Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy

Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy

Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy

Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy


Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt extends Paul Gottfried's examination of Western managerial government's growth in the last third of the twentieth century. Linking multiculturalism to a distinctive political and religious context, the book argues that welfare-state democracy, unlike bourgeois liberalism, has rejected the once conventional distinction between government and civil society.

Gottfried argues that the West's relentless celebrations of diversity have resulted in the downgrading of the once dominant Western culture. The moral rationale of government has become the consciousness-raising of a presumed majority population. While welfare states continue to provide entitlements and fulfill the other material programs of older welfare regimes, they have ceased to make qualitative leaps in the direction of social democracy. For the new political elite, nationalization and income redistributions have become less significant than controlling the speech and thought of democratic citizens. An escalating hostility toward the bourgeois Christian past, explicit or at least implicit in the policies undertaken by the West and urged by the media, is characteristic of what Gottfried labels an emerging "therapeutic" state.

For Gottfried, acceptance of an intrusive political correctness has transformed the religious consciousness of Western, particularly Protestant, society. The casting of "true" Christianity as a religion of sensitivity only toward victims has created a precondition for extensive social engineering. Gottfried examines late-twentieth-century liberal Christianity as the promoter of the politics of guilt. Metaphysical guilt has been transformed into self-abasement inrelation to the "suffering just" identified with racial, cultural, and lifestyle minorities. Unlike earlier proponents of religious liberalism, the therapeutic statists oppose anything, including empirical knowledge, that impedes the expression of social and cultural gui


Among contemporary welfare states, the United States stands out as perhaps the least socialist. Major American industries are not nationalized, and, unlike in Europe, a relatively private sector provides most of the salary to well over half of America's workers. The tax burden facing American wage earners is still less than 50 percent of their gross earnings, while the percentage of the gross domestic product going to the federal government has even declined slightly over the last twenty years. Indeed, American public administration at all levels, including the armed forces, takes from those taxed less than half of what their governments impose as a percentage upon the Canadians, Germans, French, Swedes, and Italians. If these standards of comparison were all we had for measuring political freedom, Americans would be justified in rejoicing at their liberty. Like Goethe they might proclaim, with good reason, “Amerika Du hast es besser.” After all, public administration in the United States seems leaner and less intrusive than it is in European countries.

But this is not the entire picture. Although the United States as a redistributionist state has lagged behind other governments, in one respect it has created the authoritative model for the rest of the world. Our welfare state since midcentury has become increasingly preoccupied with modifying social behavior. And while American administrative democracy has not gone as far economically as nationalizing production, it has moved into socializing “citizens” through publicly controlled education and wars against discrimination. Such reconstructionist initiatives have been taken in response to what the state, the media, and “victim” groups designate as a crisis, a surging outburst of prejudice that supposedly must be contained and whose representatives need to be reeducated.

In the first volume of this work, an attempt was made to trace the intellectual foundations of the American therapeutic state through a series of . . .

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