January 15, 2007 [LINK / comment]
The roots of multiculturalism
Many people are perplexed at how it came to be than so many Europeans, and even Americans, so deeply loathe their own culture that they are willing to surrender to hostile immigrants, many of whom are Islamic. (You don't have to agree with everything Pat Buchanan says to recognize that such trends are real.) Aren't the artistic and cultural heritage of Western Civilization worth defending? [At Baron Bodissey's Gates of Vienna blog, "Fjordman"] reviews the early 20th Century history of cultural Marxist "critical theory" expounded by the Frankfurt school, as well as the social theorists Antonio Gramsci (Italian), and Georg Lukacs (Hungarian), who are conventionally regarded as the source of this self-hatred. In some universities, those names are as sacrosanct as Saint Thomas Aquinas or Cardinal John Henry Newman are in the Catholic Church. Many leftists concluded that the only way to overthrow capitalism was to subvert its moral underpinnings. [Fjordman] argues convincingly, however, that multiculturalism really goes much further back, and has its origins in the writings of such Enlightenment figures as Montaigne, Voltaire, and Edward Gibbon. As he writes:
In some ways, what is going on now surpasses the downfall of the Roman Empire. It has never happened before in human history that an ethnic group voluntarily finances other ethnic groups to advance their culture on their territory to the detriment of their own people. Native Europeans are paying people who openly declare to be our enemies to eradicate our civilization and are told to celebrate this as tolerance.
I wouldn't go quite that far. Indeed, tolerance and respect for minority rights* are part and parcel of what defines our Anglo-American socio-political heritage. But no value can be taken to an extreme without impinging upon other values, and there has to be a reasonable balance struck. As the book by Richard Posner reminds us, the Lockean liberal principles that underlie our political system should not be regarded as a "suicide pact."
* an appropriate theme to recall on Martin Luther King's birthday.
UPDATE: I had intended to mention that one of the first political theorists to propound the notion that subversive, anti-Western attitudes emanated from the Enlightenment was Eric Voegelin, who wrote The New Science of Politics (1952). In his mind, Marxist revolutionary thought and action had their origins in people like Jean-Jacques Rousseau.