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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Richard Hoggart

Virtue and Reward
Fred Inglis


What calls for celebration in Hoggartian language, however, is the 'slow, uncertain, sometimes grudging accommodation of the English people to the human facts of immigration. In a way exceptional on the globe, an unignorable quantity of black newcomers have had ceded and have won for themselves a recognized new home, have largely overcome gross prejudice, have proved indispensable to the domestic economy. The passable open-mindedness of the old democracy, a culture which, grotesque disparities in wealth notwithstanding, strug­gles to honour the idea of equality, has brought off - a race riot or two aside - the peaceable provision of home and membership to a large number of black people formerly treated for half a millennium and worldwide as either subhuman or stripped of rights and freedom and fit only for slavery.


That massive achievement itself bears witness to the continuities Hoggart affirmed and may be counted one big sign of good health in the condition of uncertain unity among the four nations of Britain. Even if senior politicians on the political Right will beat from time to time the old, vicious drum against immigration, their targets are these days more likely to be from Latvia or Romania than the Caribbean.


This rather abstract even if commonly known and felt victory over human meanness gives us some reassurance that there remains an old acceptance of things still playing its groundbass in British culture, that 'live and let live' retains its benignant and bracing force, that 'the immediate, the present and the cheerful', in Hoggart's words, still find their happy and glorious expression in everyday life. But another unmistakably huge cultural change may at this distance also be understood as expression of these same tolerant and understand­ing habits of moral vocabulary. That change, which so casually and explicitly marked the whole society after precisely 1963 when the contraceptive pill became publicly available, was the quite sudden concessiveness agreed upon as to sexual permission and conduct….