Identity and Migration

The dilemma of immigration and identity ultimately converges with the larger problem of the valuelessness of postmodernity. The rise of relativism has made it harder for postmodern people to assert positive values and therefore the kinds of shared beliefs that they demand of migrants as a condition for citizenship. Postmodern elites, particularly those in Europe, feel that they have evolved beyond identities defined by religion and nation and have arrived at a superior place. But aside from their celebration of endless diversity and tolerance, postmodern people find it difficult to agree on the substance of the good life to which they aspire in common.

Immigration forces upon us in a particularly acute way discussion of the question “Who are we?”, posed by Samuel Huntington. If postmodern societies are to move towards a more serious discussion of identity, they will need to uncover those positive virtues that define what it means to be a member of the wider society. If they do not, they may be overwhelmed by people who are more sure about who they are.

Francis Fukuyama, Identity and Migration

The problem, of course, is that postmodern society is essentially devoid of concrete values; what values exist are remnants, memories and echoes from earlier epochs. That does not, however, necessarily rob a society of impetus; it is quite possible to forge actions and policies guided by nothing more than one’s immediate situation alongside the background remnants of values. It does seriously undermine such a society, even if not existentially. Can our society succesfully arrive at some common ground of value and meaning? I rather doubt it, at least for the foreseeable future.

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