Immigration and Democracy, from Know-Nothings to Koran Burning

Date: 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 4:10pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

124 Mount Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Room 226, Cambridge, MA

Jack GoldstoneJack A. Goldstone, George Mason University

About the Seminar
Immigration injects new populations into the complex alignments of potential voters. Immigrants can be a target for populist demagogues, who seek to increase their political power by emphasizing the threat of newcomers as supposed enemies of the domestic way of life. Yet immigrants can also become pivotal voting blocs, particularly as they often cluster in major urban areas, or settle in key ’swing’ states where the existing balance among parties is very close. Thus even in established democracies, modest numbers of immigrants can ignite large shifts in political alignments and policies. Immigration policy itself then becomes highly politicized.

These challenges will be particularly acute in the U.S. and Europe in coming decades, as labor force growth slows and immigration from abroad will likely increase. The problem is not simply one of ’integrating’ or ’assimilating’ immigrants, but of adjusting to their effect on political alignments and outcomes – a challenge that leaders often do not anticipate. America has been the world’s most successful country in integrating immigrants, yet we still have much to learn from its struggles over Catholics’ rights in the 19th and 20th centuries as well as its conflicts over Hispanic and Muslim immigrants’ rights in the 20th and 21st centuries.

About Jack A. Goldstone
Jack Goldstone (Harvard A.B. 1976, Harvard Ph.D. 1981) is the Virginia E. and John T. Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University and a senior fellow of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He previously taught at Northwestern University and the University of California, and has been a visiting scholar at Cambridge University and the California Institute of Technology. He is the author of Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World, awarded the 1993 Distinguished Scholarly Research Award of the American Sociological Association; and eight other books and over one hundred research articles on topics in politics, economics, and long-term social change. His book States, Parties and Social Movements (also available in Chinese) was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. He has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford University and the Research School of Social Sciences at Australian National University, and has won fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies. He has also received the Arnoldo Momigliano Prize of the Historical Society, and was named a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar for 2010-2011. His latest books are Why Europe? The Rise of the West 1500-1850 (McGraw-Hill, 2008), and Political Demography: Identities, Change, and Conflict (Paradigm, 2011).

Democracy Seminar Series
The Democracy Seminar Series brings distinguished speakers to Harvard Kennedy School for the academic year to address critical challenges facing democratic governance.