As four years of a Trump presidency come to an end and Brexit negotiations crawl towards increasingly unsatisfactory conclusions, Ian Dunt’s latest comment on the power inherent to liberalism is a breath of unpolluted air. Never has nationalism been more pressingly on the global agenda, especially in the wake of a pandemic that has resolutely ignored geopolitics and cross-border controls.
Dunt’s second work of non-fiction, following his critically acclaimed investigation into the referendum on EU membership, is an accessible, pacy arc of history and contemporary movements that paints portraits of key thinkers from Descartes to Harriet Taylor, political meetings held in the midst of the 1600s interregnum, the rise of communism and fascism, and the targeted oppressions of minority groups: in the time of Dreyfus, the Jewish community, and during the reign of Stalin, the Kulaks.
Now, he argues persuasively, it is attitudes to immigration – the hideous treatment of those considered geographically “other” – that proves the real battleground on which liberalism must wage “the fight for its life”. In a year during which we have been assured of the power of universal action to defeat a common enemy this begins, as Dunt suggests, with the inherent strength of the individual.