Like many Americans, I grew up holding the view that America needed to evolve with respect to gender, race and gay relations in order to live up to its creed and “form a more perfect Union.” I viewed the attainment of women’s suffrage which accompanied the passage of the 19th Amendment, the ’64 Civil Rights Act, Brown v. Board of Education and the gay marriage equality movement as crucial steps towards achieving the Union that the Founders surely envisioned.
But if the rhetoric of #Blacklivesmatter and LGBT activists as well as prominent professional feminists and politicians is to be believed, racial and gender relations are worse than ever. Despite all that’s been achieved in the political arena, the concerns of feminist, LGBT and civil rights activists have conjoined over the past several decades to fight what is seemingly an omnipresent, all-encompassing oppression. These intertwined agendas now form the foundations of what is best described as a secular fundamentalism known colloquially as Social Justice.
Paul Gottfried’s brilliant and essential examination of modern social justice politics from 2002, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt, unpacks the origins of what has transformed from an arguably principled pursuit of gender and racial egalitarianism into a toxic and repressive cult that’s deeply and inextricably linked to the democratic managerial state. Just as Christina Hoff Sommers presciently punctured feminism’s hot air balloon of manufactured grievances, Paul Gottfried’s book provides a badly needed sober analysis of the philosophical and legislative roots of modern identity and social justice politics.
Though the classical model of state ownership of industry that defined socialism throughout the 20th century has fallen out of favor, Gottfried argues that this agenda has been implemented through a more sophisticated form of socialism. Building from the insights of his previous work, After Liberalism, Gottfried argues that the democratic managerial welfare state is where the contemporary socialist priesthood and their fellow social engineers have devoted their efforts. The welfare state is not just limited to dispensing material goods. It must administer a therapeutic form of national unity. This new secular theocracy of multiculturalism and diversity has been integrated into social services, public education, and most prominently, in higher education. It is amplified by the high priests in Hollywood films, television and mass media with a fervor that rivals the most devout religious zealots.
He further argues that contemporary identity politics is best described as deformation of Protestant principles. Protestantism’s anti-hierarchical and anti-communitarian tendencies combined with a healthy dose of Calvinist guilt created the perfect template for a new secular theocracy. In other words, the past was rife with retrogressive attitudes and oppression, and subsequently, the modern liberal who is concerned about upholding the new progressive virtue will seek to uplift groups perceived to be the brunt of systemic oppression and denigrate his own group if he’s atop the hierarchy of “privilege.”
One of the most astonishing arguments presented is Gottfried’s contention that the push to manage consciousness and behavior was the domestic policy correlate to international military intervention. The contemporary managerial state has origins in The Great Society and the shift towards affecting outcomes which accompanied its implementation. In 1966, President Johnson openly declared the following:
The overriding rule which I want to affirm today is this: that our foreign policy must always be an extension of this Nation’s domestic policy. Our safest guide to what we do abroad is always take a good look at what we are doing at home.
It makes perfect sense because today’s social justice jihad, like the War on Terror, is a war without end. The only difference is that it’s a culture war which naturally splits the population into competing groups and pits them against one another. Gottfried’s analysis of the never-ending crusade to purge and suppress any symbols, ideas or speech which might inflict “harm” or be perceived as “discriminatory” is devastatingly accurate. The administrators of the managerial state have managed to succeed in producing an outcome that masks its coercive nature and goes beyond what legislation alone could have achieved. Through the steady drip of therapeutic propaganda, the engineers of the managerial state have bred a generation of cultural revolutionaries who place a higher value on the perceived virtues of multiculturalism than American principles of classical liberalism or constitutionalism. The government doesn’t need to impose mandates from on high; the ambassadors of multiculturalism have bred a generation which gives total and unquestioned fealty to the perceived virtues of “diversity” and whose abject worship of authority is perhaps unsurpassed in American history. Contemporary champions of social justice are waging their own homegrown Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the state is just waiting for the opportunity to deliver the repressions they so deeply crave.
Another key feature of the social justice/multicultural Left highlighted by Gottfried is its battle against what it perceives as “antifascism.” While politicians make denunciations of leaders like Jörg Haider who express Nazi sympathies, social justice warriors denounce those who express unpopular or what are perceived to be “bigoted” sentiments in order to forestall the omnipresent threat of a slide into a new Third Reich. Following the pattern set by Johnson in Vietnam, this feature of social justice activism also has a military analogue. Even when American politicians carry out military action against someone with Marxist-Leninist beliefs like Slobodan Milošević or Islamic dictators like Saddam Hussein, these tyrants get tarred as “Right Wing” dictators and American politicians get a free pass to pursue whatever military action they please. The “antifascist” Left has reached an absurd crescendo with the advent of the Trump campaign. Despite having a platform that’s an incoherent hodgepodge of positions drawn from the Right and Left as well as opposition from neocons, party apparatchiks and military leaders alike, Trump’s rhetoric and identification with the GOP has legions of progressives denouncing him as the second coming of Mussolini and Hitler combined.
Gottfried further argues that the other aspect of the “antifascist” multicultural Left is the crusade against perceived xenophobia. While governments pursue an agenda of unchecked militarism abroad, refugees of war torn countries seek asylum in the West, and politicians are all too happy to accommodate in the name of “diversity.” When a segment of Americans and Europeans oppose the efforts, the multicultural Left predictably denounces opponents of immigration as “racist” and “xenophobic.” Though most people in the West are sympathetic to immigrants who are seeking to improve their station in life, pointing out the potential problems in any way is evidence of “xenophobia” and “racism.” Despite the recent unprecedented tragedy of several hundred women being assaulted in Cologne on a single evening or the worst act of terrorism on American soil since 9/11, all criticism or skepticism of immigration must be purged from discussion. The effects of low skills and education or sharp cultural differences between those raised in Islamic countries under Sharia Law are not taken into account. Subsequently, a rational debate about immigration cannot take place resulting in an ever escalating set of tensions with opponents of immigration predictably branded as racist. This schism has only become more pronounced with the ascendancy of the Trump candidacy.
The role of social science in shaping the prevailing consensus around multiculturalism cannot be gainsaid. Building from the foundations laid by the likes of John Dewey and Herbert Croly, the modern social scientists “proclaim a postreligious science and equate the promotion of the social good with acts of will.” These doctrines of groupthink and collectivism which assign higher virtue to social construction of personal identity have been championed by feminists and social engineers who seek nothing less than to recode human nature. One need only look at the state of affairs on college campuses throughout America and Europe to see the poison fruits of this ill conceived social experiment.
The only piece of the multicultural, social justice Left which Gottfried omits is climate change activism. Intersectional social justice, feminism and climate change activism comprise a trifecta of modern progressive virtue. Together, these three articles of faith form a seamless fabric of modern day statist piety.
As the chants of the social justice, multicultural Left grow louder and the retribution meted out by self-appointed social justice cops and government officials alike becomes increasingly petty and punitive, the need for measured, philosophical opposition grows in proportion. With this book, Paul Gottfried has identified an ideological toxin whose effects are everywhere, but whose origins are unacknowledged or unseen.
Multicultural social justice politics have achieved dominance in academia, mass media entertainment and are even making inroads into public schools and the military. The virtues of Diversity, Inclusion and Feminism are openly and routinely extolled by politicians, entertainers and academics. Cornel West and Ta-Nahisi Coates have made cottage industries of proclaiming the dire state of race relations in America. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau preaches the gospel of feminism to the UN. Hillary Clinton proclaims her feminist credentials to a giddy Lena Dunham. The 2016 Oscars were a cringe inducing paean to Hollywood’s “diversity crisis.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk is mandatory reading in Sweden. On and on.
It’s imminently clear which people are invested in promoting the Gospel of the Church of Multiculturalism. Fortunately, many now recognize it for what it is: a decades-long advanced propaganda campaign designed to debilitate the individual, destabilize family and hereditary culture, and assign virtue to victimhood. Above all, it’s an elitist, intellectual grift for rent seeking blowhards who want nothing more than to inculcate total deference to state authority, expand their own cults of personality and enlarge their academic fiefdoms. This book is an essential read for those who still prioritize liberty and self-determination over the megalomania of academics, social justice warriors, politicians and so-called social scientists.