The Trouble with Diversity

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The Trouble with Diversity

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:53 pm


In The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Diversity and Ignore Inequality the socialist literary theorist Walter Benn Michaels advances a rather provocative thesis. He contends, contra New Left orthodoxy, that racism is no longer utilized by the ruling class to divide the proletariat. On the contrary, since capitalism has come to legitimize itself through the myth of meritocracy, racism has become antithetical to the system. But if racial disparities continue to exist within the hierarchy of elite institutions, they can only be explained by recourse to hereditarian psychology (e.g., Rushton's use of r/K-selection theory to explain racial differences in mean IQ) or by acknowledging certain systemic injustices. Possibly as a consequence of the former theory becoming increasingly untenable in light of the empirical evidence gathered in recent decades, the bourgeoisie has embarked on a deliberate policy of increasing racial diversity within its ranks, according to Michaels. Anti-racism thus enables the class system of capital to appear to possess a procedural justice consistent with its meritocractic pretenses.

It is, of course, heretical on the left for one to claim that programs like affirmative action and sensitivity training are part of a larger ideological class project intended to combat the egalitarian impulses of the working class, but Michaels marshals more than enough data to render his theory plausible.

He further discusses these themes in the following lecture:


I would be interested in reading the forum's thoughts on this subject.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: The Trouble with Diversity

Post by Leveller on Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:22 pm

Celtiberian wrote:It is, of course, heretical on the left for one to claim that programs like affirmative action and sensitivity training are part of a larger ideological class project intended to combat the egalitarian impulses of the working class

I don't see why whould such a view be considered 'heretical', being that I suppose he doesn't advocate rejection of affirmative action and sensitivity training in order to 'promote egalitarianism', because that would be nonsensical. I guess that likewise we all know that state welfare is a mechanism of appeasing and pacifying the workers, but no one advocates it's abolition so that the workers would be more anti-capitalist.

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Re: The Trouble with Diversity

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:48 pm

Leveller wrote:I don't see why whould such a view be considered 'heretical', being that I suppose he doesn't advocate rejection of affirmative action and sensitivity training in order to 'promote egalitarianism', because that would be nonsensical.

Heretical in the sense it undermines the prevailing theory on the left regarding this subject, i.e., that the ruling class has a vested interest in maintaining racial divisions in society because capitalism fundamentally requires the population to espouse racist views. You're correct that Michaels doesn't necessarily oppose the aforementioned programs, he merely wants leftists to realize that policies intended to ameliorate racial imbalances are an important element in capital's ideological self-justification, and that they would be superfluous within a truly just society.

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"The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism . . . the formula of Communism: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', would be nonsense, if abilities were equal."
—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
—Mikhail Bakunin Red Star
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Re: The Trouble with Diversity

Post by Crimson Phoenix on Mon Aug 05, 2013 12:09 am

I find this interesting. I'm glad he's exposing the capitalists' desperate attempts to appear benevolent and just. Men like this will make their whole house of cards fall all the more faster.
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Re: The Trouble with Diversity

Post by Entfremdung on Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:19 pm

I think Murray Bookchin's twofold definition of equality is relevant here as well: http://www.socialistphalanx.com/t1325-autonomous-marxism#10788

To quote from my copy of Ecology of Freedom:

To assume everyone is "equal" is patently preposterous if they are regarded as "equal" in strength, intellect, training, experience, talent, disposition, and opportunities.  It is a heartless "equality," a mean-spirited one that is simply alien to the very nature of (an) organic society... (which) does not yield to the fictive claim, yet to be articulated, that everyone is equal.  Marx was to put this well when, in opposition to "bourgeois right" with its claims of the "equality of all," freedom abandons the very notion of "right" as such and "inscribes on its banners: from each according to his ability to each according to his needs."  The subversion of organic society drastically undermined this principle of authentic freedom.  Compensation was restructured into rewards, just as gifts were replaced by commodities.
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