The Week: The Spiritual Challenge of Multiculturalism

Damon Linker has an interesting take on American history.

The Week:

“There are many ways to understand the tendency roiling liberal-democratic politics in recent years, from the outcome of the Brexit vote and the presidency of Donald Trump to the surge in support for antiliberal politicians and parties across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. It’s been variously described as an explosion of right-wing populism, a resurgence of nationalism, a renewed flowering of xenophobia and racism, even a rebirth of fascism. But what all of these theories are striving to explain is a pervasive collapse of faith in multiculturalism as an organizing principle of free societies.

That feels like a new problem for many of us, but it’s really an old one that goes back to the very beginnings of the liberal era. In seeking to come to terms with the challenge of multiculturalism, an obscure but important German philosopher of the 18th century, Johann Gottfried Herder, provides surprising insight. 

Yet America’s civil religion is under strain today. The right, preferring a tribal view of the nation, no longer wants to affirm a universal vision of a humanity. Emphasizing a view of the country closer to the young Herder’s exclusionary nationalism, populist conservatives prefer homogeneity to diversity, and they mock the pretense of a patriotism rooted in openness to the world and ideas that transcend particulars of time and place. The left, meanwhile, is obsessed with the hypocrisies and shortcomings of the country’s civil religion, believing that fulfilling its promise in the future requires a reckoning with past failures so severe that it leaves little place for national pride. Though “woke” progressives respect and valorize cultural diversity for minority groups, they denigrate patriotic sentments as “white supremacy” when they are uttered by white Americans who express admiration for central figures of the country’s past. …”

In my understanding of American history, Johann Gottfried Herder’s theories and multiculturalism didn’t have much to do with the formation of American national identity.

From the time of the Founding Fathers until the post-World War II era, American national identity was based on four pillars: race (whiteness), culture (Anglo-Saxon), religion (Protestant) and ideology (liberal republican). This wasn’t even really contested during the War Between the States. The Union and Confederacy were divided over slavery and the nature of the constitutional republic and whether it was founded by the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Americans still argued over things like whether Catholics were fully American until JFK was elected president in 1960.

The cultural pluralist tradition which Damon Linker identifies with America’s civil religion can be traced back to the Liberal Progressives around the turn of the 20th century. It begins with the pragmatists like William James and John Dewey, the social worker Jane Addams and the cultural anthropologist Franz Boas. It was taken up and popularized by the Young Intellectuals like Randolph Bourne who broke with the Wilson administration and the Progressive movement over World War I. These people became America’s liberal intelligentsia in the 1920s. The origins of social liberalism can be traced back to their embrace of modernism in these years. It runs from them to the New York Intellectuals of the 1930s and 1940s who added cosmopolitanism. American liberalism embraced antiracism in the late 1930s and early 1940s in the context of the global showdown with Hitler’s Germany. Until the 1930s, American history textbooks reflected this traditional conception of national identity and only turned cosmopolitan afterwards. The elite postwar consensus – progressive liberalism, modernism, cosmopolitanism and antiracism – was in place by 1945. This had only been constructed over the previous twenty years though.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that these ideas trickled down from American elites and hit a critical mass with the Boomers who were exposed to these ideas through the mass media and higher education. Multiculturalism, which grew out of modernism and the cultural pluralist tradition, only emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was never broadly accepted and the culture war dates back to this period. Modernists are social liberals who reject the traditional view of American national identity as racist, bigoted, backward, oppressive, etc. Populists are people who reject modernism and who cling to the traditional view on the importance of race, culture, religion and republicanism to national identity. The populists are merely reasserting the older tradition of American national identity.

Note: The “far right domestic extremists” are people who cling to very old fashioned ideas which were dominant in the 18th and 19th centuries. The “mainstream” are people whose ideas can usually be traced back less than a century and which were usually imported from Europe as trendy intellectual fashions like modernism or socialism or anarchism or postmodernism.

About Hunter Wallace 11876 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

4 Comments

  1. All of this is impressive, HW, but the primary element was not even addressed. Mention was made of a Civil RELIGION. There’s the clew, as they say.

    RELIGION- how a people interacts with their Creator. Nothing else matters, because if you have that incorrect (i.e., Talmudics) all else falls apart (post-1960’s America). And the fallacy of universalism is the great HERESY of the last 500+ years. The “Other” is, and ALWAYS WILL BE…. “XENOS.”

    Yes, we once WERE a WASP nation. Yes, we once felt that Papists could not be trusted- precisely because their ecclesial model was the perverted religious counterpart to an egalitarian AND universalist BELIEF STRUCTURE, that came about because of a misreading of both Geography and Scripture.

    Romanism has been corrupt for at least 1000 years- one has to acknowledge that, and STOP THINKING that the RCC is ANYTHING but a synagogue of satan- as are ALL the Jews.

    The [Eastern] Orthodox have said so, for a millennium; the Reformers have said so for 500 years; the Political ideologues of the last century, have said so, for 100 years. THEY ALL CAN’T BE WRONG…

    But the rot goes even further back, primarily due to the actions of the various heretics in the Church, and how, (like the Israelites’ incomplete erasure from history of THEIR enemies upon entering the Promised Land, and how it came back, time and time again to plague them) the incomplete anathematization of the Monophysites, Nestorians, Manichees, Arians, and Gnostics continues to weaken/sicken and render impotent, the Soul of Christendom. Because the names change, but the heresies remain the same.

    I’ve been re-reading Origen lately, and realized his odd conclusions to theological questions (transmigration of souls, punishment not being eternal, implicit/explit Universalism – i.e., even Satan being redeemed) came about, because Origen didn’t see what we now see about Races; and because (due to his self-castration) his FEMININE approach to ‘God loves everyone’ led to his outrageous heresies! The Biblical GOD was too MASCULINE for Origen. Just as it is for everyone who’s a heretic, today.

    And- the people with whom Origen lived, to whom he ministered, and for whom the Gospel came, were all ONE AND THE SAME.. to him- Caucasoid European humanity. That is, ONE RACE, ONLY. – Just like the parameters of the O.T. (Hmmmmm) So, Origen PRESUMED universalism, simply because his ‘world’ WAS universally…. White, more or less.

    And because there was no ‘Other’ [apart from the [sic] Jews – whom even Origen knew to be apostate and evil] -due to the limited geographic and cultural issues back then, i.e., -Persian/Zoroastrians were ‘up there,’ (even as they were racially ‘Aryans’), the Carthaginians held closed the Atlantic to the Greeks and the Romans; the sub-Saharan Negroes were not even considered human beings- and no one ever saw a Mayan, Aztec, Chinaman, or Jap in person, back then…. and the Bedouins? who later became the Moslems? Well, they were nothing but sand monkeys, anyway- and who would breed with them?!?….

    One realizes that, for Origen, [and @ the first six centuries of Christendom’s existence] the narrow provincialism (even of admitting that both Hellenes and Judeans were now fit subjects for the One Kingdom of God) of the early Church NEVER GREW BEYOND THE BELIEF THAT ‘YOU’RE JUST LIKE ME, I’M JUST LIKE YOU’ à la Barbie movies for children. Because the Goths, the Germans, the Slavs, the Scandic… ALL WERE WHITE, JUST LIKE EUROPE. So, what should have been staring them in the face… just wasn’t. Simply because of its’ ubiquity.

    It’s only with the rise of PISSLAM, and the incursion of a XENOS race, that the realization that the Christian faith is co-terminous with White Adamity, even began to be recognized as normative.

    But, by then, Rome was already on her way (with Charlemagne, the filioque, the tensions between Orthodox East and Paganizing West having been institutionalized with Charles’ coronation in AD 800) toward Schism. And, once the ‘New World’ was discovered, the claims of the Papacy to Universal Jurisdiction meant that we had forgotten that Christian=White. Because, ‘new markets, new money, new prestige, new consumerism can be made.’ Truly. Does ANYTHING EVER CHANGE!?

    It’s time to throw off ‘all that encumbers us, [ Heb. 12:1] and restore that awareness that ONLY WHITES are the recipients of the Gospel, as the first Pillar of our own Cultural Renaissance.

    “Europe is the [Orthodox Faith; the [Orthodox] Faith, Europe.” – H. Belloc

    End of Story. All else is…. ANATHEMA.

    • @Fr. John+

      “Does ANYTHING EVER CHANGE!?”

      No, Sir – only the faces and voices change, and, yet, other than the fact they are shuffled around a bit, they, too, remain pretty much the same as the identities they attempt to hide…

  2. “Cultural pluralism has unraveled America’s national identity…”

    To my lights, the unraveling of America’s European identity ought be credited to Corporate/Globalism.

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