Primordial Beliefs and Immigration Policy: The Case of Britain’s Patrials

Christian Joppke

in Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780520241367
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520937857 | DOI:
Primordial Beliefs and Immigration Policy: The Case of Britain’s Patrials

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This chapter focuses on the persistence or demise of primordial beliefs in this sector of society — Britain's immigration policies. It tackles this in a Smelserian manner, with respect for the complexity of the historical case and a stress on process and mechanism that does not prejudice beforehand the relative role of ideational, structural, or contingent factors. In this chapter, the focus is on Britain's postcolonial immigration policy which aimed to give preferences to “patrials”, or the non-citizens who have some prior attachment, by birth or kinship, to the British homeland. This preference arose from shared general beliefs among the elites and the masses of Britain on issues such as race, culture, and religion. This chapter shows instead that the only publicly acknowledged legitimate primordial belief was kinship, and that the partial preference was articulated in that manner. It is suggested that such “aesthetic” cultural concerns with exemplary validity increasingly countered “liberal norms of neutrality”. It is argued that the continuing pressure for critical universalism undermined the partial policy and forced Britain to search for more even-handed and pluralist policies. In this manner, the modern state became more differentiated not only from economy and religion but also from ethnicity. The chapter argues that the reality of social complexity can often undermine the exemplary validity of generalized belief.

Keywords: primordial beliefs; immigration policies; Britain; patrials; general beliefs; beliefs; critical universalism

Chapter.  9822 words. 

Subjects: Social Theory

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