Somewheres Versus Anywheres
BIRMINGHAM, England—A clash between two hidden groups with different identities and values is driving the wave of so-called populism in much of the West, according to new book published in March.
“People from Somewhere versus people from Anywhere” is a new concept that some commentators believe will permeate the United Kingdom’s national conversation for years. The contest between these groups likely added fuel to the wave of nationalism in Europe, the U.K.’s exit from the European Union, and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.
The labels for the two groups come from the new book “The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics.”
Author David Goodhart says society has increasingly been shaped by a group of people whose identity and self-worth is not tied to place, but rather to their achievements and position: the Anywheres. That domination is now being challenged by the Somewheres: people whose identity and worth is rooted in place and attachment to a group
A longhaired academic and a young entrepreneur might differ in political and economic outlook and in class background, but they both belong to the Anywhere tribe, he explains. On the other side, upper-class people living in the countryside and working-class people stuck in a city would both have a strong attachment to the local areas and groups—putting them both in the Somewhere tribe.
Goodhart, who is head of the demography, immigration, and integration unit at the think tank Policy Exchange, said that the Anywheres make up 20 to 25 percent of the U.K. population and Somewheres around 50 percent. The rest are what he calls Inbetweeners.
Goodhart uses the label “decent populism” to understand the values of the majority of Somewheres. He says that the Anywheres and Somewheres do not map completely onto those who chose Remain or Leave in the vote on Brexit, pointing out that voting was also motivated by specific policy issues.
The Leave vote was quickly labeled as backlash from those who had been left behind economically by globalization. But various surveys show that Brexit cuts across lines of political affiliation, class, and economics—and it shows a strong correlation to other values. (One of the strongest predictors of a vote for or against Brexit is one’s attitude toward the death penalty)
Some 68 percent of U.K. graduates voted to remain in the EU, according to a YouGov poll.
Goodhart says graduates are more likely to belong to the Anywhere group because residential colleges at universities in effect uproot people from their locale and sever their attachment to place, replacing these with the portable identities of the other Anywheres that surround them.
In 1984, 92 percent of university students in the U.K. lived on campus.
People from the Anywhere group tend to have values that are associated with their life experience. “In other words, they tend to value freedom, openness, social diversity, ” he said.
“If you have an achieved identity, you tend to become more mobile, you can fit anywhere. Your sense of identity is connected to those achievements.”
Somewheres, on the other hand, have an ascribed identity.
“The less well-educated tend to value familiarity, security, and also they tend to value group attachments,” he said.
“Anywheres are suspicious of group attachments—they don’t feel them themselves.”
He gives the example of one survey that showed only 22 percent of university graduates live within 15 minutes of their mother, compared with 47 percent of people who only have the equivalent of a high school education.
Goodhart says that the Somewhere and Anywhere groupings can be broadly applied to Europe and the United States.
“I keep emphasizing that I’ve invented the labels, but I’ve not invented the actual value groups,” he said.
Somewheres and Anywheres also tend to have different concepts of who constitutes the “corrupt elite,” he said.
“Elites come in many shapes and sizes. We’ve tended to focus more on the ‘money elites’ and less on the ‘value elites.'”
“The over-domination of the Anywheres has caused the detachment from politics of many voters who think it doesn’t matter who is in power.”
Currently, Anywhere values dominate policymaking regardless of which party is in power, since the groupings cut across political lines.
He points to a survey that asks the question of whether Britain feels like a foreign country. “Astonishingly large numbers of people agree with that—62 per cent. This seems a remarkable thing for such a good, successful society as ours.”
“Some of it is cultural conservatism. People value cultural conservatism—most people don’t like rapid change.
“The sense of what is valued in our society is so much narrower these days, it is so focused on educational attainment. … We seem to have narrowed the way in which we value people.”
Goodhart himself voted to remain in the EU. He believes that understanding the hidden values of the Somewheres and Anywheres is vital to making good policy decisions.