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December 7, 2016

For some time I’ve noticed the growing popularity of the word nativist in political discourse. I’d never heard it until a year or so ago and now it’s everywhere. It’s used by leftwing or liberal commentators, invariably with disapproval, of popular nationalist movements, and political parties like UKIP that want to limit immigration quite severely. But what does it mean, exactly? I just googled nativism and the definition by Merriam-Webster said: “a policy of favouring native inhabitants over immigrants”. It’s a handy word. One can’t actually call Nigel Farage a racist. That’s libel. You’d end up in court. But ‘nativist’ – it carries a strong hint of condemnation, but it’s not actionable. Like any label it can be over-used or misapplied, but overall I think it’s a useful addition to our political vocabulary; as long as the accusation is actually backed by evidence of favouritism towards indigenous inhabitants, and isn’t just name-calling.

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Not to muddy the waters but the psychological definition of nativism is that it’s the opposite to empiricism in that one is innate and the other learned. Can opinions be innate?

  2. Ah, yes. That’s a different usage of the same word. It was definition 2 in Merriam-Webster.

  3. Iain permalink

    I was wondering if people googled for things before Google. Has google become a verb in an official capacity and if so, do I use it with a small g or not? I suppose we hoover rather than vacuum even if we use a Vax or Dyson, but the same uncertainty applies in my confused mind. Please help!

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