Inclusiveness: an introduction

[The following is the first of what will likely be a sporadic series of longish entries.]

Liberals believe that the benefits of society should be equally available to all. They have recently come to hold that it is a basic responsibility of government and indeed all institutions to make them so. Failure to do so is support for oppression through participation in a system of inequality.

The demands of the resulting campaign for equality have broadened with time. They now include inclusiveness, which can be understood as an attempt to achieve comprehensive political, economic, and social equality among groups by integrating each of them into all social activities at all levels.

Specifically, inclusiveness requires that persons of every race, ethnicity, religious background, sex, disability status, and sexual orientation participate equally in all major social activities, with roughly equal representation and success the measure of equal opportunity to do so.

It goes with other closely related ideals, so that we can speak of a “diverse tolerant inclusive multicultural society.” Those ideals differ in emphasis. “Tolerance,” for example, suggests the dangers of hatred and persecution, while “diversity” and “multiculturalism” strike a more positive note. Multiculturalism plays up the mixture of cultural standards, suggesting kaleidoscopic choice. Diversity celebrates the variety of the groups to be included, and implies strength, since each group is thought to contribute something special.

Whatever the distinctions among them, the ideals are interpreted so broadly that each implies the others.

Its status

Today people view inclusiveness as an unavoidable moral aspiration. Social policies that promote it enjoy powerful political support and pervade all aspects of life. Some people oppose some aspects of its implementation, and most people find it a bit silly at times, but almost no one speaks openly against it as a principle.

To oppose it, people believe, is to attack the weak and marginalized and so offend ordinary decency. A tendency toward such conduct is thought pervasive, since otherwise the need for inclusiveness would never have become an issue. That belief gives advanced liberals an antagonistic attitude toward their own society, and justifies their efforts to control and radically transform it in spite of their stated commitments to freedom and popular rule.

Its religious quality

Inclusiveness is an overriding goal always to be striven for but never quite achieved. It presents a vision of human unity in a world without outsiders and without borders, one in which there is no “they” but only “we.”

It thus has a religious quality. When so viewed it can be seen as basic to what amounts to an established religion. As such, its authority enables it to determine what can be discussed and treated as real. Every view on every topic must align with it to be treated as legitimate. The president of Harvard University and America’s most eminent living scientist recently discovered the strength of that principle when they made comments on sex and race that offended inclusivist dogma.

Since there can only be one established religion, traditional religions that want to remain socially acceptable have had to subordinate themselves to inclusiveness. In mainline churches the Gospel is now said to be “radically inclusive” above all else. Racism, with sexism and homophobia in tow, is the new original sin requiring perpetual confession and atonement. Inclusiveness is therefore the supreme spiritual as well as social virtue, and as such covers a multitude of sins. Anyone, whatever his other qualities, can become superior to the traditionally moral simply by invoking it.

Its demands

The effect is to debunk traditional authorities, and so facilitate comprehensive social transformation. Whatever is insufficiently diverse must diversify. Institutions that are morally laden must be reconstructed. Marriage must include “gay marriage,” family be redefined to include every possible living arrangement. Grammar must be neutered and corrected, festivals turned into festivals of inclusiveness.

More broadly, the American people must abolish itself as a specific people defined by anything but inclusiveness. To do otherwise would be racism and deprive that people of legitimacy and the moral right to exist in any event. The means toward that goal include mass immigration, refusal to enforce immigration laws, and affirmative action to force the diversity so imported into every possible setting.

So intense is the demand for diversity and inclusiveness that even the military, which has urgent reason to prefer effectiveness and loyalty to country, now puts the newer imperative first. Three days after the massacre of more than a dozen soldiers by a Muslim officer whose serious professional failings and patently jihadist sympathies had studiously been ignored in the interests of diversity, the Army Chief of Staff thought it worth observing that “as great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.”

Most abstractly, inclusiveness requires eradication of standards that have traditionally ordered social life, since those standards require differing treatment of persons. The new standard is that the old standards are bad, and violating them is good because it helps get rid of what remains of them.

The result is that central and marginal have changed places. In mainstream settings Islam is routinely shown as a religion of peace, homosexual couples as tolerant and loving, blacks as wise and spiritual, and immigrants as the true Americans. In contrast, Christianity is presented as a religion of war and aggression, Middle Americans as violent and irrational, traditional marriage as hateful, oppressive, divisive, and pathological, and Republicans as the Taleban.

Any flaws in the groups promoted to centrality must be whitewashed, the more severe the flaws the heavier the coating. AIDS has sanctified homosexuality, Muslim terrorism has made Islamophobia a sin, and black dysfunction has led to insistence on the hipness and nobility of blacks, the tackiness of ordinary whites, and the oppressiveness of white society.

Normality and deviancy have been interchanged. Anything else would cast doubt on diversity, tolerance, and inclusiveness, and that would be unthinkable for principles that now count as social and religious absolutes.

Happy talk

There has been little serious discussion of the political, social, and cultural implications of the demand for inclusiveness. Everyone officially thinks it’s wonderful, although nobody can say just why and the celebration is somewhat lacking in enthusiasm.

What criticism there is mostly has to do with particular aspects or strategies of inclusion, or occasionally libertarian arguments against coerced association.

An evident reason for the situation is that fundamental criticism of inclusiveness would itself violate inclusiveness by making it doubtful that all are equally welcome. A regime of inclusiveness cannot coexist with doubt. Problems with diversity and inclusiveness must therefore be swept under the rug. The greater the problem, the more people must keep quiet about it.

That, at bottom, is why all large institutions have to “celebrate diversity.” The need to avoid lawsuits makes any other course impractical. Allowing negative comment would suggest the legitimacy of opposing antidiscrimination laws, and by contributing to a discriminatory atmosphere could even violate them. The more cogent the criticism the greater the violation.

Restrictions have therefore grown tighter as the inclusiveness regime has developed and problems have become more evident. Well into the 90s well-known writers, notably Richard Epstein, Thomas Sowell, and Dinesh D’Souza, were able to publish books with major publishers questioning basic assumptions of inclusiveness and sometimes specifically opposing antidiscrimination laws. Even less favored writers, such as Jared Taylor, were able to publish books with mainstream presses.

Today nothing similar seems possible. To all appearances, the publication of The Bell Curve, which—however cautiously—brought the issue of race and genetics into play at the highest level of discussion, brought relative freedom to an end by making evident the need for a stronger system of practical censorship. The cases of Lawrence Summers and James Watson demonstrate the current strength of the taboo.

A few commentators continue to raise concerns about homosexuality and the violent tendencies of Islam. Fewer mention cultural issues regarding immigration. Almost nobody except a very few religious conservatives—the Southern Baptists are the major example—continue to object to the abolition of traditional sex roles.

Such concerns are routinely treated in mainstream discussion as absurd, outdated, sectarian, or hateful. The Southern Baptists are typically treated as comical, those who mention immigration dismissed as “nativist” or “racist.” Most recently, those who object to the full normalization of homosexuality have come to be targets of fury and abuse. And violation of accepted protocols on race makes one an instant pariah.


As social and moral standards, inclusiveness and related principles are quite novel. No previous society has given them anything like the status they now enjoy. It is natural to become confused about their meaning and implications.

That is especially so since the principles necessarily contradict themselves. For example, they create their own exclusions. They could hardly do otherwise, since they establish a way of organizing society, and every method of organizing makes distinctions, excludes possibilities, and imposes disciplines.

That is why inclusiveness, tolerance, and diversity do not apply in their own case. Inclusiveness leaves out excluders, toleration casts out bigots, diversity insists everyone agree with it. It is also accepted that arrangements intended to benefit traditional victims of exclusion are exempt from inclusiveness. If Bill Gates wants to set up a special scholarship program for non-whites, he is free to do so.

Such features of inclusiveness have drawn a great deal of right-wing comment. If almost everyone is intolerant by official standards, and intolerance must be suppressed by all available means, is the result really going to be freedom and democracy?

A yet more basic issue as to the coherence of inclusiveness has mostly been ignored except by a few idiosyncratic leftists. Inclusiveness does not touch the most important forms of differential treatment, so its actual effect is to camouflage radical inequality by making it appear its opposite.

Society must function, and functional systems depend on distinctions and exclusions. Since inclusiveness is part of a liberal social order, it accepts characteristics relevant to the commercial and bureaucratic ordering of society, such as wealth, bureaucratic position, and certified expertise, as legitimate grounds for discrimination. Rich and poor, PhDs and high school dropouts, CEOs and janitors, Supreme Court Justices and voters, all can have radically different powers, rewards, and opportunities without bothering anyone as long as each category includes enough women, minorities, and so on.

That is not a mere debater’s point. The most notable thing about inclusiveness, from the standpoint of its own goal of equality, is that its rise has coincided with the rise of social inequality with regard to wealth, certified expertise, bureaucratic position, and educational background. Inclusiveness in fact functions to lock the dominion of our present ruling class in place. It licenses immensely privileged black men like Henry Louis Gates and Colin Powell to complain about their victimization when they find their own treatment insufficiently special. The message, that can hardly be missed, is that immense privileges are good as long as the public order is resolutely PC. If the public order falls short in that regard, then more government—that is, more ruling class rule—is required.

It is important to note that hypocrisy is not the real problem, as if it were possible for inclusiveness and tolerance to apply comprehensively and so include and tolerate their own negations. The problem is that inclusiveness and tolerance make no sense as highest standards. If we try to put them into effect they immediately require their own forms of discrimination, intolerance, and exclusion. Since that is so, why bother? And since the project makes no sense, what is really going on?

Intended argument

Certain topics—natural differences among groups and the relative value of contributions made by various cultures and civilizations—have attracted a great deal of attention in discussions of the campaign against discrimination. In the entries that follow I will say very little about them.

Instead I will focus on the normal functioning of human society, and whether it depends on traditional distinctions like sex and cultural background. If it does, then inclusiveness with regard to such things is utopian in the way anarchy and communism are utopian: it tries to root out a feature of human society, whether state coercion, private property, or discrimination on grounds now forbidden, that sometimes has bad results but must generally be accepted because we cannot do without it.

It is commonly thought that discrimination is based on atavistic aversions, irrational prejudices, obsolete understandings, or claimed innate differences among human groups. It may be that some such view is correct in many cases. My claim, though, is that in other cases it is not correct: even if all those influences disappeared people would still discriminate and have good reason to do so.

I will further argue that the basis of the current animus against discrimination is not intellectual and moral enlightenment but class and institutional interests combined with an unsustainably narrow understanding of reason that tries to make all thought mimic the modern natural sciences and turn all social life into a technological process.

The conclusion is that inclusiveness should be rejected as a general social goal, and the law adopt a generally libertarian approach toward private discrimination. That proposal is radically at odds with accepted views, so I will discuss what needs to be done to change the situation.

1 thought on “Inclusiveness: an introduction”

  1. Superb encapsulation
    Superb encapsulation of the situation.

    in 1945 (Open society and its enemies) Popper said: “If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

    This is such a basic reality that it can be (and has been, frequently) mathematically modelled (game theory).

    The need to be intolerant of the intolerant has never been taken on board by Open Societies, hence Popper would predict that they _will_ be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

    But of course the current situation is much worse than Popper envisaged, and will deteriorate more rapidly, because now tolerance is extended _only_ to the intolerant and those who tolerate the intolerant. By contrast, those who do what Popper advocated are themselves not tolerated by the liberal elite.

    The reason why all this incoherence is so prevalent is that people feel good about themselves when being tolerant and when advocating tolerance of the intolerant; and feeling good about oneself is the bottom line moral imperative in a hedonic/ utilitarian society.

    Pride has been transformed by modernity from the worse sin into the core virtue, humility and courage have been replaced with submission/ cowardice and ‘luxury’ (comfort-seeking, pain avoidance).

    As C.S Lewis remarked, modern man has (for the first time in history) no sense of his own sin. Unsurprising – because the traditional sins have been redefined as modern virtues, and vice versa.

    From The [Alasdair] MacIntyre reader – ‘Practical rationalities as social structures’:

    “If I am to be accorded so far as possible what pleases me and to avoid or be protected so far as possible from what pains me, it can only be in so far as it pleases others that I shall be pleased and it pains those same others that I should be pained, and this in turn can only be the case if it pleases me that those others should be pleased and not pained.

    Let us call that state of mind in which we experience ‘a certain satisfaction in ourselves on account of some accomplishment or possession which we enjoy’ (Hume) *pride* and let us call the corresponding dissatisfaction *humility*. (…)

    What evokes pride in us must be such as to evoke esteem or even love in others; what causes humility in us must be the object of dislike or hatred in others.”


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