In Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities, Eric Kaufmann spends 624 pages advancing a version of Senator Pauline Hanson’s motion put to the Parliament in September 2018. Hanson wanted senators to approve the proposition, “It is okay to be white”, an apparently harmless statement that challenged all major parties so much they voted it down. Kaufmann’s version is more consequential. He proposes that it is okay to say you are white. The outrage has been predictably loud.
Whiteshift aims to explain the white populism that produced Brexit, the presidency of Donald Trump and the rise of nationalist parties across Europe. Kaufmann dismisses economics as the main cause. “Immigration is central. Ethnic change—the size and nature of the immigrant inflow and its capacity to challenge ethnic boundaries—is the story.” Kaufmann argues that the ethnic diversity caused by immigration is roiling Western societies. This already sets him apart because, though well known to many researchers, the social costs of diversity are steadfastly denied or ignored in mainstream social science. That is not new. In the 1990s the Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey was isolated in his warnings about the frequent divisiveness of ethnic diversity. 
Kaufmann then strides further into taboo territory by describing how some whites—many whites—suffer from mass non-white immigration. Worse still, he does not resort to the usual progressive explanation that whites are incorrigibly racist or lack legitimate ethnic identity. Instead he treats them like all other ethnic groups, subject to the same motivations found around the world. He thinks it is normal for a people of any descent to feel pride in their identity and aspire to remain their country’s majority population. He rejects the “myth” that people of European heritage do not have ethnic interests, though he does not examine the concept in detail.
This review appears in September’s Quadrant.
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As Bernard Lane of the Australian has explained, Kaufmann’s book breaks taboos that have for decades constrained discussion of immigration and race. Kaufmann commits a sin just by explicitly and non-judgmentally discussing white identity. The rules governing contemporary public discourse are harsh enough concerning implicit mention of the subject. But instead of whistling the dog Kaufmann thinks everyone should call it by name.
The taboo against caring about white numbers greatly constrains rationality and fairness. The multicultural view is that whites should make way for ever greater diversity while celebrating their submersion. In reality, Whiteshift argues, falling white numbers explains the rise of white identitarian politics in Europe and around the Anglosphere. Kaufmann states that it is reasonable and predictable for people to be concerned about their ethnic decline. It is normal for ethnic groups to feel alarm when they see their share of the population plummeting. These sentiments are not manifestations of late-stage capitalism or some uniquely perverse aspect of whiteness, as is often taught in universities. They are part of humanity’s evolutionary inheritance.
Kaufmann’s book is written for those on the Left who oppose white identity. He seeks to moderate their opposition while not challenging other Left-liberal assumptions. In an earlier book, The Rise and Fall of Anglo America (2004), Kaufmann described the origins of Left-liberalism and its Gramscian march through the institutions. In that book he used the term “cosmopolitanism”, which he defined as opposition to all ethnic exclusivity, and to all national and religious boundaries. He concluded that the ideology rose to a dominant position in elite American culture by the middle of the twentieth century, becoming a major force within the state by the 1960s. Variants had become common in Western universities by the 1930s and 1940s, aided by the new social sciences which stripped human nature out of sociology, anthropology and political studies. The result was ideological opposition to white identity. Many progressives see white ethnics, people who identify as white, as obstacles to a borderless global society. Consequently, they see white decline and eventual disappearance as a moral good.
Four strategies in the white identity culture war
In Whiteshift Kaufmann describes four main strategies that have been adopted by Left-liberals and white ethnics in response to identity challenges. The first has been a white initiative to oppose the introduction of non-white, non-Christian minorities into their societies. “Whites can fight ethnic change by voting for right-wing populists or committing terrorist acts.” With regard to voting, before the 1960s it was normal for pro-white policies to be supported by the electorate, though the politicians championing the policies were not usually populists but members of the establishment. After the 1960s the policy of restricting non-white immigration fell into disuse because the major political parties did not take up the issue, despite opinion polls indicating that the policies would have been popular. Mainstream politicians have shied away from making immigration an electoral issue, perhaps due to the power wielded by Left-liberal ideology. An example is Malcolm Fraser, Australia’s prime minister from 1975 to 1983 and a champion of multiculturalism. Fraser cautioned against allowing citizens to vote on immigration policy. Similar elite attitudes over the last fifty years have contributed to diverse intakes rising across the Anglosphere and Western Europe, though not in Eastern Europe.
Regarding white populist terrorism Kaufmann reports that, according to Europol, in 2016 the Far Right accounted for “virtually none” of the mass murders committed in Europe. Islamic extremists committed 72 per cent, separatists such as the IRA committed 10 per cent, and leftists and anarchists committed 3 per cent. Is Far Right violence trending upwards? The major white nationalist terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011 and recently in New Zealand are consistent with such a trend. In the latter case the alleged killer railed against “the great replacement”, consistent with Kaufmann’s analysis. The phrase was originally the title of a book by the French writer Renaud Camus in which he described the ethnic French population’s rapidly falling share of the French population.
To understand the causes of white fight, Kaufmann relies on the soft social psychology of Karen Stenner, who names two responses to rising ethnic diversity—conservatism and authoritarianism. Conservatives are attached in a nostalgic way to the level of diversity experienced during their youth. According to this definition, conservatives oppose change in any direction, whether towards greater or lower diversity. Authoritarians are different. They feel uncomfortable with diversity because they seek order and security. Kaufmann identifies authoritarians as the main obstacle to the smooth ethnic transformation of Western societies because they cannot be lulled by a lower rate of change.
It is noteworthy that this interpretation of white ethnic behaviour breaks with evolutionary psychology. Stenner sees no role for ethnic nepotism, the most influential evolutionary theory of ethnicity. Instead she adopts a pejorative label reminiscent of the Frankfurt School’s discredited attack on the Christian family, The Authoritarian Personality. Subsequently in Whiteshift Kaufmann qualifies the authoritarian category by emphasising the importance of kith and kin: “white conservatives scale up their ethnic attachments from the intimate community to the national ‘imagined community’”. This interpretation draws on evolutionary psychology, specifically the theory of ethnic nepotism developed by Pierre van den Berghe. Van den Berghe’s theory treats race as an important ethnic marker.
The second strategy described by Kaufmann has been one in which Left elites repress expressions of white identity. This strategy, conducted by university-trained white Left-liberals, has become such a prominent part of contemporary politics that it has acquired a popular label, “political correctness”. Reaction against it helped motivate Trump voters. A 2018 poll in Britain found evidence of widespread intimidation by multicultural zealotry. A third of respondents feared that expressing their views on immigration and other controversial subjects could get them criticised, fired from their jobs, or prosecuted.
Aggressive political correctness is now being enforced wholesale across the Anglosphere by elements of the mainstream media, education system and corporations, especially the large social media companies. In Britain it has become commonplace for police to visit conservatives in their homes and caution them about violations of the progressive speech code. Kaufmann sees political intolerance from Left elites to be motivated by the “progressive” morality tale, in which whites disappear. He characterises this ethnic suppression as being, in reality, “anti-white” attacks by the “cultural left”.
The third strategy has consisted of whites “fleeing” incoming non-whites and non-Christians. This involves “hunkering down”—withdrawing from communal participation as described by Robert Putnam—and white flight—moving to whiter suburbs and schools.
The fourth strategy has involved whites joining minorities, for example by marrying them. This is giving rise to growing hybrid populations that Kaufmann believes will become typical throughout much of the West by the end of this century.
Kaufmann opposes the strategy of repression because it risks a white backlash and thus more of the populist nationalism already being experienced across the West. Trump and Brexit and ethnic nationalism endanger Left-liberal power and values. For that reason Kaufmann wants repression of white identity to be moderated:
Repressing white identity as racist and demonising the white past adds insult to [the] injury of this group’s demographic decline. This way lies growing populist discontent or even terrorism. Ethnic majorities need a future.
Actually he means the illusion of a future, because the type of nationalism Kaufmann approves for whites is ethno-traditionalism, nostalgia for the society experienced in childhood. Ethno-traditionalism values only selective cultural markers—some myths, “boundary symbols”, language and reminders of the Christian past. Representatives of this approach in Australia include recent conservative prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott. It would be wrong, Kaufmann thinks, for whites to perpetuate themselves genetically. He states that common descent, the essence of ethnic identity, is not a legitimate identity marker; especially not race.
Only ethno-traditionalism suits Kaufmann’s favoured conservative category. He has no time for recalcitrant authoritarians or ethnic nepotists. Conservatives who cannot be placated by nostalgic flashbacks to their childhood have no place in Kaufmann’s envisaged future. What to do with ethnic nepotists such as Sir Robert Menzies, Australia’s longest-serving prime minister and founder of the Liberal Party, who believed in the unity of family and racial kinship? Menzies maintained that parents see in their children “their greatest contribution to the immortality of their race”. Kaufmann offers no way out or forward for deplorables such as Menzies. They are expected to conveniently disappear without causing a fuss.
Ethno-traditionalists are more amenable to change, Kaufmann thinks, because they support immigration so long as the immigrants assimilate, regardless of the impact on ethnic identity, even if their type eventually disappears:
I contend that today’s white majorities are likely to successfully absorb minority populations while their core myths and boundary symbols endure. This will involve a change in the physical appearance of the median Westerner, hence Whiteshift, though linguistic and religious markers are less likely to be affected. Getting from where we are now, where most Westerners share the racial and religious features of their ethnic archetype, to the situation in a century or two, when most will be what we now term “mixed-race”, is vital to understanding our present condition.
Kaufmann seems to dismiss the possibility of sustaining any white ethnic state, one that protects the group interests of its ethnic majority. “Ethnic nationhood, which restricts citizenship to members of the majority, is clearly a non-starter.” In support he points to global demographic trends. The overall white population share is falling: “the West, especially its European-origin population, will be a demographic speck of a few percentage points by the end of the century”. His prognosis is the West’s inevitable racial transformation. He asserts that white Britons and other European-derived peoples have no option but to mix with large numbers of non-whites: “whites can no more hold back demography than Canute could command the tides. In the West, even without immigration, we’re becoming mixed-race.”
There is no doubt that the present thrust of population change supports Kaufmann’s prognosis. The United States is projected to become minority white in a generation. Most babies there are non-white. White Britons are on track to become a minority in Britain before the end of the century. In 2010 David Coleman, professor of demographics at Oxford University, reported Office for National Statistics projections indicating that white British people will be less than half the population by about 2060, though a further 10 per cent will be “other whites”. By 2100 white British will be about 35 per cent of the population. The rapid rate of change is indicated by the fact that about 30 per cent of British newborns were non-white in 2016, though the overall non-white population was only about 12 per cent.
However, demographic projections are strongly influenced by immigration, which is a matter of government policy. Kaufmann’s prognosis places no policy limits on the degree of hybridisation. He writes as if societies are faced with a choice between remaining totally homogeneous, which he thinks is politically and demographically impossible, or mixed to a large and unspecified degree. No intermediate condition is discussed, only rates of change towards radical admixture. By the same logic, the prognosis also writes off all but the largest nation-states, at present India and China. Korea, Japan, Israel and Pakistan are already “demographic specks” compared to the world’s non-Korean, non-Japanese, non-Jewish and non-Pakistani populations. Kaufmann’s prognosis discounts the capacity of borders to regulate population flows. This topic is discussed further below.
Ethnic hierarchy is an underlying theme of Whiteshift not yet remarked by reviewers or highlighted by Kaufmann. When he refers to whites as “the dominant ethnicity” he simply means that they are in the majority, for now. All four strategies in the culture wars indicate Left supremacy over white majorities. Even “fight-back” assumes an inferior defensive posture. Kaufmann is pleading for whites to be granted some social space in which to express their identity, not for them to overthrow their cultural masters. He accuses liberal elites of driving white identity to extinction and appeals for mercy in the interests of social stability and continued cosmopolitan hegemony. There would be no need to plead unless whites were in trouble. Kaufmann advanced similar ideas as far back as 2004 in a book he edited that year, Rethinking Ethnicity: Majority Groups and Dominant Minorities.
As noted earlier, Kaufmann’s 2004 book The Rise and Fall of Anglo America documented the cosmopolitan Left’s displacement of Anglo loyalists from control of elite culture. The process culminated in the top-down dismantling of pro-European immigration restrictions in 1965, the replacement of assimilationism by multiculturalism and the mopping-up of regional white resistance. In this context of Left-liberal supremacy Kaufmann concluded:
If liberals allow [their] fear of ethnonationalism to carry all before it and demand that national ethnic groups surrender their existence, they risk the very legitimacy of their project … extremist groups playing the fascist card will find their audiences more receptive if liberalism goes unreformed.
Kaufmann did not explain why refusal to “surrender existence” is extreme or why progressives who seek that surrender are not. In any case, by 2004 he was anticipating the rise of populist nationalism in the West in reaction against large-scale suppression and demographic displacement of white populations. By then the United States’ inverted ethnic hierarchy had been in place for decades.
The idea that white majorities in some countries have been subordinated is yet to catch on in Australia, though conservatives complain about (mainly) minority identity politics. That has not shaken the general assumption that white Australia still rules the roost, even as it sinks towards becoming a minority.
Eric Kaufmann is something almost unknown in Australia, a scholar who studies ethnicity and nationalism largely outside the iron cage of multicultural taboos. He is more of an analyst than an ideologue. He goes where data and theory lead. His students learn that ethnicity has a primordial component based in an evolved psychology that is universal to the species; that people naturally feel their ethnic identities. He teaches them that pro-social ethnocentrism is not the same as aggressive xenophobia, that although the two are connected they are distinct and can appear alone.
Whiteshift was written by someone as comfortable with statistics and evolutionary psychology as with wordy sociology. Kaufmann’s scholarly papers and lectures are peppered with graphs and tables. Compared to this curriculum, the content of typical Australian courses on ethnicity and nationalism comprise a small, dated set of neo-Marxist doctrines, often written by radicals with an axe to grind against the West. The now defunct journal People and Place (1993–2010) was an exception that proves the rule.
Kaufmann comes from the stable of the late Anthony D. Smith, long-time professor of historical sociology at the London School of Economics. Smith’s 1986 book, The Ethnic Origin of Nations, shook up Marxist orthodoxies by showing that nations grow around dominant ethnic cores, the erosion of which undermines national cohesion. Smith was a leading voice in what might be called the London school of ethnic studies, a vibrant clearing house of data and argumentation. The school’s debates span the Atlantic. Journals such as Ethnic and Racial Studies and Nations and Nationalism draw contributions mainly from Europe and the US but also Israel and Japan.
The Left attacks Kaufmann with accusations of legitimising white nationalism. In reality, he is a true cosmopolitan and an empirical sociologist who attempts to apply universal values. It is the pro-diversity Left that have forgotten their universalism and turned their classrooms into uncritical purveyors of anti-Western doctrine.
Kaufmann’s cosmopolitan credentials are impeccable. Far from being a knight for whites, he has never expressed ethnic or national loyalty in his published works, though his Canadian upbringing induced an unabashed love of ice hockey. He is comfortable with others perceiving him as white and with his multiracial heritage. He has consistently defended universal values. His historical-sociological study of cosmopolitanism, The Rise and Fall of Anglo America, showed some enthusiasm for his subject. In it he discussed but never critiqued the new social sciences. But he did criticise late-stage American cosmopolitans for misusing their power to exclude Anglos from the multicultural table, a pattern emulated around the Western world. He characterised American multiculturalism as “asymmetric” because it excluded whites from the multicultural system and marshalled non-white minorities against them.
Also in Rise and Fall, Kaufmann urged that multiculturalism be reformed so as to “respect the choice of those who prefer an ethnically homogeneous milieu”. He warned against the suppression of white majorities because this alienates them from ethnicity per se, exacerbating their hyper-individualism and deculturation. This was bad for everyone because white elites control mass culture, and thus their atomisation produces “an acidic environment that erodes the structural basis of all ethnic groups”. Kaufmann realised that ethnic identity, traditions and belonging are as important for whites as for non-whites.
Nevertheless, Kaufmann has not been a champion of strategic white interests. He thinks it is legitimate for whites to seek each other’s company but not to preserve defensible nation-states. In another publication, Changing Places (2014), he and his co-author Gareth Harris described and attempted to explain the extremely high level of white opposition to immigration in England and Wales (80 per cent). They searched for ways to “remedy” this opposition. In other words, they treated white opposition to mass immigration as a problem to be solved, not as the expression of legitimate ethnic interests or democratic will. They accepted mass immigration as a given, something beyond civilised opposition. Their deification of immigration allowed them to lump together as “far right” the neo-fascist British National Party and Nigel Farage’s bourgeois UKIP which in 2014 was the main party campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union.
Kaufmann and Harris found that the pace of ethnic change in a neighbourhood predicted voter opposition to immigration. They recommended that governments act to reduce opposition to immigration, not by acceding to voter wishes, but by spreading the distribution of immigrants across electorates in order to reduce the speed of ethnic change in particular neighbourhoods.
Neither is Kaufmann much attached to Western civilisation, if his views on Islam are a measure. Whiteshift urges politicians to empathise with white ethnic anxieties, but not tolerate anti-Muslim sentiment. For him Islam is just another religion, interchangeable with Christian denominations: “As with perceptions of Islam in the West today, Catholicism was viewed as an alien faith with no place in American civilization.”
Whiteshift is too influenced by Left-liberal values. Its analysis of ethnic interests avoids biological dimensions despite elsewhere drawing on evolutionary psychology. Some utopianism is evident in the book’s assumption that win-win compromises are always possible. It blithely accepts replacement-level migration as an injury to which insult should not be added, instead of an existential threat needing to be halted or reversed. It wholly discounts ethnic and religious competition as causes of white decline. Kaufmann is concerned about progressives’ hatred for white identity but fails to describe many realities of anti-white politics, such as the anti-Western bias endemic in universities, corporate open-border globalism in general or the censorship of white identitarians by big-tech social media companies in particular.
The book is not free from political correctness concerning race. Kaufmann’s discounting of racial ethnic markers seems arbitrary, especially when racial self-segregation is so pronounced. Also, though he is concerned with maintaining social stability in diverse societies, he does not mention the problem of socio-economic stratification by race. Stratification is a major cause of ethnic conflict. It occurs to varying extents in every multi-racial society, partly due to psychological group differences. Stratification affects the rate and dynamics of inter-ethnic marriage. No book examining whiteshift can legitimately ignore this difficult subject.
As already noted, Kaufmann appears to say that white ethnic states are impossible because “ethnic nationhood” limits citizenship to the majority ethnicity, and that this is out of the question. This misses the point that ethnic states are defined by ethnic control of the state. Ethnic limits on citizenship rights are set by the state and thus indirectly by political elites. In a democracy, the majority ethnicity will generally control ethnic policy, and that was the case from the emergence of nationalism in Continental Europe and white settler countries after about 1800. Since the 1970s, however, multicultural policies in countries such as Australia and the US have made them inverted ethnic states—ones that privilege minorities. Minorities did not have the power to dominate majorities at that time. That was accomplished by an alliance between cultural elites and their minority clients. The reality of multiculturalism in majority white nations is that the majority retains citizenship but minorities are privileged by such policies as affirmative action, a share of immigration far beyond their share of the population, and suppression of white identity by various “human rights” agencies.
The ethnic invertedness of multiculturalism was obvious to Geoffrey Blainey by the 1990s. He thought the ideology “would collapse without an emphasis on racial discrimination”. He continued: “When Anglo-Celtic Australians show the same ethnic preference as minorities they are denounced as racists.” The main differences between minority-dominated and majority-dominated states is that the former are less democratic. They must, after all, block majority ethnic preferences concerning immigration and free speech. Multicultural elites often feel distinct from and contemptuous of the majority. These attitudes manifest as a culture of censoriousness—political correctness—running through the bureaucracy and the media. Majoritarian ethnic states are more relaxed because their elites identify with the majority. Also, according to public choice theory, majorities require only a fraction of the ethnic motivation shown by minorities to win control of the democratic process. And they can do so without suppressing other identities.
Another problem with Kaufmann’s analysis is his use of simplistic categories. An example is his assumption that liberal ideology is genuinely felt, when in reality all ideologies can be used as vehicles for various interests. There is a long history across many countries of minority ethnics voting for and sometimes leading leftist politics. Historically Kaufmann’s Left-liberal category has included minority ethnic nepotists who see their ethnic interests being served by undermining the power of the majority ethnic group. In other words, Left-liberalism has often been motivated by tribalism, its normative polar opposite.
Kaufmann discusses examples of political vehicles but does not apply the concept to multiculturalism. The vehicular nature of multiculturalism is important to the phenomenon of whiteshift because the ideology is used to legitimise the subordination of white majorities and impose replacement-level immigration. Multiculturalism is an ideology that serves diverging values. Kaufmann sees its liberal but not its ethnic motives, despite the latter providing a significant fraction of the Left’s voting base, funding and political leadership. In the United States the Democratic Party, ostensibly on the Left, has become a vehicle of the multicultural alliance, receiving bloc votes from strongly identified minority ethnics in exchange for favours such as affirmative action, extending welfare and keeping the immigration doors open.
Kaufmann also fails to ask whether in a crowded world any population can retain its identity without controlling the state. If multiculturalism succeeded because Left-liberals wrested the state from the majority that had built it, then used the power of the state to open the borders to unrestricted immigration to make the majority “disappear”, why should the majority not respond in kind by conducting its own march through the institutions to reclaim its rightful property and restore an immigration policy that serves its interests? What other strategy could work? What other strategy would be as moral? Even Kaufmann’s preferred version of multiculturalism, in which white cultural identity is respected alongside the identities of minorities and cosmopolitans, is unlikely to be achieved without a majority reconquista of the state.
Whiteshift is profoundly revisionist regarding the morality of white ethnic behaviour. Kaufmann concludes that whites are entitled to retain their identity and majority status and that it is acceptable for them to live in a “homogeneous milieu”. In doing so he implies that it is all right for them to campaign and vote against replacement-level non-white and non-Christian immigration. This message has broader application than simply preventing further increases in non-white numbers towards becoming majorities in Western societies. It also applies retrospectively, because, to borrow from T.S. Eliot, in order to become the majority, you must go by the way of the minority. If Kaufmann is correct, white conservatives with foresight were right to oppose each step of their replacement. They were right to criticise hostile elites and the vilification of national history. Kaufmann’s analysis implies, even while he explicitly denies, that Australia’s founders and leaders up to the 1960s were right to develop Australia as a predominantly European country.
The same lessons apply to those intent on revolution through immigration. They were strategically prudent to begin with small steps, to avoid democratic process, to change policy via administrative increments, to persecute and silence white identity when they could. The wide-open door must begin by way of the crack.
Despite some disagreement with Kaufmann’s analysis, Whiteshift is a huge advance on what passes for the study of ethnicity and nationalism in Australia. It provides a new perspective on the ethnic transformation and associated troubles sweeping the West.
Frank Salter is the author of The War on Human Nature in Australia’s Political Culture (2017).
Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities
by Eric Kaufmann
Penguin, 2018, 624 pages, $55
 For example, Kenan Malik writing in The Guardian accuses Kaufmann of attempting to normalize white identity politics. Malik, K. (2019). If identity politics is a force for good, how does white nationalism fit in? The Guardian. London, 7 April, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/07/if-identity-politics-is-a-force-for-good-how-does-white-nationalism-fit-in
 Kaufmann, Whiteshift, Chapter 1.
 Blainey, G. (1994). Melting pot on the boil. The Bulletin: 30 August, pp. 22-25, p. 23.
 Fraser, M. (2003). Common ground: Issues that should bind and not divide us. Camberwell, Victoria, Penguin, p. 250.
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 Salter, F. K. (2018). The biosocial study of ethnicity. The Oxford handbook of evolution, biology, and society. R. L. Hopcroft. New York, Oxford University Press: 543-568 [selected pages available at https://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Evolution-Biology-Society-Handbooks/dp/0190299320].
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 Bernard Lane (2019). “Whites find their knight in Eric Kaufmann”, The Australian, 5 April. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/whites-find-their-knight-in-eric-kaufmann/news-story/bf438fc03bc38314d210a52d20391ff9
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