A Moral Economy of Whiteness presents a working model for understanding the main ways in which white UK people make ‘race’ through talking about immigration in the twenty-first century. Based on extensive empirical interviews, Steve Garner establishes four overlapping frames through which white English people understand immigration. This comprises a narrative of unequal treatment, where ‘equality’ is a ‘dirty word’ because it is seen as an agenda for redistributing resources to ‘undeserving’ ethnic minorities, ‘non-integrating’ migrants and unproductive white people. Political correctness is seen as the ideological glue binding this unfair system. People are thus retreating from Britishness into a more exclusive Englishness.
Garner explores the context of these understandings: the dominance of neoliberal market rationales, in which the State deprioritises anti-discrimination work. He concludes that these frames only make sense in a social world where Britain’s imperial past has no bearing on the present, and where ‘racism’ in popular and media culture becomes purely a story of individual deviancy. This book generates numerous international points of comparison that deepen our understanding of the backlash against multiculturalism in the West. It will appeal to scholars and students of sociology, social policy, anthropology, political science, (im)migration, multiculturalism, nationalism and British studies.