New Internationalist

The Trouble with Diversity

April 2008

Walter Benn Michaels is angry. He thinks the Left has been duped or has duped itself into pursuing the holy grail of identity politics – respect for the ‘other’ as a consolation prize for having lost the battle for a more equal society. For Michaels the whole array of diversity measures: apologies for past historic wrongs, affirmative action programmes, special days, weeks or months dedicated to this or that culture – reduce Left politics to simply a question of etiquette. The preoccupation with race, ethnic and gender identity is perfectly compatible with hierarchies of wealth and power. All this amounts to in the end, Michaels believes, is helping to create the ‘level playing field’ romanticized by neoliberal advocates of free trade and competition.

Trouble is an old-time polemic rather than an extended footnoted analysis, but it is a challenging and, at its core, a convincing one. There are points of weakness: an excessive focus on the US (where class politics is most atrophied), an at times crude materialism, and a snide (yet often amusing) style of argument. But Michaels deserves our attention as he has his finger on something important. If we are to live in a sane multicultural society, it needs to be based on an ethos of equality with which we can forge a common purpose and within which multiculturalism can prosper.

RS

This column was published in the April 2008 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on The Trouble with Diversity

Leave your comment







 

  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

The Trouble with Diversity Fact File
Product information by Walter Benn Michaels
Star rating3
Product link http://www.henryholt.com/metropolitanbooks.htm
Product number Metropolitan Books/Holt, ISBN 0-8050-8331-6

Get our free fortnightly eNews

Multimedia

Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Books

All Books

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 410

New Internationalist Magazine issue 410
Issue 410

More articles from this issue

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.

Subscribe