Monday, June 15, 2015

Dictatorship of Virtue

"Multiculturalism" is a fighting word.  To its advocates, it denotes an openness to new ideas and the lived experiences of others.  To some of its detractors, it represents a dangerous denial of key values which built and sustain Western civilization.  Bernstein, a journalist with long experience in China, has a deeper criticism - he asserts that "multiculturalism" is itself an ideology rooted in Western thought, an ideology that is, in fact, just as closed to alternatives to itself as any other.  What multiculturalists see as a refusal to privilege any particular culture, Bernstein sees as an opposition to all cultures, an anti-culture.

Starting from his own generally conventionally progressive worldview, the author explores an impressive taxonomy of thought crimes through an extensive collection of anecdotes.  In the twenty years since this book was written, the term "multiculturalism" has been largely replaced by its successors, "diversity" and "inclusion".  At one point the author mocks a scholar who dredged up a stale outrage from an old magazine, now many of the outrages catalogued appear in the same stale light.  Yet Bernstein's central critique remains not only perceptive, but prophetic.

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