Although I think that there are some things in this book that are plain wrong, and although I sometimes feel the academic straining always towards his thesis, I believe that this is an essential read for liberals. In among its many graphs and reports of surveys are a series of salutary reminders of how easily the idea of a threat from strangers can become a dominant political issue. You may not agree with Kaufmann, but you have to deal with him.
More important, Kaufmann gives too little consideration to the difference between top-down initiatives – the celebration of diversity in advertising campaigns or on corporate boards, for instance – and anti-racism from below, which involves people taking collective action to make material improvements to their own lives or the lives of others: the strikes led by Asian women workers at Grunwick in the 1970s, for instance, or the mass campaign to get justice for the family of Stephen Lawrence in the 1990s. It’s easy to single out the excesses of campus politics and go on to depict anti-racism as an elite project – or its opposite, a form of mob rule. It would be harder to do the same with, say, the campaign to ensure that the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire – the majority of whom are from working-class black and minority ethnic backgrounds – are treated fairly by a state which should have kept them safe in the first place.
a giant of a book, channelling together cascades of polls, data sets and excursions in history to produce a conclusion of qualified optimism... With some passion, he concludes that “repressing white identity as racist and demonizing the white past adds insult to the injury of this group’s demographic decline. This way lies growing populist discontent or even terrorism.” Both books do the large service of telling liberals and leftists who prefer to remain shocked rather than to work at understanding that their fellow citizens are not, in the main, deplorable bigots, and that white fear is real, but need not be dangerous.
His conclusions are provocative, and guaranteed to bring many dinner party conversations to a grinding halt....Another problem is Kaufmann’s writing, which is clouded in dense academic jargon like “left-modernism”. Perhaps his clunkiest turn of phrase – and thought – comes when he urges politicians not to forget to “nod to white majority ethno-traditions” when talking to conservatives about immigration. Liberal voters, by contrast, can still be sold on the merits of diversity. But in the age of social media, these politicians would surely be caught out over their inconsistent messages – and the voters craving authenticity would be left even more disillusioned.
Kaufmann’s advice may be disappointing, but that doesn’t invalidate his insights, which are troubling. He recalls in horror one senior official at an international institution in Geneva waxing lyrical about Lebanon, a country ravaged by civil war, being a “model for diversity”. If that’s how they feel, no wonder populism is going from strength to strength.
...Whiteshift is a very substantial book with important things to say about identity, migration, populism and other questions of the moment... When Kaufmann writes history he is very good. Anyone might profit from the chapters on immigration to the USA... One of the best aspects of Kaufmann’s book is its optimism... Not every reader will be as interested as the professor in following the playpen antics of the postmodern academy. At times the book feels like an assemblage of earlier articles...
...Throughout this long and intensely detailed book Kaufmann unpacks this idea with data, verve and care... As well as his statistical analysis Kaufmann also displays an extraordinarily deep and wide historical knowledge... If there is a criticism to be made of the book it is the common one that it is too long. The fault is the editor’s for allowing Kaufmann to explain in detail events like the Trump election and the Brexit vote, which are more than fresh in the minds of readers. But that is a minor quibble for such a work... Most people in positions of power pretend that the events described here either will not happen or will happen but will all go fine. As Kaufmann points out, it is by no means obvious that attitudes towards immigration will “liberalise over time the way views on women’s roles, religion, sexual mores, homosexuals or even racism have”.
I have a few reservations. In explaining the powerful grip of left-modernism, Kaufmann overlooks the impacts of two world wars, decolonisation and the Holocaust in delegitimising all forms of nationalism and ethnic attachment after 1945. I also remain a bit confused about his happy ending, an open ethnic creolisation under the canopy of an essentially white ethnic nationalism. And if ethnicity is such a persistently powerful force in human affairs, how come the new generations of liberal-minded graduates shed it so easily?
Nevertheless, this is a tour de force that could expand the so-called “Overton window” — the range of what is acceptable to say — on these central issues.