Our Sort and Their Sort

Ralf Dahrendorf

Every country has its social obsession, and class is undoubtedly the British, or at any rate English, obsession. It is, to be sure, more amusing than some others. When Franz Josef Strauss recently argued that the Nazis had, after all, been ‘National Socialists’ and were therefore closer to the Social Democrats than to him, his extraordinary invective backfired, but the intensity of the public debate that followed showed that the subject was close to an understandable, and deadly serious, German obsession. Perhaps ‘ethnicity’ is now the American equivalent (we are not told how the little boy in the New Yorker cartoon felt when he failed to get an answer from his father to the question: ‘Dad, are we ethnic?’).

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