In This Review
Polity, 2011, 300 pp.
The Netherlands offers a striking example of the dilemmas that immigration creates for Western societies. Despite its small size, it is not, and never was, a unitary polity. Rather, it is a divided nation that traditionally has managed complex religious, regional, and ideological differences through political institutions intricately designed for conflict resolution and power sharing. Scheffer argues that over the past two decades, these institutions have been undermined in part, but not solely, by immigration, and he believes the Netherlands and other Western countries must recognize that multiculturalism has failed. They must reconsider and broaden their conceptions of national identity, based on liberal democratic pluralism, and draw up stricter selection criteria for immigrants consistent with those values. Lest Americans crow about the superiority of their system, Scheffer points out that the American and European experiences are more similar than different and stresses that work needs to be done on both sides of the Atlantic. The book is in some ways self-indulgent, ranging too broadly across history, philosophy, and personal experience. Still, the result should be required reading for those engaged with this important issue.
Source URL: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/2012-01-01/immigrant-nations