The Road to Somewhere by David Goodhart

26 May 2017

Nick Spencer reads intelligent analysis of division in the UK

The Road to Somewhere: The populist revolt and the future of politics

David Goodhart

Hurst £20

(978-1-84904-799-9)

Church Times Bookshop £18

 

DAVID GOODHART is an apost­ate. He says so himself. Having set up and edited Prospect magazine in the 1990s, the in-house journal for Guardian liberals, he subsequently published an article about the dele­terious effects of large-scale immigration on social solidarity (and, therefore, also on any social demo­cratic settlement). He was all but excommunicated for his impert­inence, but the criticism embold­ened him to question liberal doc­trine in a more thoroughgoing way. The Road to Somewhere is the result.

The book does not, in fact, talk about liberals — a problematically capacious and slippery term — but about “Anywheres” and “Some­wheres”. “Anywheres” value auto­nomy, mobility, and novelty. They tend to be well-educated and better off. They favour equality and human rights, multiculturalism and meritocracy. They are comfortable with globalisation and high levels of immigration. Some even see themselves as citizens of the world. They comprise about 20 per cent of the population.

“Somewheres”, by contrast, value identity, tradition, and nation; family, flag, and even faith. They are rooted, patriotic, and more socially conservative. They tend to have “ascribed” (rather than “achieved”) identities. They are ambivalent about change, and hostile to rapid change. They comprise roughly half of the population.

Using these categories, Goodhart surveys the wondrous events of 2016, and the decade or more that led to Brexit (the book is focused primarily on the UK) and explains why (and whither) “populism”.

Our political fractures derive, he argues, from the fact that, although every (modern) society has its “Anywheres”, the UK’s have grown in size, dominance, and disconnec­tion from (including, at times, con­tempt for) its “Somewheres”. “Where the interests of Anywheres are at stake — in everything from reform of higher education to gay marriage — things happen. When they are not, the wheels grind more slowly, if at all.”

Goodhart’s categories make for a useful heuristic device, if under­stood as such (he recognises that few people are pure “Some­wheres” or “Anywheres”, and that there is a substantial middle group of “Inbe­tween­ers”), and his analysis of our social and political problems is accordingly penetrating.

More attractive, however, is to hear an “Anywhere” — it remains Goodhart’s instinctive church, even if he is apostate — reflect with probing, self-critical, and self-deprecating intelligence on his own doctrine rather than throw accusa­tions of xenophobia, bigotry, and racism at those stupid enough to disagree with him.

 

Nick Spencer is Acting Director at Theos.

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