Integration and Wounded Pride

I’m sure Dr. Dalyrymple is right about work being the best possible way to integrate foreigners. I can well imagine that much of the tolerance for immigrants that America prides itself on would evaporate pretty rapidly in the case of a severe recession here too.

But I’d like to return to another, not unrelated point, which is one that he started off with: Namely, the fact that much of Europe’s self-perceived “decline” is as much psychological as economic. I lived in Britain during the 1990s, a time when the country was generally improving economically. But the economic growth didn’t stop books about the country’s decline from becoming best-sellers, and didn’t prevent the media from remaining bitter and cynical about the political class.

Partly this is to do with the sense of relative decline that Dr. Dalrymple mentions: Many Europeans are richer this decade than they were in the last decade, but they aren’t richer than everybody else. Nor are they dominating the global economic game. People across the continent resent the fact that you have to speak English, and play by what they imagine to be America’s rules in order to do well. It’s an assault on their national identity.

In that context, the large numbers of immigrants who also don’t seem interested in playing by European rules attract extra resentment: They undermine the (already shaky) national identity even more.

Also from this issue

Lead Essay

  • Old Europe may not be doomed, though it is “sleepwalking to further relative decline,” says Theodore Dalrymple. “The principle motor of Europe’s current decline is,” he argues, “its obsession with social security.” If Europe is to have a fighting chance, it must overcome a politics in which “personal and sectional interest has become all-powerful” and “the goal of everyone is to parasitize everyone else.”

Response Essays

  • According to historian Timothy Smith, author of France in Crisis, the main problem of Old Europe is that overregulated labor markets, alleged to “humanize” capitalism and promote “solidarity,” instead work to consolidate economic privileges for tenured labor unionists and state employees, and exclude broad swathes of the population, especially immigrants, from the work force. Smith is careful to distinguish the relative stagnation of France, Germany, and Italy from their more successful Scandanavian counterparts, and argues against Dalrymple that the U.K. is really in pretty good shape.

  • Disagreeing sharply with Theodore Dalrymple’s grim diagnosis, Georgetown University international affairs professor and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Charles Kupchan maintains that “it is simply not the case that the continent is populated primarily by sclerotic, dysfunctional economies on their last gasp.” However, Kupchan argues that Dalrymple’s essay “considerably underestimates … the challenge of integrating Muslim immigrants into European society.” The Paris riots and the Danish cartoon imbroglio demonstrate that Europe has “embraced multiculturalism in fact, but not yet in spirit.”

  • In her reply to Dalyrmple’s lead essay, the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum lists “three factors which could, over the next decade, help reverse Europe’s course.” Market-friendly leaders, “an acknowledgment of the possibilities presented by the new members of the European Union,” and ditching “their increasingly bizarre obsession with the evil United States,” would, Applebaum argues, go a long way to “help Europe escape its current economic and psychological slump.”