(David Goodhart is a British journalist, commentator and currently head of Head of Demography, Immigration & Integration at Policy Exchange. His latest book, The Road to Somewhere, has been described as timely, misguided, and thoughtful in equal measure. In it he argues that Britain has split into a dangerous divide between two tribes: traditionally rooted Somewheres and global citizen Anywheres. Last year’s EU referendum – and the rise of ‘populism’ generally – is the revenge of the ‘Somewheres’ on the ‘Anywheres’.
In the first of a two-part interview, today we discuss the ideological roots of this divide and whether the dominant Anywheres are capable of change or of accommodating the more socially conservative values and policies of the Somewheres. Part two tomorrow will discuss the catastrophic effect of social liberalism and feminism on the family, and the families of the Somewheres.)
The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics can be purchased here.
Kathy Gyngell: Brexit and the US election apart, how far is your analysis in The Road to Somewhere of the social disconnect between the left-behind ‘Somewheres’ and the aspirant-achieving ‘Anywheres’ rooted in your own personal ‘battle’ between social liberalism and social conservatism?
David Goodhart: There are two worldviews that dominate our society: that of the educated/mobile Anywhere people that tends to stress openness and autonomy and that of the more rooted, less well-educated Somewheres that stresses security and group attachment. Anywheres are 20 to 25 per cent of our society, Somewheres closer to half. There is also a large ‘in-betweener’ group of about 25 per cent and considerable variation within the two main value blocs.
The point is that I have invented the labels but I have not invented the value blocs; they are out there in the real world in the British Social Attitudes surveys and other opinion and value surveys. And yes I think most of us are part Anywhere, part Somewhere. We yearn, to put it at its most basic, both for freedom/autonomy and for security/recognition. Depending on our upbringing and character we lean one way or the other.
Both of these worldviews are perfectly decent and legitimate. But I think social conservatives would argue, and I would agree with them on this without fully regarding myself as one of the tribe, that the balance has got out of kilter in much of the Western world in the past couple of generations and there is too much stress on the Anywhere side of man’s divided political soul.
KG: I wonder if your reprimand to the liberal ‘Anywhere’ global elite (post Brexit and Trump) is bold enough? Is your plea to your own ‘Anywhere’ elite tribe to restrain themselves, more pragmatic than principled?
DG: I call the more extreme (and often elite) end of the Anywheres the Global Villagers and I think they have had far too much influence in recent years, which is one reason why I reported in my book that extraordinary conversation I had a few years ago at a Nuffield dinner with (arguably) the (then) two most powerful, unelected, men in Britain – Gus O’Donnell (head of the Civil Service) and Mark Thompson (head of the BBC) – both of whom said they would put global welfare before national welfare.
I argue strongly in the book against “liberal overreach” and for Anywheres to concede more ground to the priorities and intuitions of Somewheres. Is that pragmatic or principled? I’m not sure – both maybe – I’m not sure I quite get what you are driving at! In any case democracy requires consent and if Anywhere power becomes too oppressive you get a backlash as we have just experienced with the Brexit vote. That in itself has readjusted the balance somewhat, but our politics will remain unstable so long as Anywhere domination is not more diluted in our everyday politics.
KG: Does the current rash of warnings against ‘populism’ suggest that even ‘chastened’ liberal progressives still don’t get it?
DG: I think the future stability of British politics depends on a new settlement between Anywheres and Somewheres and that in turn probably depends on the right Anywheres winning the argument, that is those that feel admonished by Brexit and so on rather than those that want to dig in and regard themselves as holding the line against populist barbarians. May’s government clearly represents the first strand.
KG: You say the forward march of liberalism need not be halted, as though this were a good thing. Some would argue it does indeed need to be: that its cultural and moral relativism – its subordination of Judeo-Christian values to a multicultural, supranational ideology – is the real problem, not populism?
DG: I mean liberalism here in a more basic sense of the rule of law, minority rights, checks and balances on power – though yes, you may be right that I am suggesting a halt or even reversal to some other aspects of modern liberalism – the inability to accept or understand group identities, the moral relativism as you say, the hostility to any gender division of labour.
KG: Does the ‘Anywhere’ tribe deserve an additional ticking off for preaching liberalism, yet practising conservatism, which personally serves them well? For their hypocrisy?
DG: Yes maybe, for valuing stability in family life and the same in affluent neighbourhoods and then indirectly promoting the opposite in poorer neighbourhoods, through siding with mass immigration and an anti-domesticity family policy.
KG: You distinguish between people’s ascribed and achieved identities. What role does marriage play in this ‘coming apart’ of these social identities – between those who do (the Blair/Clegg/Osborne ‘Anywheres’) and those who don’t (the underclass ‘Somewheres’) who are increasingly defined and disempowered by fatherlessness and the absence of marriage?
DG: By ascribed identities I mean things that we cannot escape – gender, ethnicity, nationality, place you come from – those aspects of identity loom larger for people who are not mobile and successful – by contrast the successful have a sense of themselves that comes from doing well at school and in careers with a weaker attachment to the ascribed aspects of experience – it may be that part of having an achieved identity now is also having a more settled, usually married family life.
You can read part two of Kathy’s interview with David Goodhart on TCW tomorrow.