New Racism . . . New Realism
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Mark R. Duffield
The Guardian recently reported that Bradford Metropolitan
Borough Council, following research which showed that
ethnic minorities did not receive their fair share of help
from the social services department, has employed several
Asians to act as unqualified social workers in an attempt
to redress this imbalance. The reason given for this initiative was that the Asians concerned were held to ‘know how
cultural patterns can affect a person’s behaviour’ .
Since the people involved are professionally unqualified, it
is implicit that this knowledge comes not from a formal
educa tion but from a more informal learning process. It is a
knowledge which, presumably, is only gained by being an
indigenous member of a given community and thus an integral part of its cultural life. Moreover, this culture, it
would appear, is sufficiently different from that of the
average social worker to render normal professional criteria inadequate.
The Guardian report, in these few paragraphs of newsprint, not only tells us that culture shapes behaviour, it
also implies that knowledge itself is culture bound. Of
course, these propositions are not new. There is a whole
body of literature within social science that argues such
points. The Bradford example, however, serves to introduce
a number of ideas that I want to go on to connect to
another set of ideas. Ideas which are far less benign than
those just mentioned appear, at first glance, to be.
In his stimulating and timely book, The New Racism, Martin
Barker has argued for a freeing of the conception of racism from its conventional moorings in prejudice and the
consequent ranking of races, nations, groups, and so forth
in terms of assumed superiority and inferiority . The reason, Barker claims, is that from the late 1960s the right
wing of the Tory Party has been self-consciously developing a new conception of nationhood in which the re-theorisation of race as a non-hierarchical category has played a
leading role. Thus, his call for a re-examination of the nature of racism arises not from purely academic grounds, but
from the practical consideration that racism as an expression of prejudice has already been outmoded in the
world of politics.
It is not that the ideological building blocks of this
‘new racism’ are in fact all new – some have a long pedigree – it is their integration and systematic elaboration
over the last decade or so which marks a new departure.
Barker’s methodology has been to piece together the relevant statements of such people as Powell, Sherman, Whitelaw and Thatcher (to name the more well-known) in order
to tease out the racial theory that underpins them and to
demonstrate its logical and comprehensive character.
Below, I will attempt to condense from Barker’s extended
analysis the main features of new racism.
The starting point of the new racism is difference not
hierarchy. It is held to be human nature to form groups
based on similarity which then set themselves apart from
other groups perceived as different. The cement which
binds a group together is its shared way of life: its culture.
It is by following a shared way of life that an individual
obtains a sense of belonging and security. ‘[his shared culture, moreover, is the essence from which individuality is
The sense of group solidarity which develops from a
common way of life is of vital importance for society since
it holds people together by giving them a collective purpose and shared volition. Without this sense of belonging,
there would be no culture and, indeed, no nation since a
nation is nothing more than a living expression of a
people’s traditions and way of life. From this perspective,
an ideal nation is culturally homogeneous. The family,
defined as the natural basis of all societies, is the link between the nation and the individual. It is the repository and
transmitter of the culture and way of life of a nation.
What people feel about their culture is paramount. If
people sense that their way of life is being threatened,
since it is so central to their social and individual existence, it will arouse fear and hostility. Immigrants, because
they have a different way of life, elicit this response. It
does not matter whether peoples’ fears are real or imaginary. The very fact that fears which are ‘genuinely held’
have been aroused is sufficient to cause disruption and thus
threaten the national fabric.
‘You do not need to think of yourself as superior you do not even need to dislike or blame those who
are so different from you – in order to say that the
presence of these aliens constitutes a threat to our
way of life.’
The new racism does not have to rank races hierarchically.
This can be left to the universally condemned National
Front. All human beings are sufficiently biologically alike
to form closed communities: this is a natural tendency. It is
also natural to rise to the defence of that community when
the future of its way of life is felt to be threatened. This
is as true of the British as it is of Asians and West Indians.
In this respect we are all the same. It is a reaction that is
rooted in instinct and finds expression in the common sense
of a people. Because it is instinctive, the defence of a way
of life is a non-rational and unreasoned process. Its inherent non-rationality however is not to say that it is bad. It
is a natural reaction and one which, in the case of Britain,
has served its people well enough over the centuries.
Because the formation and defence of separate cultures
is instinctive, it shows the fallacy of the call for integration. People of separate cultures and following separate
ways of life want to remain distinct. This is not because of
mere familiarity or personal preference: it would be unnatural for them to want otherwise. Legislators and other
‘do-gooders’ who suggest otherwise are simply interfering
with an instinctive process and their intellectual rationalizations invariably do more harm than good. The common
sense wish of the people for a separate identity, moreover,
is not only natural. It is also at the heart of the problem.
The most convivial setting for individuals of different cultures is their own national homeland where their traditions
and way of life can be enjoyed to the full. The presence of
alien cultures in Britain not only threatens the British way
of life and thus its national cohesiveness (through the genuinely held fears aroused) but means that immigrants themselves cannot develop their cultures in a complete and
proper manner. Unavoidable hostility will check their every
advance whilst threats to their own way of life will lead to
inevi table internal tensions. This hostility and these tensions, as Powell has frequently told us, must eventually
lead to a breakdown of social order unless the ‘heroic
measures’ that he advocates are instigated.
I have summarised at some length what I understand to
be the main aspects of what Barker calls the ‘pseudobiological culturalism’ of new racism . Barker’s own
analysis of it is much richer than my summary but I think I
have said sufficient to indicate its shape and internal
powers of extension and self-validification. In the last analysis, it is nothing if not an attempt to justify repatriation.
Valuable as Barker’s account is, I believe that a lot of its
force is lost unless a number of other connections are
made. This is necessary since Barker, in his book at least,
tends to isolate new racism as a product of Toryism and
right wing neo-social Darwinism. Thus, the ideological pedigree of new racism is traced from the philosophy of Hume
to the striking affinity it has with the work of the contemporary sociobiologists.
A t a political level, new racism and the redefinition of
nationhood with which it is connected, that is, from being
viewed pragmatically as an assemblage of competing interests to one which emphasises individual loyalty, is understood as a response of Toryism to the end of the post-war
boom. Although this analysis is valid in itself, it misses
important connections between new racism and other political and ideological changes that have been taking place.
Perhaps this is best illustrated by Barker’s portrayal of the
Labour Party. The general impression given is of a party
capitulating to or trailing behind a confident Tory right,
not out of genuine agreement but more out of apathy borne
of its lacking ‘an alternative coherent conceptualisation’
. I am going to attempt to redefine this connection by
placing the emergence of new racism within a different
context, that of the shift of the consensus on the race
issue from views based on assimilation to those based on
The Road to Integration
From the late 1940s to the mid 1960s the general view on
the race question was that the newly arrived immigrants
would slowly become assimilated into the British way of
life . Leaving aside political and economic changes for
the moment, it is clear that from the mid 1960s another
view slowly began to gain ground. This was based upon the
argument that assimilation was not taking place, nor was it
likely to. The shift from assimilation to integration was
based upon the linking of the prospect of good race relatins with the need to restrict immigration. Whereas the
1962 Race Relations Act had attempted to regulate immigration by reference to the labour market, the Labour
Party’s 1965 White Paper represented a re-alignment c5f
policy in this direction . The unequal treatment of black
people outside Britain was argued to be the precondition
for the equal treatment of those inside.
On this contradictory foundation, assimilation was
traded for integration based on cultural pluralism and the
formal commitment to equal opportunity. However, if it is
felt necessary to restrict the entry of people from certain
countries for the national good, it follows that the extending of equal opportunity to the same people who are already in Britain may encounter certain ‘problems’. As the
commitment to integration has gained ground, these problems have usually been thought through in terms of the
‘disadvantages’ that immigrants, or at least, their way of
life are felt to possess. Equal opportunity policy has usually been aimed at eliminating these perceived problems.
Below, I will briefly examine current race relations training
as an example. First, however, it is necessary to sketch in
some of the institutional signposts that mark the road to
In 1966, Roy Jenkins, in a speech to the National
Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants, gave his famous
definition of integration as not being a ‘flattening process
of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by
cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance’
. In the same year, the Race Relations Act made it
illegal to discriminate in a place of public resort and saw
the creation of the Race Relations Board and the
Community’ Relations Commission which superseded the
NCCI. The RRB was charged with upholding the law whilst
the CRC was to carry out an education and liaison role.
The acceptance of an integra tionalist ideology, however,
did not happen uniformly. It spread, in fact, in an uneven
By the end of the 1960s education had become the first
public sphere in which a formal commitment (practical
application is a different question) to cul~uraj pluralism and
the special measures deemed necessary to promote equal
opportunity had been made . The employment field was
different. The 1963 Race Relations Act, which extended
the law against discrimination to employment and housing,
still contained a number of assimilationist assumptions. An
important aim in employment, for example, was to disperse
(the operational side of assimilation) black workers over a
wider range of industries and jobs than those into which
they had been concentrated. Apart from attempting to end
discrimination at the gate, the Act, through the Racial
Balance Clause, encouraged individual employers to disperse any concentration of black workers which had
emerged in a particular department or shift.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were few
departures in the field of industrial training for black
workers. One major exception was language training for
Asian workers . This remained sporadic and experimental, however, until the formation of the Industrial
Language Training Service in 1975 . As the name
implies, this unit has argued that the inability to communicate fully is the main disadvantage facing the Asian
worker, a disadvantage held to give rise to a wide range of
industrial problems. The previous year, the TUC issued its
‘model clause’ on equal opportunity with the intention of
having it inserted in all appropriate agreements . The
1976 Race Relations Act was the last step in the transition
from assimilation to integration in employment. The Racial
Balance Clause was abolished, the idea of unintended or
institutional discrimination introduced, provisions for the
training of black workers established and the Commission
for Racial Equality set up.
The period between the mid 1950s and the mid 1970s
represents a transition period in which the idea of cultural
pluralism and equal opportunity gradually supplanted that
of assimilation. With the transition complete, there has
been a further expansion of what, during the late 1960s,
became known as the ‘race relations industry’. This expansion, however, is different from that which took place
after the 1966 Act. Since 1976, the formal race institutions
‘(eRE and CRCs) have grown only slowly. Expansion has
: largely taken place through initially separate bodies becoming concerned with the race issue and the appearance of
new educational and training initiatives, including training
for whites, under a variety of institutional headings. Thus,
I the Manpower Services Commission and the DepartIment of Employment have become involved.
The IL TS has, in addition to language training, enlarged
its programme to include race relations instruction for
‘whites in industry, local authorities and commerce .
‘Other training courses for whites have also emerged; the
Workers Educational Authority and Open University, for
example, producing courses and materials. Over the last
few years, the TUC and individual trade unions have
become increasingly involved in training for both black and
white trade unionists . Whilst these developments have
been taking place, growing numbers of local authorities
have begun to employ their own race relations advisors and
These are just a few examples of the nature of the
expansion of the race relations industry since the passage
of the 1976 Act. Those official bodies, agencies and associations which constitute the basis of this growth can be
termed the ‘liberal establishment’. This not only includes
the CRS and other statutory bodies, but also sections of
the labour and trade union movements, various voluntary
associations and parts of academia which, when taken together, represent the institutional commitment to cuI tur al
pluralism within a framework of equal opportunity. The aim
of the liberal establishment is to promote better race relations through education, the ending of explicit and implicit
discrimination and the amelioration of disadvantage.
The ethos of the liberal establishment in confronting the
failure of assimilation with the realities of cultural pluralism has been what I would like to call that of a ‘new realism’. This has been precisely the spirit in which successive
commentators have approached the problems of integration.
Thus, Dilip Hiro greeted the fact that cultural pluralism
had begun to be accepted during the latter half of the
1960s in the following words: ‘Already there are signs that
after years of myopia and fantasy-mongering, realism is
steadily creeping into the sociological, administrative and
political circles’ . In several other places, Hiro emphasises the ‘realism’ of cultural pluralism as against the
‘fallacy’ of assimilation . The ideological basis of new
realism, and that which holds sway in the liberal establishment, is culturalism. It is my contention that culturalism is
the shared terrain which links the new realism of integration with the new racism of repatriation. It is not fortuitous that both emerged and were self-consciously elaborated
at the same time. Unlike new racism, which has a pseudo-
biological underpinning, new realism does not depend, at
least explicitly, on ideas of biological determinism. Indeed,
it can even be seen as being opposed to such ideas .
Instead the culturalism of new realism depends upon environmental, sociological and psychological underpinning. Despi te this apparent difference, however, the basic assumptions of new racism and new realism are strikingly similar.
In order to establish this congruence, and at the same
time map out the dominant ideological trend within the liberal establishment, I want to explore the ideas of a few
writers whom I believe are representative of the new realist position. The first point that I wish to make about new
realism, and one which it shares with new racism, is that it
offers a relatively static and normative analysis of society.
The impression given is that a people’s way of life or culture is a more or less fixed entity which, through the generations, continues to shape behaviour and perceptions.
An example of this is the culturalist analysis of the
reasons for Asian immigration in terms of ‘tradition’. Thus,
Hiro’s treatment of migration from the Punjab, which is
typical of the genre, stresses the dynamic nature of Sikh
culture resulting from the turbulent history of the area.
This dynamism has meant that migration and military service are long-standing traditions and, when coupled with
such factors as over-population and land scarcity, ‘explains’
Sikh emigration to Britain . As can be seen, this form
of analysis conveniently side-steps the need to consider the
effects of colonisation. It is as if it had not occurred or
that its impact was minimal. Whilst this is implicit in many
culturalist analyses, Hiro makes the point explicitly.
‘Britain left the social structure and culture of the Indian
masses well alone’ . Here, I do not wish to question
this amazing statement other than to mention that it is an
example of the target at which the critics of culturalism
have usually aimed. That is, that it does not examine the
relations of power and exploitation within society but,
indeed, serves to disguise them . For the new realists,
as for the new racists, a society is an amalgam of family
ties, beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and so on.
Although I have said that the culturalist view of
society is relatively static, it should be clearly stated that,
rather than implying inertia, the rigidity involved is better
understood as a live and active one: something which
people themselves strive for. Hiro makes this point well
when discussing Asian immigration.
‘Unlike the West
African slaves, there was no rupture of continuity, no annihilation of the past. The Indians carried their past with
them and recreated the present in its image – , .
Below, I will return to the difference held to exist between West Indians and Asians in this statement. First, I
wish to state the culturalist assumptions so far. That is, a
cultural heritage unbroken by colonialism (the one exception being colonialism based upon slavery) actively recreates itself when transposed to a new environment. For
Hiro, this re-creation is a result of the need for psychological security which immigrants feel . From a more
sociological perspective, one which emphasises instrumentality, Ballard and Ballard have argued that the 1950s were
a transitional phase of Sikh settlement. Dur ing the 1960s,
when families were being united, ‘the Sikhs set about recreating as many of the institutions of Punjabi society as
possible’ . An example of this approach is Brooks and
Singh’s treatment of the role of English speaking middlemen amongst Indian foundry workers. The system of patronage and bribery which these men operated is understood as
being ‘the logical extension of cultural assumptions brought
in from the migrants’ country of origin’ .
An extreme version of this sociological approach can
be found in Wallman’s argument that even the choice of
what jobs immigrants do is largely culturally determined
. At a demographic level, this recreation of a way of
life after immigration is held to correspond to a return to
racial endogamy. For new realism, the inter-racial liaisons
which were common during the early days of immigration
were, essentially, a consequence of the sexual imbalance in
the immigrant community. Once this began to equalise the
incidence of inter-marriage began to decline in proportional
terms. Hiro argues that this represents the wish to avoid
social and psychological problems , whilst Ballard and
Ballard have claimad that with the Sikhs it was a positive
desire to reconstruct the ‘traditional’ joint family .
New realism, like new racisJ’)1, regards it as a normal
state of affairs for different peoples to maintain their separate ways of life and cultural identity. This assumption,
for example, clearly underlies Dahya’s analysis of Pakistani
settlement . For Hiro, the ‘voluntary separation’ that
this involves ‘is not, and need not, be underlined by rigid
belief, on racial lines, in the philosophy of inferiority/superiority’ . As with new racism, the key word is
difference not hierarchy.
It is the problem of promoting equality between cultures (and thus people) defined as different, and at the same
time meeting this problem head-on, which invokes the
reforming spirit of new realism. The conviction that cultural pluralism is normal arises directly from the culturalists’
view of a way of life as something which actively recreates itself. Since, however, the culturalists’ view of
society eschews questions of power and exploitation, it can
only operationalise this claim by the use of a few relatively simple cultural stereotypes. These stereotypes are located in the distinction, indeed, opposition, between what is
said to constitute West Indian and Asian culture.
A good starting point here is the early work of Banton.
Writing in the mid-1950s, Banton distinguished between the
various immigrant groups according to their degree of ‘solidarity’ or ‘social cohesiveness’. This cohesion, he argues,
is inversely related to ‘the extent to which European influences have disrupted the culture of origin’ . On this
basis, Banton regards Sikhs and Pakistanis as the most
cohesive, whilst West Africans and West Indians are the
‘Both West Africa and the West Indies were particularly susceptible to British influence, lacking the
cultural counter weights of a developed but independent religion or sentiments of membership in an
alternative large-scale political unit or culture.’
For Banton, the lack of an indigenous culture and the
compensating attachment to the ‘mother country’ provided
the motivation for West Indian immigration and also furnished these immigrants with an assimilationist outlook. Having suffered the most disruption of all, it also explained
the reputation of the West Indian for ‘reacting the most
strongly of all the immigrants to anything considered as a
slight or insult’ . With regard to Asians, Banton found
a ‘striking contrast’ between them and West Indians. Asians
had suffered the least disruption to their culture, they had
an independent religion, they made light of insults and had
an instrumental attitude to employment since they would
accept the worst jobs – jobs that even West Indians would
not do . Most of all, however, and unlike West Indians,
Asians prefer to remain in their own groups and preserve
their own cultural identity. ‘The Pakistanis and Sikhs are
examples of non-assimilating or accommodating as opposed
to adapting groups’ . For Banton, the social cohesiveness of the various immigrant groups, itself an index of the
desire to assimilate, was related to the extent to which
their original cultures had been disrupted.
Writing at a much later date, Hiro has refined this
thesis and developed more fully the opposition between
Asian and West Indian cultures alluded to by Banton. I have
already quoted Hiro to the effect that, like Banton, he regards colonialism as having had little or no effect on the
Asian way of life. Hiro’s refinement consists in isolating
slavery as the main agent, indeed, the only agent of cultural disruption.
What is more, in line with modern culturalism, he
clearly establishes the stereotypes of Asian and West
Indian culture in relation to the family. For Hiro, the
inherited way of life which acts to oppose West Indian and
Asian cultures can be understood as the consequences for
the family of the anarchy of West Indian slavery on the
one hand and the Asian agrarian idyll on the other. ‘Nothing illustrates the effect of the past on the present better
than the contemporary family structure and sexual mores
among Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Americans’ . Hiro
analyses slavery in terms of its representing ‘the total destruction of the conventional family system’ . Since, for
new realists as well as new racists, the family is the basis
of the social order, its destruction can only have drastic
consequences. Hiro’s description of the results for West
Indians can be summed up in the creation of a pathological
psychology. Thus, extreme individualism, repression of true
feelings, circumlocution, self-depreciation, sudden changes
of mood and truculence are just some of the deductions
that Hiro makes from slavery’s disruption of the way of life
Stripped of their own cultures, and thus being psychologically vulnerable, slaves were ‘Anglicised’ by having
their masters’ culture thrust upon them. This Anglicisation,
however, did not extend as far as the family, the basis of
cultural life. Following emancipation, Hiro goes on to
argue, a system of cohabitation emerged with ‘a more frequent change of partners than is the case with societies
where legal marriage is the norm’. The result was the
formation of a matriarchal family structure in which ‘the
woman has come to play the dual roles of mother and
We can compare this now with how Hiro treats the situation in Asia. ‘Agrarian life revolves around seasons which
determine the times for sowing seeds and harvesting crops’
. There is no disruption here, not even the colonial tax
collector appears on the horizon. The conventional family
is not destroyed, in fact, the very opposite would seem to
happen. The family, as in the work of Ballard and
Khan , is presented as the institutionalised form of the
Asian way of life. ‘Within religious and caste-delineation,
life is communal and is institutionalised through the joint
family system’ . Rather than being q matriarchal system, the Asian family is patriarchal and instead of a role
ambiguity ‘the role and function of father and mother are
well defined’ . Instead of liaisons with a number of
partners ‘rural society in the Indian subcontinent is marked
by a high degree of marital fidelity’ . Instead of developing extreme individualism, individualism ‘as fostered by
Western culture is almost unknown’ . Rather than truculence or exuberance, Asians are more likely to show
‘deference’ or to be ‘shy and withdrawn’ .
I think that it would be fair comment to say that for
culturalism the problems with West Indians is their lack of
culture which can lead to psychological disorders, whilst
Asians have too much which often leads to intense social
pressures on the individual. The latter, for example, defines
precisely the manner in which Anwar has tackled the
emergence of an Asian second generation.
I mentioned the work of Banton in relation to cultural
stereotyping, not only because he has gone on to develop
an explicitly cultural pluralist position , but also to
indicate that the opposition between West Indian truculance and Asian conformity was established in the early
days of immigration. In other words, this basic opposition
pre-dates the present integrationist era and would seem to
be a permanent part of post-war culturalism.
What is interesting, however, is that whilst this opposition has always been there, the new generation of culturalists have attached the opposition to different objects and,
at the same time, have attempted to re-write history. Nowadays, for example, the conventional wisdom has it that the
main problem with West Indian youth, due to their greater
‘a wareness’, is that they not accept the treatment and condi tions that their parents did: this explains the resulting
truculence. What is amazing about this claim is that if its
purveyors had even a passing acquaintance with the early
literature – and I have quoted Banton to this effect – they
would realise that the first generation did not passively
accept their treatment at all. The main concern then, as
now, was to explain West Indian truculence and ‘touchiness’.
What happens, of course, is that by an ideological
slight of hand, culturalism suppresses the racial oppression
and resistance which underlay this behaviour and, instead,
caricatures, in what I believe to be a racist manner, the
first generation as somehow ‘dumb’ in comparison to their
newly ‘aware’ children. Culturalism, with its fixed and
caricatured idea of a way of life, has the peculiar ability
to be seemingly keeping abreast of events – even being
innovative – yet, at the same time, is actually standing
The last point of convergence I wish to make between
new realism and new racism concerns the question of ‘genuinely held’ fears. Hiro, again, is instructive on this point.
Part of his enthusiasm for cultural pluralism stems from his
belief that to leave the minorities well alone in the cultural and social fields would ‘reassure those white Britons
who, for good or evil, do not wish to see their culture or
racial stock adulterated with the Afro-Asian’ . Hiro,
above all, knows that such fears are unjustified, yet he
would agree with the new racists that the very fact that
they are held can lead to hostility. Hiro is, of course, giving a popular rendering of the ‘genuine fear’ argument. A
more theorised version of this is to be found in Wallman’s
analysis of what constitutes ‘ethnicity’. ‘ ••• ethnicity is the
process by which “their” difference is used to enhance the
sense of “us” for purposes of organisation or identification’
(54). E thnici ty is about organising society and organising
experience through the perception of differences. The establishment and maintenance of ‘boundaries’ is a central
feature of this organisation. Boundaries, however, are not
fixed, but vary with how ‘them’ and ‘us’ are defined.
The criteria of significant differences are always
‘functions of context or situation’. The perception of difference is as much subjective as it is objective. It is objective when it pertains to identifiable traits or social
characteristics and subjective when it stems from individual
‘Because a social boundary is about the organisation
of society, no more and no less than it is about the
organisation of experience, neither element has
more or less reality than the other. Both the difference and the sense of difference count.’
-The study of ethnicity is the study of how perceived differences, even if these differences are only subjective or
‘sensed’, are organised in an instrumental fashion to
achieve certain goals. Ethnicity is about how cultural forms
recreate and maintain themselves in changed circumstances.
Since what people ‘feel’ is important, ethnic identity,
as with the new racist idea of the attachment to a way of
life, resides essentially in an un reasoned sense of belonging.
‘The structure is “felt”: “We” of group X are not
like the Y’s … “they” do not work, marry, interact
with us, the X’s, or in the way that X’s do … We
feel them to be, know them to be, different from
Because what people ‘sense’ or ‘feel’ is as important as
what they know, one would not be far wrong in describing
ethnicity as the organisation and manipulation of ‘genuine
fears’. This is exactly the tone of Khan’s analysis of the
formation of a Pakistani identity in Britain . Since
ethnicity, in the last analysis, is unreasoned, it comes very
close to, is even indistinguishable from, the new racist idea
of instinctive belonging. Because they share this element
of irrationality they are, in different ways, representative
of an anti-intellectual tradition. I will return to this point
I have said enough to be able to draw together the
convergences which link the new realism of the liberal
establishment with the new racism of the Tory right. They
are both founded upon a set of shared culturalist assumptions. For both, society is synonymous with a way of life or
culture. This is of an enduring nature and has the power to
recreate itself if circumstances change. Questions of
exploitation, class and power are replaced by a focus on
the family (or lack of it) as the main institutional form of
a people’s way of life. Although a people’s adherence to
their cultural identity is capable of being used instrumentally, this adherence is an unreasoned process. What people
feel about themselves is as important as what they know.
Because cultures endure and recreate themselves, it is
natural that cultural differences are maintained. It is not a
question of one culture being better or worse than another:
the main fact is that they are different. Cultural pluralism
is the normal state of the world and, due to a contingent
history, pluralism has come to characterise the once culturally homogeneous Britain. In such a situation assimilation
will not take place but, to the contrary, differences will
continue to persist.
As can be seen, the scope of the shared assumptions
linking new realism with new racism is broad. In establishing the differences, which are fewer and more restricted, I
would like to recall my earlier remarks about Barker, in his
original formulation, tending to see new racism exclusively
in relation to Toryism. A recent paper on the Scarman
Report written jointly with Anne Beezer shows a movement
away from this position and the establishment of other
points of contact. In their examination of the Scarman
Report, Beezer and Barker argue, as I have tried to suggest in relation to new realism, that it is based upon a set
of culturalist premises shared with new racism. They go on
to argue that, in the last analysis, the difference between
Scarman and the new racists is that the former claims that
‘differences can be resolved, and peace can be restored,
given the wiW. This is the essence of the disagreement between new realism, for Scarman is nothing if not a
member of the liberal establishment, and new racism.
For new racism, cultural differences persist because
the defence of a way of life is a natural and instinctive
reaction. Hostility to outsiders is inevitable and cannot,
indeed, should not, be prevented. For new realism, on the
other hand, cultural differences are maintained purely for
psychological and social reasons: for the sense of secur i ty
or practical help that a shared identity gives an individual.
Hostility to outsiders is not a necessary part of maintaining
a way of life. When this does occur it is the result of
ignorance, misunderstanding or, at most, the defence of a
sectional interest or competition for a scarce resource.
Hostility is not inevitable and, as Beezer and Barker
have argued in relation to Scarman, can be prevented if
the proper steps are taken. The basic difference between
the two is on the position of xenophobia in the scheme of
things. For the new racists it is primary and creative,
whilst for the new realists it is secondary and derivative.
In the final analysis, they are only at odds on the position
of violence in the system. New realism and new racism are
in fundamental agreement over the terms in which black
people in Britain are to be discussed and their future
decided. When two seemingly opposed sides in a power bloc
share an agreed terrain in this manner, the result can be
called ‘hegemony’. The transition from assimilation to inte33
gration represents an important change in the nature of
racial hegemony. New realism and new racism are oppositions rooted in the soil of culturalism: they are necessary
reflections of each other.
In this paper I have tried to argue that new realism and
new racism are substantially the same thing. Although having earlier origins, they emerged together from the mid
1960s onwards as part of the transition from assimilation to
integration. Although the only point of substantial difference between them is on the status of violence, it is sufficient to allow a hegemonic debate within the power bloc
of the liberal and right establishment. As Beezer and
Barker have argued in relation to the Scarman Report,
however, the purchase which new racism has over the concepts and assumptions of new realism is far greater than
that exercised by new realism over new racism. I believe
that this is due to the fundamentally anti-democratic
nature of culturalism in general.
Because they are oppositions within a shared terrain, I
have tried in several places to illustrate the dialectical
principle that under given conditions one pole of an opposition can be transformed into its opposite. In this case, new
realism changed into new racism. This is of great significance since new realism, because of its shared assumptions
and weaker position, already has its own demise, its own
capitulation, inscribed within it. All that is needed is for
‘proof’ to be forthcoming that the presence of different
cultures in Britain is leading to violence, then the road is
clear for the desertion of the liberal establishment to the
side of the opposition. The riots of 1981, the law and order
campaign, and so on, are just the sort of ‘proof’ that is
required. The shared assumptions on cultural difference and
beliefs are already there to pave the way of new realism’s
A defeat for new realism under pressure of this nature
would, of course, represent the collapse of the present
racial hegemony. Why I believe that this is not an abstract
proposition is that such a collapse is not without precedent
in post-war Britain. The contemporary hegemony between
new realism and new racism arose, in fact, out of the
rubble of the one preceding it. During the assimilationist
era, the basis of racial hegemony was different. Although
culturalism was evident, from the early post-war years to
around the mid 1960s the main focus was on material
resources, not cultural difference. The agreed terrain on
which left and right within the establishment discussed
immigration was not from the perspective of the social
relations involved but in terms of the quantity of such
things as jobs, houses, schools and hospitals. The right
called for control because these resources were said to be
too few and immigration caused a further strain. The left
did not dispute this overall approach to the question.
Instead, they argued that the talk of control would not
arise if these same resources were already present in the
immigrant’s country of origin. The real malefactor of the
story was colonial exploitation which had left many people
with no other option except emigration. Within Britain it
was the duty of the government to provide all its citizens,
regardless of colour, with adequate jobs, houses, and so on
The agreement over the centrality of resources meant
that all that was needed for the left to capitulate to the
right was ‘proof’ that immigration was indeed outstripping
the welfare state’s ability to provide. This collapse came in
the mid 1960s when the labour movement, with equanimity,
joined the call for immigrant control. Agreement on how
the issue was to be discussed had marked out the transition
in advance. This collapse also gave rise to the present
hegemony based upon culturalism. Whereas the collapse of
the previous racial hegemony produced a commitment to
immigration control, the collapse of the present would
leave no other option but to press for repatriation.
The Guardian, 8.10.82.
M. Barker, The New Racism, London, Junction Books, 1982.
Ibid., pp. 13- 29, 38-53.
Ibid., p. 18.
~ p. 25.
~ p. 13.
See S. Patterson, Dark Strangers, London, Tavistock, 1963.
J. Bourne, ‘Cheerleaders and Ombudsmen: The Sociology of Race Relations in Britain’,
Race and Class, Vol. XXI, No. 4, 1980, pp. 335-36.
R. Jenkins, ‘Speech to the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants’, May
J. Solomos, ‘Institutional Racism: Policies of Marginalisation in Education and Training’, Mimeo, Research Unit on Ethnic Relations, University of Aston, n.d., pp. 8-10.
Department of Employment and Productivity, ‘Employment for Commonwealth Immigrants, Language and Communications’, Race Relations Memorandum No. 3 (revised),
January 1970, p. 4.
T.C. Jupp, ‘Language, Disadvantage and Ethnic Minorities’, IL T Occasional Paper,
TUC, ‘Race Relations at Work’, May 1982.
See, for example, CRE/MSC, Special Programmes, Special Needs: Ethnic Minorities and
the Special Programmes for the Unemployed, London, 1979.
The 0 E Race Relations Employment Advisory Service has existed since 1968. It has
expanded its activities, however, since the mid 1970s.
National Centre for Industrial Language Training, ‘Industrial Language Training: A
Progress Report’, 1981.
J. McIlroy and J. Ball, ‘Racism at Work: The Role of Trade Union Education’,
Contemporary Affairs Briefing, Vol. 2, No. 4, September 1982, pp. 2-14.
D. Hiro, Black British, White British, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1973, p. 327.
~ pp. 325, 328, 330.
See R. Lewontin, S. Rose and L. Kamin, ‘Bourgeois Ideology and the Origins of Biological Determinism’, Race and Class, Vol. XXIV, No. 1, 1982, pp. 10-15.
Hiro, 1973, pp. 102, 104-05.
~ p. 100.
Bourne, 1980, pp. 343-45.
Hiro, 1973, pp. 101-02.
~ p. 154-155.
R. Ballard and C. Ballard, ‘The Sikhs: The Development of South Asian Settlements in
Britain’, in J. Watson (ed.), Between Two Cultures, Oxford, Blackwell, 1977, p. 36.
D. Brooke and K. Singh, ‘Pivots and Presents: Asian Brokers in British Foundries’, in
S. Wallman (ed.), Ethnicity at Work, London, MacMillan, 1979, pp. 93-112.” For an
alternative view of Asian middlemen see: M.R. Outfield, ‘Rationalisation and the Politics of Segregation: Indian Workers in the Foundry Industry, 1945-1962’, Paper presented to the Conference on the History of Anglo-Saxon Racial Ideology, Birmingham,
S. Wall man, ‘Introduction: The Scope of Ethnicity’, in Wall man (ed.), 1979, pp. 1-14.
Hiro, 1973, p. 327.
Ballard and Ballard, 1977, p. 36.
B. Dahya, ‘The Nature of Pakistani Ethnicity in Industrial Cities in Britain’, in A.
Cohen (ed.), Urban Ethnicity, London, Tavistock, 1974, pp. 77-118.
Hiro, 1973, p. 325.
M. Banton, The Coloured Quarter, London, Jonathan Cape, 1955, p. 214.
~ p. 43.
~ p. 214.
~ pp. 73-74, 214-15.
~ p. 73.
Hiro, 1973, p. 18.
~ p. 19.
~ pp. 14-17.
42 ~ p. 150.
43 R. Ballard,’ ‘Family Organisation Among the Sikhs in Britain’, New Community, Vol. 12,
No. 1, Winter 1972/1973.
44 V.S. Khan, ‘Pakistani Women in Britain’, New Community, Vol. V, No. 1-2, Summer
45 Hiro, 1973, p. 151.
46 ~ p. 152.
47 ~ p. 153.
48 ~ p. 151.
49 Ibid, p. 154.
50 ~ p. 50.
51 M. Anwar, ‘Between Two Cultures’, A Study of Relationships Between Generations in
the Asian Community in Britain, Commission for Racial Equality, 1978.
52 See M. Banton, ‘The Two Ethnicities’, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1,
1982, pp. 25-35.
53 Hiro, 1973, p. 329.
54 Wallman, 1979, p. 3.
55 ~ p. 7.
56 ~ p. 3.
57 V.S. Khan, ‘Pakistanis in Britain: Perceptions of a Population’, New Community, Vol.
V, No. 3, Autumn 1976.
58 A. Beezer and M. Barker, ‘An Inquiry into Lord Scarman on Brixton: Report on a Disorder’, Paper presented to Conference on the History and Ideology of Anglo-Saxon
Racial Attitudes, c. 1870-1970, Birmingham, September 1982, p. 18, republished in
International Socialism, Winter 1982/83.
59 See Outfield, 1982, pp. 25-27.