The value divides in British society that led to Brexit, and may now break up the United Kingdom, stem from the emergence in the past generation of two big value clusters: the educated, mobile people who see the world from “Anywhere” and who value autonomy and fluidity, versus the more rooted, generally less well-educated people who see the world from “Somewhere” and prioritise group attachments and security.
Goodhardt believes that those who have "high human capital" (graduates of elite universities) are likely to thrive in open, competitive systems and so are more likely than others to support open borders. Similarly, such people are more likely to look to "achieved" identities (e.g. career) rather than "ascribed" ones (e.g. nationality). He believes, also, that the expansion of higher education has increased the percentage of such people in society, so that:
...over the past generation, it has dominated the political class and the national culture. Anywhere politicians who think they are governing in the national interest are, at least some of the time, governing in the Anywhere interest — in everything from the expansion of higher education to the unprecedented openness of modern societies.
So what led him to change allegiance, and to begin to see things from the point of view of the Somewheres? He believes that part of the reason is that his own upper class/Old Etonian social background always made him something of an outsider, which,
helped to make me aware of the strangeness of some of the instincts of my north London liberal tribe in the 1980s and 1990s: the far greater concern for suffering in distant lands than just around the corner, the blank incomprehension of religious or national feeling and the disdain for the ordinary people we were meant to champion.
Goodhardt wavers on whether he wants to reform liberalism or break from it. At times he writes of the possibility of a less individualistic and universalistic liberalism, one that might still uphold particular attachments and identities:
There were several lightbulb moments as I came to see past the narrative of progress that has helped to form the shallow liberalism that dominates our politics. This narrative sees race and gender equality as a prelude to the transcending of all exclusive communities, including the nation state. But the moral equality of all human beings — the beautiful, once utopian idea that became embedded in many western constitutions in the middle of the 20th century — does not mean we have the same obligations to all human beings.
This vital caveat to universalism keeps liberalism bound to the earth, to the reality of flesh-and-blood humans with group attachments and the need to be valued and to belong. Of course modern politics — the rule of law and more recently the idea of human equality — are partly designed to tame and constrain our tribal and animal emotions. But if politics disappears too far into the individualist abstractions of law and economics it starts to see society as just a random collection of individuals.
From this caveat can flow a more mature and emotionally intelligent liberalism that sees that there really is such a thing as society and one that functions well is based on habits of co-operation and trust and bonds of language, history and culture. Newcomers can be absorbed into such societies, and can retain some of their own traditions, but unless a critical mass of them embrace the broad common norms of the society, the idea of the nation as a group of people with significant shared interests — the idea of a people — will fracture.
...An emotionally mature liberalism must also accept that white majorities, not just minorities, in western societies have ethnic attachments too and an interest in a degree of demographic stability — and it is not shameful or racist for people to feel uncomfortable if their neighbourhood changes too rapidly, whether from gentrification or ethnic change.
Other things flow from the caveat, too — things that do not challenge the core beliefs of modern liberalism but temper and qualify their more dogmatic application. The belief, for example, that men and women are equal but not identical and that some sort of gender division of labour in the home and the broader society remains popular. That order and legitimate authority in families, schools and the wider society are a necessary condition of human flourishing, not a means of crushing it. That religion, loyalty and the wisdom of tradition deserve greater respect than is common among “blank sheet” liberals who tend to focus narrowly on issues of justice and harm.
As Haidt points out — contrary to the old claim that the right is the stupid party — conservatives can appreciate a wider range of political emotions than liberals: “It’s as though conservatives can hear five octaves of music, but liberals respond to just two, within which they have become particularly discerning.”
You do not have to be a conservative or a Conservative to see this and I would regard myself as a centrist, open to ideas from left and right. Indeed I am now post-liberal and proud, and feel that for the first time in my life I have had the confidence and experience to work things out for myself.
Am I trying to save liberalism or bury it? I am certainly trying to save it from the over-reach that has produced the Brexit/Trump backlash and want to convince as many as possible from my old tribe that we need a new settlement that is more generous to the intuitions of Somewheres. Come, join me, you have nothing to lose but your comfortably consensual dinner parties.
I know some of my readers would wish for a cleaner break from liberalism than this, but the important thing is the movement away from a dissolving liberalism and toward a politics that permits the existence of real, particular, localised attachments and identities.