Friday, September 22, 2006

The Problem with Multiculturalism 2

I previously stated my two big problems with multiculturalism, which are:
  1. It valorizes alienation, isolation and atomization. Not exactly a 'progressive' stance- more like the ideology of late capitalism- the ethos of the shopping mall.
  2. It conflates 'race' and 'culture', and links them in a way that smacks of 19th century racial theory.

Someone agrees with me here. Inside Higher Ed talks about Walter Benn Michaels, who has written a book critiquing multiculturalism, seemingly beginning from a similar point to my #2:

"To a large degree, Michaels says in his new book, “culture is now being used as a virtual synonym for racial identity.”

"For his part, Michaels will have none of this repackaging of racist pseudoscience as “anti-racist” cultural relativism. He draws a hard line: “Either race is a physical fact, dividing human beings into biologically significant differences,” he writes, “or there is no such thing as race, whatever it’s called.”

"If one chooses the second option — as Michaels does — then the unrelenting American emphasis on race as a fundamental basis for defining identity begins to look very strange.

His larger point seems to be that "cultural" consciousness tends to atomize the poor into tiny ethnic groups, preventing them from developing a real and necessary class consciousness- which dovetails nicely with my first point. So, great minds, eh?

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