11 Xenophobia and Ethno-Nationalism, 1973 to today (Quinn Slobodian)

What’s the relationship between immigration, globalization and demographics? What do a badly characterized, racist novel and an imaginatively metaphoric biology article from the 1970s have to do with that? And what is woke particularism? John and Elizabeth find out all of that and more in this discussion with Quinn Slobodian, professor of history at Wellesley College and author, most recently, of Globalists:  The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism.


They first discuss Jean Raspail‘s racist 1973 novel The Camp of the Saints, a book whose popularity in certain quarters since its publication might explain how Europe has gone from Thatcher to Brexit, from Vaclav Havel to Viktor Orban.  How is this xenophobic screed related to science fiction of the same period–and to John Locke? Pat Buchanan,  American early adapter of Raspail’s hate-mongering, figures prominently.

figure from Hardin’s “Living on a Lifeboat”

They then turn to Garrett Hardin’s “Living on a Lifeboat” and John Lanchester’s recent novel The Wall to work out the ideas of forming a society beyond or beneath the state in less obviously racist terms than Raspail’s. What kind of hard choices need to be made in allocating resources? What claims about hard choices are just a screen for the powerful to make choices that, for them, aren’t actually that hard? Does gold make things more or less nationalized? Finally, in Recallable Books, Quinn recommends the forthcoming collection Mutant Neoliberalism, edited by William Callison and Zachary Manfredi, for an attempt to really understand the politics of 2016 and beyond; Elizabeth recommends Douglas Holmes’s Economy of Words, an ethnography of central banks; and John recommends Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, a novel of solitary solidarity.

Discussed in this episode:

The Camp of the Saints, Jean Raspail

A Republic, Not an Empire and The Death of the West, Pat Buchanan

Dune, Frank Herbert

Living on a Lifeboat,” Garrett Hardin

The Lobster Gangs of Maine, James M. Acheson

The Limits to Growth, the Club of Rome

Libra, dir. Patty Newman

Slaveship Earth & the World-Historical Imagination in the Age of Climate Crisis,” Jason W. Moore

The Wall,  John Lanchester

Mutant Neoliberalism: Market Rule and Political Rupture, eds. William Callison and Zachary Manfredi

Economy of Words: Communicative Imperatives in Central Banks, Douglas R. Holmes

The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, Ursula K. Le Guin

Listen to the episode here:

(episode transcript available here: RTB Slobodian episode 11 6.15.19)

Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

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