Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Illusions vs. Perversity: "Multiculturalism" and the Prospects for Democracy

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Illusions vs. Perversity: "Multiculturalism" and the Prospects for Democracy

Article excerpt

Rhetorical slogans explain much of multiculturalism's appeal to the uninitiated. The movement's dynamic thrust, driven by radical deconstructionists, is increasingly antithetical to its liberal ideological symbolism. Both the illusory premises of the latter and the Hobbesian implications of deconstructionist dominance are assessed. A contrasting societal paradigm represented by an emergent socio-cultural conservative movement is elaborated. Whether "democracy" can survive this intensifying "culture war" is questionable.

Key Words: Multiculturalism, socio-cultural conservatism, deconstructionism, social division, ideological inversions, neo-conservatism, Balkanization, Liberal inconsistencies.

Ideological Sources of Symbolic Appeal

The question was well-framed by Natasha, a recently naturalized American, "How can any well-intentioned person be critical of 'multiculturalism' or immigration? Aren't we a "nation of immigrants?"" Like "democracy," "freedom," and perhaps "the family," multiculturalism as "diversity" has assumed a salient place in elite American ideological rhetoric.

Why then do many American citizens react skeptically to a concept that appears so broad?2 Indeed, many groups in Europe, Asia and elsehere have adopted identity-based communitarianism to reinforce nationalist programs. Such partly racially-based cultural defense movements are in many countries broadening their constituencies among more traditional lower-middle, working class and rural constituencies.3

Although many left-of center parties are experiencing such desertions by traditional supporters to the "nativist" right, it affronts their "tolerance" to seriously consider ideas articulated by even moderate conservatives. Indeed, numerous Liberals have themselves during the past century joined Marxists in displaying a chauvinistic disdain for the intellectual perspicacity of their more conservative opponents. This despite the costliness, bureaucratic weight and spotty record of success for many of their own pet programs.

Notwithstanding such Liberal hubris and disrespect for conservative social theorists, the latter have in recent years generated serious empirical and evaluative critiques of various statist socialengineering schemes as well as of the "multiculturalist" variant.' While multiculturalist tenents obviously provide a way of ordering as well as ascribing meaning to socio-political phenomena and prescribing norms for behavior, like the content of other modern ideologies they ultimately rest upon problematic beliefs that often distort Liberal perceptions.

Multicultural activism generally contravenes both abstract Liberal symbols and ubiquitous regularities of normal human behavior. Indeed, moderate conservatives regard "multiculturalist" policies as self-defeating in terms of outcomes, as well as inimical to merit-based "social justice." Even worse, multiculturalist policies intensify social distrust as well as undermine the rule of law, civility, and the very foundations of even an imperfectly democratic social order.

These pernicious consequences flow for the most part not from the liberal internationalist or humanitarian beliefs that are founded upon the universalist pretensions of most elite sympathizers. The symbolic appeals to "equal rights," "respect for diversity," "inclusiveness," "fulfillment of democracy," etc., are integral to this nominal ideology, which is inspired by the liberal and in varying degree therapeutic as well as social democratic traditions.

Their advocacy by well-intentioned and frequently guilt-prone Liberals not only gives the movement an aura of ideological legitimacy, but obscures a symbiotic dependency of this institutional elite stratum upon radical cadres whose neo-Martian and Nietzchean inspiration account for a militantly confrontational zero-sum operational paradigm. Thus, there is a disconnect between the liberal rhetoric and the totalitarian methods the multiculturalists use. …

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