All posts filed under: Long Read

Diversity: A Managerial Ideology

Diversity is the reigning social and political ideal of our age. It is the public ideology of the country’s most powerful state and business institutions. To many it is the essence of American national identity and, in one of the favorite phrases of President Barack Obama, ‘who we are’ as a country. Rather than simply a recognition of difference, diversity is a cultural, economic, and political project to both generate difference and to manage it. This project traces its ancestry back to the black civil rights and women’s movements of the 1950s-70s. First blacks and then women organized and pressured state and society with demands for equality. Struggles took place in nearly every social arena, from housing to public accommodations to religion to sport. Conflict was especially pointed in employment and education, the country’s key channels for upward social mobility. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 stands as the signature legal culmination of those demands, and its Titles IV and VII set forth society’s new norms on ‘equal opportunity’ in both arenas. By ensuring equal …

The One State Delusion

If you are an ardent champion of globalism, imagining how the economic and cultural interaction across political borders not only makes us more prosperous but also challenges the archaic concept of the nation-state, then Barcelona, Spain, is probably your kind of town. Barcelona, one of the world’s major global cities, is the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union (EU) and the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea, has been transformed from a manufacturing centre, the so-called Manchester from Catalonia, into a knowledge-based economy, a leading tourist and commercial centre, that has been attracting international businesses and skilled professionals. Smart, innovative, cool, hip, with world-class conferences and expositions and many international sport tournaments, and one of the fastest growing economies in Europe Barcelona, the capital of the region of Catalonia, should be a poster boy for globalism. It’s Nationalism, Stupid! Indeed, if you examine much of the evolving conventional wisdom on the current political backlash against international trade, immigration and globalization in general, Barcelona, not unlike New York City and London is one of those “global cities,” where multiculturalism reigns, immigrants are …

Has Liberalism Failed?

Fascism failed. Communism failed. The last of the three major political philosophies that clashed through the twentieth century—Liberalism—still stands. It won, whether by force of arms or argument, but is now in retreat. Regimes once liberal have recently become authoritarian; more ominously, Americans have become impatient with liberal procedures and compromises. Many of its proponents argue that these setbacks are temporary, problems to be solved by certain adjustments of policy, rhetoric, or leadership. In Why Liberalism Failed, however, Patrick Deneen argues forcefully that the problems are congenital. Liberalism was bound to fail in the end as a politics because it was doomed from the beginning by its philosophy. In this dire judgment he agrees with a whole host of present critics. Notable among them are resurgent global rivals to liberalism’s postwar world-order: Xi Jinping’s China, Putin’s Russia, Khameini’s Iran. But the critics are also domestic. In universities sustained by liberal values, ironically, postmodernists have been declaring liberalism a failure since at least 1968—sometimes for the same reasons as the foreign rivals. Deneen agrees with their …

Privilege Checking the Privilege Checkers

Having the privilege conversation is itself an expression of privilege. … It’s not just that commenting online about privilege – or any other topic – suggests leisure time. It’s also that the vocabulary of ‘privilege’ is learned at liberal-arts colleges or in highbrow publications. ~ Phoebe Maltz Bovy, “Checking Privilege Checking,” The Atlantic All societies are evil, sorrowful, inequitable; and so they will always be. So if you really want to help this world, what you will have to teach is how to live in it. ~ Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By A couple of years ago, while studying law in western Canada, I took a political science course on environmental issues taught by a renowned professor. Having become alarmed at the lack of legal protections for the environment, I hoped to learn more about the politics behind such flagrant and pervasive oversights. Unfortunately, the class was a bust. Instead of analyzing political thought and behaviour related to our current ecological crisis, the course taught a strange blend of self-help and pseudoscience. We “learned” …

Premodernism of the Future

Modernism and Postmodernism are at an impasse. This was the conclusion of yesterday’s essay. Without its argument, though, you are unlikely to agree. Most people aware of this debate—whether in the hallways of academia, the online magazines, or the corridors of power—are partisans of one side or the other. For them, there is no impasse, only a conflict between the reasonable and the foolish, the duped and the woke. Most readers of this site favor modernism, and there are many reasons to do so. Yesterday’s essay catalogued the main ones, especially universal rights and empirical science. But it also presented some scientific reasoning about reason, showing the limits of the modernist approach, including science itself. Yesterday’s essay began with Michael Aaron’s division of our culture wars into three camps: postmodernists, modernists, and traditionalists. After quickly knocking down a straw-man of traditionalism, Aaron reproduced the critiques of postmodern political excesses that are familiar to every reader of this site. Modernism was the winner by default. What he failed to consider, and in this failure he is …

The Impasse Between Modernism and Postmodernism

Buying textbooks, writing syllabi, and putting on armor. This is how many students and teachers prepared to return to campus this past fall. The last few years have witnessed an intensifying war for the soul of the university, with many minor skirmishes, and several pitched battles. The most dramatic was last spring at Evergreen State, shortly before the end of the spring semester.1 Perhaps the most dramatic since then have been at Reed College and Wilfrid Laurier University.2 There is no shortage of examples, filling periodicals left and right. Wherever it next explodes, this war promises more ferocity, causing more casualties—careers, programs, ideals. What’s at stake? According to Michael Aaron, writing after the battle at Evergreen, the campus war is symptomatic of a broader clash of three worldviews contesting the future of our culture: traditionalism, modernism, and postmodernism.3 The traditionalists, he writes, “do not like the direction in which modernity is headed, and so are looking to go back to an earlier time when they believe society was better.” Whether they oppose changes to sexual …