Craig White's Literature Courses

Critical Sources

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And as a consequence, they’re perpetually surprised when people, for example in the north of England, in Sunderland and Wigan — your paper’s been doing wonderful reports on this — say: “I don’t want to stand up for Stuttgart or Düsseldorf. I want to stand up for Wigan.”

That’s the world they know. That’s the world they care about. It’s where their parents grew up or are buried. It’s where their loyalties are.

They feel the global, mobile, cosmopolitan world is simply out of reach. Not only out of reach, but malign, in the sense that the global cosmopolitan elite are the people who are shipping the jobs out. They’re the people who are passing these incomprehensible rules in Brussels. They’re the people who have shut down the coal mines and shut down the steel mills, and keep telling you that global free trade raises all boats.

When they are given a referendum that offers them the illusion of taking back control, they seize it.

This is a story not just about nationalism. It’s also a story about inequality. The division between cosmopolitans and nationalists is going to define the 21st century. Brexit is not just a little hiccup on the path toward a bright cosmopolitan future. Nor is nationalism. Cosmopolitans continually condescend to nationalism, but my patriotic pride is your nationalism, right?

Q. But if nationalism comes from positive feelings of pride and connection to one’s community, why does that often seem to manifest in fears of immigration as a threat to that community, as it did with Brexit?