Sigh. It’s enough to make you despair for your “national coalition,” also known as a “country.” It never fails to amaze me how those who are keen to talk about the constructed nature of identity and social conventions seem to think that it is therefore somehow illegitimate to maintain identities and conventions once they have been constructed. The key idea of constructivism is that we are the ones shaping and crafting the concepts we use, and that they supposedly do not derive from the nature of things. If that is so, and for the sake of argument let’s say that it is, it is ultimately no more “abhorrent” in a firm, absolute sense for one group to exclude outsiders than it is for another to include them–both kinds of treatment of outsiders serve different functions, and the kind of treatment you advocate depends very much on which function you value more and which one you think you can live without. Those who are already uninterested in the maintenance of national identity will naturally have no problem with welcoming in outsiders by the millions and tens of millions–they have made the great sacrifice of not maintaining something they didn’t value–while simultaneously declaring their greater moral sense for valuing inclusion.
The unchosen obligations, which are still imposed on us and affect us even when we react against them by rejecting them, that the liberal wants to weaken actually serve both manifest and latent functions, and it is on account of this that they are reproduced. Failing to maintain and reproduce them does actually lead to social disorder, which the liberal desperately tries to normalise and affirm as just a “different” kind of social organisation. The vast majority of human experience tells us that there is something in human nature that compels us to cultivate in-group solidarity, construct identities in opposition to other groups of people and structure relatively restrictive social rules to organise our group. Any of these things can be taken to extremes, and they can also be badly neglected. In the current age of neglect, “society” continues to trudge on in one form or another, but the social costs stemming from neglecting those old unchosen obligations have badly damaged our capacity for creating social capital.
Excesses in either direction will undermine human flourishing. Of course, confusion sets in at the beginning when you begin making liberty the baseline of judging whether or not something is desirable. Mr. Wilkinson has successfully shown once again that he hates boundary maintenance–both of the physical and the metaphorical kind–and that conservatives favour it, which is why he isn’t a conservative. Very illuminating.