Unmaking England: Will Immigration Demolish in Decades a Nation Built over Centuries?

By Schwarz, Benjamin | The American Conservative, January-February 2016 | Go to article overview

Unmaking England: Will Immigration Demolish in Decades a Nation Built over Centuries?


Schwarz, Benjamin, The American Conservative


Over the last 18 years, Great Britain--more precisely, England, a distinction we'll get to soon--has been in the grip of the most profound social transformation since the Industrial Revolution. Neither the upheavals attendant on the world wars nor the dislocations triggered by economic depressions nor the changes wrought by the attenuated breakdown of a social order rooted in a feudal past have so fundamentally altered England's civilization as will the impact of mass immigration.

When in 1941 George Orwell--social conservative, Little Englander, intellectual cosmopolitan--hopefully envisioned an English socialist revolution, he assured his readers (and himself) that such a mere political event, like all such past convulsions, would prove no more than a surface disturbance. Yes, England's class system would dissolve; yes, the nation's economy and social relations would change radically as authority and privilege was wrested from the figurative "irresponsible uncles and bed-ridden aunts" who held the levers of power--England, after all, was "a family with the wrong members in control"--and yes, accents might even alter. England, however, would "still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same."

But the mass immigration that Britain has experienced since 1997--the year Tony Blair's New Labour government radically revised the immigration laws in a deliberate effort to transform Britain into a multicultural society--has had an effect wholly different from that of all previous political and social disruptions. Mass immigration hasn't merely embellished, changed, or even assaulted the enduring, resilient national culture that Orwell adumbrated. Rather, by its very nature--by its inherent logic, and by the ideology, aspirations, and world-historical forces from which it springs and to which it gives expression-it perforce obliterates that culture.

This essay attempts, in an admittedly eccentric way, to support that sweeping assertion. But it does not--it cannot, given any realistic confines--offer a history and systematic analysis of such a complex and convoluted subject as Britain's experience of mass immigration. (Academic studies on specialized aspects of this subject abound, but no synthetic analysis and comprehensive history has yet been published. The best book-length treatment--although one that pursues a definite line of argument--is David Goodhart's exceptionally cogent The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-war Immigration.) Still, the first steps must be to define terms, and to place the argument in some historical context.

Britain is the common name for the sovereign state of the United Kingdom, the political entity comprising England, Wales, Scotland (which make up the island of Great Britain) and Northern Ireland. The overwhelming weight of mass immigration has fallen on England, where fully 90 percent of immigrants to Britain have settled. Far too few assessments of the "devolution" of political power to Britain's constituent nations and the constitutional future of the United Kingdom consider the implications of this salient fact. Because the British state has determined policies toward mass immigration, and because nearly all official figures and studies put immigration in a British context, in discussing policy and politics, I do the same. But because mass immigration's social and cultural impact falls so disproportionately on England, whenever possible I try to examine that specific nation-a nation that has always been the dominant member of the multinational state of Britain. (Because of that easy hegemony, the English have in many circumstances felt comfortable espousing a British identity when, strictly speaking, they mean an English one.)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Anyone examining the impact of mass immigration on Britain who is at all attendant to right thinking opinion may well wonder what all the fuss is about. …

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