.
We select from our cultural repertoires and remix them.
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How and why this remixing happens in real time varies according to the individual. This is real human agency at work — sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously we remix elements of our cultural inheritances. Ultimately these shifts have global implications in the very definition of citizenship and the rights of minority citizens throughout the modern world.
While Pathak seems to believe that diversity is a collective human asset, endemic to global society, he recognizes that both majoritarianism and liberal antiracist policies are reactions to the assumption that diversity is a recent , modern social problem. This is a familiar theme in the politics of many countries. We see the vestigial xenophobia of mid-century nationalisms reincarnated in backlash against immigration throughout the European Union; in the United States, we see the labor-class angst against illegal aliens who work for low wages.
The conservative impulse is to stockade the majority core against the encroachment of an alien other while the progressive Left presumably fights to include them. Pathak points to two examples of extreme violence, which he offers as consequences of radical majoritarianism and misguided liberal policies; a series of race-related riots between whites and Asians in Oldham, Burnley, and Bradford, England, in , and in to the Gujarat incident in India, in which Hindu neo-Fascists perpetrated brutal pogroms against Muslim communities in retaliation against a Muslim-led riot in the town of Godhra.
What is important about these examples is that in both cases the Left and Right responded in similar ways; the conflict was blamed on the cultural incommensurability of the groups involved. As important as this observation is, it is not original. Holmes identified the very same pattern in his publication Integral Europe.
As such it explains the impulse for both majority and minority communities to consolidate and stockade themselves against threats from the other, as well as the potential for violence that this engenders. What can we learn about majoritarianism, or integralism, in India that a myopic focus on Europe and the European Union has obfuscated? This anthropologist might suggest that the first step in reclaiming citizenship is to recognize culture itself as a more ambiguous praxis of belonging. Pathak has written a compelling book, which should be recommended to anyone interested in scrutinizing the major political shifts affecting Europe, India, and the world.
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The example of Indian majoritarianism is an exceptional contribution to our understanding of these political trends. Where many academics have been focused on Europe and the European Union, Pathak has recognized important similarities in India, prompting the question, is majoritarianism a global reality?
How will this trend affect citizenship and national relations on a global scale? Holmes Douglas R. George E. Marcus George E. Sign in. You could not be signed in. Client Account. Sign In Forgot password? Don't have an account? Sign in via your Institution Sign In. Email alerts Latest Books. The Fast. Rewind and Fast Forward. Fast-Footed Sylhetis. Ethnography in Late Industrialism.