Rethinking National Identity in the Age of Migration (Transatlantic Council Statement)
Large-scale immigration has led to unprecedented levels of diversity and rapid demographic change, transforming communities across the Atlantic in fundamental ways and challenging closely held notions of national identity, particularly in an era of economic uncertainty. Against this backdrop, a significant backlash against immigration has occurred. The seventh plenary meeting of MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration focused on what policymakers can do to mitigate the destabilizing effects of rapid societal change—especially changes tied or perceived to be tied to immigration—in order to create stronger and more cohesive societies.
The backlash against immigration has manifested itself in vocal criticisms of “multiculturalism.” A chorus of European leaders has claimed that the very policies that aimed to weave societies together have instead split them apart, emphasizing difference rather than building community. And as people feel the social fabric of their communities fraying, they have tightened their grip on the things they hold most dear—their identity, language, culture, and values. In response, many countries have narrowed the rights to residence and citizenship and attempted to more rigidly enforce cultural conformity, taking steps whose (predictable) effect has been to isolate—or in some cases penalize—those who fall outside these norms.
This Council Statement examines both the challenge and opportunity for governments to create a new definition of “we” based on a more inclusive idea of national identity and belonging, and to convince the broader society that investing in integration is an investment in shared futures. It also offers a number of recommendations for fostering greater cohesiveness.
I. The Roots of Society’s Anxiety over Immigration
The Five Principal Drivers of Anxiety
1. Culture and Loss of Identity
2. Rapid Pace of Social Change
3. Economics and Inequality
4. Politics: Low Confidence in Government and Loss of Sovereignty
5. Security and Social Unrest
II. Conclusions: Creating the Conditions for Cohesive Societies
Ten Steps for Fostering Greater Cohesiveness