I thought I’d post a recent to-and-fro from rec.arts.books. (I still look at the discussion groups on USENET now and then, and occasionally post something). It’s the answer I always give to a question people ask repeatedly. I’m not sure whether that makes it a golden oldie or a snooze, but it’s my weblog and all I can do is say the sorts of things I say.
Anyway, some puzzled soul asked
why are so many liberal elites not bothered by multiculturalism? by multiculturalism, i don’t mean multi-racialism where people of many backgrounds melt into a unified cultural identity and set of values. i mean a condition where the concept of unified or mainstream culture is disdained in favor of a mosaic of many cultures where each of them are supposed to be equal to the other.
“Multiculturalism” basically means “formalization of all significant human relationships.” Someone would favor it who wants to get rid of inherited informal arrangements and authorities, which are based on the authority of particular cultures, in favor of something more explicit, formal, universal and knowable, and therefore (supposedly) rational and controllable.
The obvious candidates for the new improved arrangements and authorities are world markets and transnational bureaucracies. The supporters of multiculturalism therefore include those who accept the understandings of human nature and rationality that make a social order based on world markets and transnational bureaucracies seem like a good idea, and also those who benefit in some particular way from such institutions.
The former now include almost everyone who takes to heart what he was taught in school. The latter include almost anyone whose status and income depend on large formal institutions: those employed in the government business, including politicians and bureaucratic functionaries, those employed in the formalized knowledge industry, including journalists and academics, and also big and especially international business, big and especially international finance, big and international everything. Basically, everyone who counts for anything. That’s why people complain but nothing can be done about multiculturalism.
I’m curious, if anyone’s still reading, if there’s a better way to make the point. No matter how many times I repeat myself the world stubbornly refuses to wake up. I begin to bore even myself.