Strangers at Our Door puts forward an alternative narrative, one that is humanitarian, about refugees and migrants. It succeeds in combating the racist propaganda churned out by the media and our politicians.
Bauman correctly lambasts them for causing public anxiety by portraying migrants as overwhelming Europe and portending the demise of the European way of life.
The book is readable and engaging. It exposes the destabilisation of states by western policies and military ventures. This is one of the main factors in the movement of refugees since the Second World War. It uncovers cynical measures employed by our ruling class to let in limited numbers for its own interest in cheap foreign labour. Meanwhile politicians impose austerity and whip up hostility towards refugees.
The author shows how combined and uneven economic development manifests itself in migration from low income countries to rich ones. The rich and the privileged can shut themselves off in gated communities, while the wretched conditions of the poor means enmity towards newcomers.
This is a strongly anti-racist and anti-capitalist book. Bauman confronts the realities, for example showing how the Front National in France has gathered votes and pace with those at the bottom layers of society under the bridle of globalisation.
After the Paris attacks the atmosphere of a state of emergency has given life to myths about terrorist plots and conspiracies on the home front.
Bauman argues that we need to establish alternative priorities, social investment, inclusion, solidarity and have a society free of disenfranchisement.
He lambasts racist Donald Trump and argues for socialist change against corporate elites who are responsible for devastation of working class communities. He rightly praises Bernie Sanders for putting socialism back on the agenda.
The author also uses a materialist understanding of history showing how early human societies were egalitarian and migratory. Migration was built in to the mode of life. Hence coming to the conclusion borders are a man-made feature of capitalist society.
The book illustrates how European powers are at the forefront of the racist war against migrants. It echoes the lessons of the Holocaust that detention camps will no longer be used exclusively for refugees but against those generally considered to be undesirable.
Dangerous policies by the EU in creating border guards and controls mean violations of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. The author is rightly concerned about the EU policy of seizing refugees’ jewellery and cash.
Strangers at Our Door analyses the psyche of racism but falls short of identifying the role of the working class in beating this back. And the potential for black and white to unite against our rulers.