Ed West interview: debating the ‘illusions’ of a diverse society


7:06 pm - August 25th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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The centre-right commentator Ed West, previously at the Telegraph, has written a book on diversity and immigration. I thought it would be useful to do an email interview and ask him about some of his assertions.

Sunny: Briefly, what is the main point you make in your new book?

Ed West:
That is the social costs of large-scale immigration tend to outweigh the benefits after a certain fairly early point, and that greater ethnic, religious and cultural diversity places a strain on society by reducing trust. This has a negative impact on all sorts of things, most of which are tend to be the historical property of the Left; in particular our willingness to share public goods with fellow citizens.

I think a lot of people on the Left agree with this to a certain extent, but because anti-racism is the most important tenet of their moral being they would rather an analysis that explained it away as something that can be countered, whether by government efforts of attempts to change hearts and minds. This is where I would disagree with them.

Sunny: Arguably, many other changes across British society in the last 30 years – de-industrialisation, mass unemployment, increased individualism and liberalism, higher geographical mobility, globalisation etc have reduced trust too. Where’s the evidence that immigration is behind it all?

Yes, all of those things cause lower trust (the decline of religion too is a massive factor). Anything that brings freedom will bring atomisation, they’re two sides of the same coin. In regards to diversity reducing trust, there have been a number of studies; the most widely quoted is Robert Putnam’s, but there are various others, by academics at MIT, Harvard and the Home Office. There are (a smaller) number of studies showing that it doesn’t make an impact, but social sciences will always bring these contradictory studies, and I think the weight of evidence is in favour of the former group. (But that may be just my own personal biases.)

Looking at it logically, it would be astonishing if greater ethnic, religious and other types of diversity didn’t reduce trust, considering that by its very nature religions developed to bind a group of people together. Ethnicity like religion is also formed by membership of a particular culture.

Sometimes this is not neccessarily a bad thing; the converse to the modern liberal society are clannish ones, where people are very closely bonded towards their own kin but very distrusting of outsiders. Ethnic groups developed as extended clans and in ancient slave-owning societies slaves from the same ethnic groups were kept apart because, even when the language barrier was overcome and a lingua franca was understood, they were believed to be too dangerously cohesive for the owners. Tests of prisoner’s dilemma today between members of the same and different ethnic groups consistently show this still to be true – people around the world are more likely to turn over some from a different group.

I’m not saying this will be the case with everyone. A great deal of our feelings of trust and neighbourliness are affected by things like wealth and also general fear levels (and liberals tend to have lower fear levels than conservatives, which is why they’re often nicer people). Wealthy and/or liberal people are less affected by the downsides of diversity, but because wealthy and liberal people tend to be more vocal and prominent in this debate as in many others it’s easy to forget that they are not the norm.

Sunny: Let’s assume there are lower levels of trust among Britons. Regardless of whether you believe if this was caused by immigrants, what do you suggest we do about it?

I think there is a wider question about social capital, the term popularised by Robert Putnam but a lot older, which was sort of ignored for a while but is now taken up a lot of people, like David Goodhart, David Willetts, Jonathan Haidt and (most recently) Jesse Norman with his book on Edmund Burke (and also the Blue Labour/Red Tory people). Goodhart describes himself as a post-liberal, which is a pretty good phrase, because it says that he’s accepted the social reforms of the 60s in terms of women’s and gay rights, and anti-racism, but there are different challenges now.

They come from different angles but the general idea is that liberal individualism has been taken too far and fails to take account that humans are social animals and don’t generally act or think like indviduals. Both the Left and Right have embraced this, in the latter case with a sort of market fundamentalism. We’re not rational, isolated individuals who calculate only our own best interests, we have families, friends, wider communities, fellow religous believers, compatriots whose interests we wish to look after (and should look after).

The Left has sort of fallen out love with many of these institutions – the family, church, country – because it seems them as oppressive or homophobic or racist, which they can be, but they’re also often not and provide means of support for the most vulnerable. Modern libertarians tend to dislike these institution because they hold back the individual but a society run along the lines of some of Ayn Rand’s disciples would be a living hell for the poor or those not blessed without specific talents. Unfortunately I think our chancellor is probably a disciple.

Haidt (a liberal) says the biggest failing of the modern Left is that it fails to see that many of its reforms reduce social capital, and that the victims tend to be poorer. I think people on the Left are in denial about the impact that the decline in traditional two-parent families has on the very poor, and will perform cartwheels to deny it (although the evidence is hard to fix on, because it’s hard to look at which way the causal arrow is going).

On the other hand conservatives are in denial about the money-orientated signals that the free-market gives out, and how it does (whatever the Blessed Margaret’s intention) make people more selfish; they’re also deluded if they think that the problem is people on benefits rather than low wages and the working poor, and the social catastrophe that is housing inflation. Tackling all those issues would probably help. And did I mention immigration?

Sunny: It seems to me that the other factors you mention have reduced social capital much more than immigration. So why focus on that? And other than restricting immigration, how would you increase social capital?

Personally I think that’s unlikely – the evidence seems to suggest that immigration and diversity are big factors in trust and societal well-being (which was strangely skirted over by the Spirit Level, although I dont doubt that trust and equality have a fair amount of interaction). But even if its not the biggest factor, even so – rather than asking why focus on that, I would ask why not? In what other area would you say we shouldnt even look at the downsides? If a pretty radical social change has downsides and on an intellectual level they’re ignored (which they were for a long time – on a non-intellectual level anti-immigration rhetoric has always been around but I would argue the tabloids have less influence than Radio 4), then you have to ask yourself why.

My personal interest was stoked by what I saw as intellectual cowardice, lots of people were unhappy about what was happening, many of the arguments in favour of immigration and diversity seem pretty tenuous, but no one wants to see themselves as morally tinged with racism, and once you get beyond the straightforward economic arguments then some sort of self-examination on that issue is unavoidable.

I think anyone on the Right who raises this as an issue is going to be accused of stirring things up for personal and political gain, but I think if you find it difficult to imagine that other people have sincerely held views different to yours, the only possible explanation can be malice. (Of course there are politicians and media people who will always try to inspire hatred for personal benefit, there’s no question of that, but lots of people have sincere beliefs and try to articulate them responsibly).

There’s also a sort of utopian side to the anti-racist movement that says any problems with a multi-racial society are caused by a lack of anti-racism measures, and people delibaretly stirring things up. I would just argue that by its very structure very diverse socities are more fragile and prone to discord and that’s why everyone since the Persians has had a system of multiculturalism in place to keep that in check.


You can buy Ed West’s book on Amazon: The Diversity Illusion – What We Got Wrong About Immigration & How to Set It Right – from Amazon.co.uk or other sites.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Derek Hattons Tailor

Social capital is built and maintained primarily through institutions. Many of the institutions of the white working class (Unions, marriage, family, religion, industrial employment) have been dismantled or severely weakened and have not been replaced with anything – except, arguably, welfarism. Why is anyone surprised that trust has collapsed, and why don’t the left understand that institutions serve an essential social purpose, they don’t exist to oppress the individual, they exist to connect them to others.

This person isn’t ‘centre-right’ he’s loony far right. Why on earth did you waste your time and ours on him? He’s got nothing to say.

He’s not actually far wrong. There’s a reason that the USA didn’t see a comparable socialist movement to that experienced by European nations during the early 20th century, and that was due to the high racial heterogeneity they had in comparison. Turns out working class whites would rather ally with ruling class whites than embrace their black working class brothers. Course the reverse ended up being true, as they found out to their error as in 1985 Philadelphia, when black mayor Wilson Goode oversaw the bombing of the MOVE organization, a black radical group. Turns out they weren’t ‘all in this together’.

So yes, destroying homogeneity is a rather effective method of reducing support for the left movement.

It tends to get overlooked that almost half the ethnic minorities living in Britain live in London.

“The capital’s population growth is the fastest in the country according to 2011 census figures” [report in The Guardian]

“Around half of the residents of England and Wales who were born outside the UK last arrived in the UK between 2001 and 2011. The largest increase in non-UK born population was in London, where over a third of residents were born abroad [37pc] and almost a quarter were not British nationals.” [report in The Guardian]

5. Richard Carey

@ Chris,

“Why on earth did you waste your time and ours on him? He’s got nothing to say.”

Why on earth did you waste your time and ours writing that comment?

i thought Sunny did a good job of making him think a bit more about what he had written.

http://s17.postimg.org/7qmn7rvnj/image.jpg

7. Baton Rouge

Thatcherism, neo-liberalism, smashed down borders and smashed up the family. It monetarised everything even child care and created social anarchy and this guy blames the left for the decline of trust. Only if Thatcher was a lefty. He bewails the decline of the reactionary Church but not the smashing of the progressive unions. Capitalism smashes everything, rips off everyone, uses and discards. pisses on your chips. I tell you who I don’t trust: the far right servants of capitalism reinventing themselves as defenders of tradition. Social capital? Can’t they describe anything except in a disgusting alienated form?

8. Paul peter Smith

Its ironic that the working class communities that Thatcher et al. had so much fun destroying are now fondly missed by same. Or at least should be by the smarter ones, British culture was never defined by the excesses of the upper class or the fads of the middle class, it was defined by the community values of the working class.
We dont work where we live, we dont live where we grew up, we dont live near our families and we dont send our kids to the same school as our neigbhours kids, assuming we know who our neighbours are. At this point any incoming culture, however backward, will replace the absence of community culture with ease and may even be welcomed.
When Thatcher ‘declared there’s no such thing as society’ I put it down to spite and mental illness now it looks like a plan to me.

9: “When Thatcher ‘declared there’s no such thing as society’ I put it down to spite and mental illness now it looks like a plan to me.”

Mrs T was just quoting. I looked into the sociology literature and came up with this illuminating analysis in 1967 by the late Professor WJH “Sebastian” Sprott:

“The answer to the first question – ‘What is a society?’ is that it is a figment of the imagination. . . The fact is that in physics and chemistry you start with lumps of matter; you then analyse things into their chemical elements, into different combinations of entities, protons and the like. Far from being directly acquainted with the elements, it is not unknown for philosophers to question the existence of them. Equally nonsensical is it to say that we have a direct acquaintance with society. We do not. We have direct acquaintance only with people interacting, ie the elements of society, in so far as as it exists at all, is constituted. So I say that society is in some sense a figment of imagination. But we do in fact have in our minds models of the society in which we live. You can, if some foreigner asks questions about your society, refer to your model – not a very clear one perhaps; ‘scheme’ would be a better word in use. But you have some sort of model with its political system, economic system, legal system, religious system class system and so on. You have some sort of model in your mind of the society in which you live and, if you go abroad, you prepare a model which you hope will correspond in some sort of way with the society they happen to have.”

[Source: “Society: what is it and how does it change?” from The Educational Implications of Social and Economic Change (HMSO 1967), reprinted in: DF Swift (ed): Basic Readings in the Sociology of Education (Routledge, 1970)]

Sebastian Sprott was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and reportedly the last male lover of Maynard Keynes. In due course, he became professor of philosophy and psychology at Nottingham University. He is author of Human Groups (Pelican Books). The activities of human groups can be observed and documented but we don’t even know how many “societies” there are in Britain nor how we can tell.

10. Derek Hattons Tailor

“no such thing as society” was clearly an attack on the then burgeoning sociology industry and its implicit assumption that everything could be attributed to external structures, thus negating personal responsibility and leading to an excessive reliance on the state. Given that we now have the state telling us what to eat and how to blow our noses I think she had a point.
Personal responsibility characterised the traditional working class as much as the institutions through which it was maintained. Concern for self and concern for others are not mutually exclusive concepts. Society is a social construction, everyones conception of it is different, so in a literal sense there is no objective “society”.
Markets, as originally conceived, relied on trust (and still do) and built social networks. Yes, many have morphed into asset stripping machines, but it is absurd to blame them for a decline in trust. By contrast multiculturalism (the patchwork quilt model) has NO mechanisms for even encouraging joint social or economic enterprise, it actually encourages the opposite, so how can it possibly build trust ?

11. Derek Hattons Tailor

“It tends to get overlooked that almost half the ethnic minorities living in Britain live in London”

Which is why the metro liberal/BBC world view seems irrelevant or absurd to the majority of the country

9

Consciousness is either invisible or does not exist.

13. gastro george

Quite. Thatcher’s said “there is no such thing as society”, and subsequent governments of both shades follow those policies, and yet we get more whining about immigration.

Good interview.

From the full transcript of David Cameron’s victory speech after the Tory leadership election result in December 2005:

” . . . There is such a thing as society, it’s just not the same thing as the state. . . . ”

Mind you, Cameron offers no evidence for his claim and telling us that “society” is not the same thing as the state doesn’t tell us very much. Lots of things aren’t the same thing as the “the state”. The illuminating insight for us is that Cameron clearly thinks he has said something profound.

If some guy comes along and says, “There are 12½ societies in Britain,” what can I say or do to show him that he is talking nonsense? If I’m not able to refute his claim, does that mean his claim is valid?

16. gastro george

Would that be Cameron’s “Big Society” which, rather like a lot of Blair’s slogans, seems to have disappeared, having done the PR job that it was intended to do?

16

“Would that be Cameron’s “Big Society” which, rather like a lot of Blair’s slogans, seems to have disappeared”

Cameron’s “Big Society” notion came after his victory speech in December 2005. Periodically, he revives the notion and dusts it off but as the proposed alternative for the shrinking health services and local authority social support services, the “Big Society” notion has lost all credibility as best I can tell.

I kept asking, historically, when was there ever a Big Society and which other countries have Big Societies from which we might learn? Those questions seemed rather fundamental to me but I never had any answers.

Btw the London borough where I live is supposed to be a “vanguard” local authority in implementing the “Big Society” but I haven’t noticed much manifestation of it after the initial flurry of papers and reports in 2011 announcing good intentions:
http://www.cloresocialleadership.org.uk/userfiles/documents/resources/fellows/Faith_Reynolds/Big_Society_in_Sutton_July_2011_WHITE.pdf

From the BBC website: “The leader of Liverpool City Council has written to the prime minister withdrawing its involvement from his ‘big society’ plans. ” [February 2011]

18. Richard Carey

I don’t know whether this contribution will be appreciated, but Thatcher’s comment, which the Left have been going on about ever since, was innocuous, especially if you read it in its context. What she meant was clear, which was that people shouldn’t see society as an abstract thing upon which responsibility for solving problems or the blame for creating them should be placed.

Her policies, and to what extent they supported her proclaimed moral position i.e. personal responsibility, not only for oneself but for one’s neighbours (in the Christian sense), is another matter entirely, and I wouldn’t argue with much of the criticism against her and her government.

19. Paul peter Smith

@18 Richard Carey
You know a tree by its fruits. What Thatcher/Blair said is piss and wind, look at what they did.

18. Richard Carey

I don’t buy that.
It shows a degree of contempt, the same kind of contempt i now see from David William Donald Cameron.
One had the poll tax the other the bedroom tax, two of a kind.

it’s a bit quirky and takes a second or two to jump to the channel, but if LC users want to chat amongst themselves go here.

http://chat.mibbit.com/?channel=%23unofficialLC&server=irc.shadowfire.org

Yes Sunny does know it exists.

If we give Cameron the benefit of the doubt that the ‘big society’ was not just so much hot air to convince voters that the Tories were now cuddly and caring, then we can say that it failed miserably to achieve its stated aims because it was largely based upon faulty assumptions. The idea that the reason people didn’t help one another out like they apparently used to do was due to the state ‘being in the way’ was always going to be a stretch.

For a start, back in ye olden days, people only really assisted one another along particular lines, for example the lgbt community* might well combine their efforts to open up a shelter for homeless lgbt youths, but it’s hardly likely to be high up on the Muslim Council of Britain’s list of priorities. It’s also well known that there were often ‘conditions’ set for the receiving of charity, to use an example from India, to recieve Mother Teresa’s assistance, Indian girls had to give up looking for gainful employment, which had the effect of making them reliant on said charity.

Furthermore there’s the time issue, for a lot of people with full time jobs, helping out in the community is not something they can devote any energy to, due to being fucking knackard after working a long shift and then getting home to help raise the kids. As for the jobless, well, they’re one of the groups that the ‘big society’ should be aiming to assist, nevermind trying to rely upon.

*As an aside, it’s interesting to see that equality and acceptance is doing more to kill off the lgbt community than homophobia could ever manage. Another ten years tops before the gay scene in Manchester goes the way of the dodo. It’s only just clinging to life thanks to pride every year.

West has previously cited the Galton Society in his blogs for the Telegraph. So his word, as far as I’m concerned, is schmutz.

West also uses the phrase “social capital” but skilfully ignores Pierre Bourdieu’s formulation and instead, cites pseudo-intellectuals like Willetts (who was actually forced to resign after dissembling evidence in the Neil Hamilton case when he was leader of the House the Commons).

Social capital is reproduced in educational institutions. When you look at the government front bench, you can see in an instant how social capital works in this country. Most people know it as “the old school tie”.

West has previously cited the Galton Society in his blogs for the Telegraph. So his word, as far as I’m concerned, is schmutz.

According to your blog on this, he cited Migration Watch, which was co-founded by David Coleman, who is a member of the Galton Institute. That’s an impressively convoluted piece of guilty by association.

24. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 21 The state practices conditional “help” too. All help whether voluntary, state or private inevitably involves some conditionality and the potential for dependence. The issue with statism is that it hinders as many as it helps, that it exacerbates the very problems it purports to solve, and that it is ultimately used primarily as an instrument of social engineering. The basic argument against statism is that it gets it wrong as often as it gets it right, and is therefore a pointless waste of resource.
I interpreted “big society” as a reference to the (admittedly sentimental/patronising) view of the post war working class communities where neighbours looked after each other, old people were monitored by the milkman, childcare was informally arranged between neighbours etc. A time when a working class life could be lived without state agency at every turn. It’s not entirely imaginary either – some of the above I experienced as a child as late as the 1970s.
The left tend to see statism as the state stepping in when “big society” started to break down, the right as “big society” starting to break down when the state stepped in. The idea that you can reclaim it in todays atomised, “diverse” society is ludicrous, but then it was dreamt up by that charlatan prat Steve Hilton.

Few other places in Britain are as ethnically diverse as London but it is also one of the most prosperous cities in Europe as well as the largest.

By the 2011 census, only 45pc of resident Londoners were white British.

26. Derek Hattons Tailor

It’s prosperous because, and only because, it is a world financial centre – although even that is only as a result of the rest of the country bailing it out. As soon as the BRIC economies replace it, it will go into rapid decline. I give it 20 years.

27. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Thanks for posting Sunny

‘Anything that brings freedom will bring atomisation, they’re two sides of the same coin’ shows an interesting disposition on the part of the author. I stand to be corrected but I interpret this to mean that ‘free thinking’ people are destined not to get along. Rather the optimal arrangement for a society is some sort of unitary religion which arranges an unequivocal ‘world view’ amongst its adherents.

Interesting too is his his notion that the ‘left sees’,underlying a basic misconception of the left’s intellectual position of the state and institutions such as the family.
I’d be interested to understand his notion of social capital and where his ideas of where ‘civil society’ starts and the state starts and whether there is an overlap between the two.

I thought it was generally understood that the role of the state was to take up the social slack that capitalism
has left as it has expanded. This expansion has been the biggest driver for immigration so in many ways chatting about the consequences is somewhat of an aside. The conclusion has to be that since capitalism is in a process of collapse the need for immigration is much reduced.

28. mylastpostwaseliminated

@19

Same with Druid Carey and faux zionist Jew Welby
Both Antichrists misleading Christins into oblivion!
Liberalism = LUKEWARM (look it up in The Bible)
Femininism = The ashkenazi/Khazarian revival of “THE AMAZONIAN WOMAN” These ‘horse’wimmin used to cauterise their right mammary so they could throw spears and shoot arrows better.
Now translate this to say the symbol-idol Lara Croft.
An Amazonian-type woman called Jolie who cuts her tits off to mis-lead other ‘followers’ who worship her!
She has Polish-Dutch-Germanic roots(let alone those from JON Voight(black Bloodline?)) Just the right mix from the right area!

By the way the reptilian Venetian Black bloodlines used to use scale armour. Still worn by the Teutonic ‘Prussians’ and Polish elites.

Their armour derived from the Sarmations (Roman mercinaries based in Chester/Hadrians wall
=Iranian/Persian Mithras temple on Hadrian’s wall (fire worship) of the Khazaria area also called SAURO-mations (icke’s lizard-men)
They are also Chamelions(Germanic Linux-SUSE)cos their tribe in that area kept ‘morphing’ and being assimilated by other Turk-Mongolian-Russ etc.
Our George-Dragon myth is exactly the same as theirs – part of their kingdom covered modern Georgia, Crimea.
The faux – zionist jew, Disraeli sent the so-called “Light Brigade’ to their massacred deaths ino the russian cannon. The Light or LUX= LUCIFER-SYMBOLISM!

This links in with our Saxe-Coberg-Windsor (“my ancester by blood was Vlad the Impaler”Charles recently said whilst he makes frequent trips to the area) Teutonics Who have Duchy of Cornwall > Lizard symbol is bottom tip of British Isles.
Very ‘origin’-A.L.(Masonic ‘time’ counting)

The Aquarian age was brought about with an eclipse in Millennium directly centred over THE LIZARD – Cornwall.

Do YER OWN RESEARCH – THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!

29. mylastpostwaseliminated

Talking about ‘Chamelions’
Spock was an Ashkenazi-Khazarian Jew
In the same prog the parasitic Klingons keep decloaking/cloaking

This is how the parasitic, usury, slave-driving, lizard-like, false jews of the “Synagogue of Satan” behave ie they change their names to hide their origins

Like ‘TRUMP’ from whatever his german-ashkenazi name was that his grandfather changed!
(Jews and making up card games(Alice in Wunderland-Carrol) are another story)

You would be horrified to find how many ‘STARS’ are foreign-Jew types hiding behind their ‘STAGE’ acting names
(that’s why they invented it!)

30. mylastpostwaseliminated

Another thing you should ‘know’ in defence of THE ENGLISH and BLIGHTY

The zionist JEWS and GYPSIES are linked!
They both use the same iranian-based Witchcraft/Majick
Hence zillions of Romanians etc let into the country, hence there are NO rules for Gypsies or millions of pounds of taxpayer cash is wasted on policing them!
The number 33 in Hebrew-Zionist Gematria(a type of numerology they practice) reveals
VEX (ie vexation of all the english by these Jew first incomers)
GREEN (GREENEST GOVT YET – if there are still any Church goers left – you will know about the warnings carved into zillions of UK churches!
The shadowy/half hidden ‘green men’ are at the root of all our vexation in the present
Energy (Germanic-jew surname) ‘Hughne’ was responsible for the killing/bankrupting of millions of UK peoples
You know all the others
Straw
Cable
Camoron
Osbourn
Cooper
Balls (completely fecked up UK finances – he was hiding behind Brown as his “chief financial advisor” + Education of a new generation)
Milliband
(Hodge)Oppenheimer – stooge in charge of ‘staged’ Parliamentary enquiries!
etc

Jews at helm of B.O.E. (busting our economy and savors whilst protecting their financial rip-off mechanisms)

Put thru the revolving door with a criminal two month smack on the wrist then straight into part-time multi million paid job(for his treachery of UK population)!

Get the message?

31. mylastpostwaseliminated

If you still paying attention
In Khazaria they had a White Fort at a place called SARK-el

Over here
We have Tower of Lundun ‘White Tower’
Ministers make decisions over us all in ‘WhiteHall’

In SARK(channel Islands)
Barclay Bros have built themselves a symbolic “White Fortress”
(whilst they force the island into a tax evasion empire for their other scum-mates around the World in THE CITY.

“The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and was a resented symbol of Norman oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite.”

Make your own deductions with your new knowledge!

The hard-core left are all about destroying the civil society (large scale immigration being one of the methods) in order to replace it with their ‘utopia’ where they control all the levers. The ‘racism’ canard is for the useful idiots.


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