Notes on multicultural culture

I’ve said that multicultural is really a-cultural, since culture that cannot be public and authoritative is not culture but private habit and taste. Naturally, that description simplifies things a bit. No human group can function without common habits and understandings that its members are entitled to rely on. Multicultural society therefore has its own culture, one that trumps and suppresses the particular inherited cultures it claims to respect.

That culture is based on the needs of the bureaucratic and market institutions that dominate the society of which it is part. It thus incorporates scientism as a theory of publicly-valid knowledge and technocratic hedonism as a theory of value. Everything else is personal taste. Since it is based on such thin principles and such a narrow range of institutions it is inadequate to the needs of life as a whole. It seems satisfactory mostly to those who have experienced very little and faced few reverses, and whose main connections relate in some way to their careers. Such people have little inclination or even choice but to accept what they are told. Multicultural culture is therefore preferentially a youth culture. Since it makes personal identity a matter of career and consumption it is most satisfactory to yuppies—to those who hope to have impressive careers and think their tastes and knowledge give them an advantage in the game of competitive consumption. Perhaps for that reason radical class differences have recently become apparent in such indicia of social well-being as marital stability.

Still, life does eventually bring slights, conflicts and defeats, and the “me” generation has been given no way to deal with them. For an indication of how that works out among intelligent, well-educated and generally successful yuppies, and for a visit to a world that recognizes nothing higher than lust, greed, envy, ambition, resentment and hatred, take a look at websites like Gawker and Wonkette. It’s quite depressing. Such sites obviously don’t capture everything about their target audience, but they evidently capture something. There has to be a better way.

3 thoughts on “Notes on multicultural culture”

  1. Multicultural culture: rugged, sturdy, and here to stay?
    Jim Kalb notes a weakness of multicultural culture, or pluralism:

    Since it is based on such thin principles and such a narrow range of institutions it is inadequate to the needs of life as a whole.

    Though it is inadequate to the needs of life as a whole, this will not threaten its survival. I want to share a model of pluralism, probably a weak one, which accounts for why pluralism is probably here to stay.

    Pluralism is the structuring of group life for the production and satisfaction of inclusive preferences. That structuring regulates action by means of targeting aim formulation. Law and infotainment restrict the set of possible aims to those of inclusive desire. This restricted set of motives for action ensures inclusive preference production, and the resulting action ensures inclusive preference satisfaction.

    This work of inclusive preference production makes for a strong system. It’s soulcraft, and that’s why pluralism’s purported neutrality is such maddening mind-rape. Since we form our characters—our ethos—by means of aim formulation and choice making, pluralist group life is training for living pluralist. And when we live pluralist, we are at the same time performing the structuring of group life—and character—that is pluralism. Pluralist structuring is just what comes out when you’re being yourself. Agency and structure meet, and this meeting, this pluralist structuring, carries the system forward through time.

    You live pluralist, you become pluralist, and because that is who you are, all that you will ever desire is exactly what pluralism delivers. It’s just going to grow and grow. It’s getting bigger and stronger every day, and it’s coming for us.

    Pluralism is bad for people. It forms them to misrecognize as hateful fantasies the very activities that would perfect them as persons, knowing truth and loving the good. But people like it, and they like it because they’re pluralists. Pluralism makes pluralists who make pluralism: that is its act.

    • Rage against the machine
      You’re right that it’s enormously powerful, largely because we get formed or deformed in its image so that it seems an immediate expression of simple moral reality. That’s why it’s important to emphasize its metaphysical basis, since metaphysics has to do with basic categories of what’s real. Dealing with it requires a response at that level. So the issue is how to overthrow a metaphysical outlook that dominates all public discussions and institutions, and is immensely effective and well-guarded on its own ground, but is obviously insufficient for life and the world as a whole. Part of the answer has to be living differently. Turn on, tune in, drop out.

      Rem tene, verba sequentur.

      • Angry hope
        Rage against the machine, indeed. Or, as Peter Chojnowski puts it, “Angry hope”.” This is the stance to hold against the deformation machines emancipating people and eradicating peoples, yet fêted and fawned over, across the entire culture.

        Yes, it’s the metaphysical outlook that determines the set of possible aims, and so it must be transformed. Even getting people on board with a science of changeable being that concludes to the existence of spiritual beings and establishes the possibility of another science, metaphysics, would do wonders. Persuading others that science is knowledge of causes, that formal and final causality are real, and that descriptions of them, especially final, are descriptions of facts and not values: this would change everything. To recognize good activity by means of utterances and actions would no longer be hate.


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