Fifteen years ago it would have been the purest pedantry to insist on the distinction but in the light of recent history at home and abroad the confusion is dangerous. If certain kinds of social conduct were instinctive in a particular nation it is only a step to the assumption that they are not instinctive or are absent in others. In this way ethnic nationalism comes to be endowed with virtue and is reinforced.
In short, to speak of any moral quality, good or bad, as instinctive, innate or inherent in a people is, implicitly, to feed racism and most insidiously, perhaps, when it is done with bumbling innocence.
Professor of Social Anthropology
University of Sussex
10 JanuaryReuse content