A guest post by Jeff Culbreath.
Inclusiveness is best described as the notion that distinctions of sex, age, religion, culture, race, ethnicity, sexual preference/orientation, and so forth should be of no consequence in public life. More specifically, it "requires that persons of every race, ethnicity, religious background, sex, disability status, and sexual orientation participate equally in all major social activities, with nearly proportional presence and success ..." The only distinctions that matter are distinctions of merit, measured scientifically and identified by credentials that are thought to demonstrate merit. Increasingly, though, even merit is suspect, as it is assumed that all those deficient in merit have been unfairly disadvantaged. Inclusiveness is therefore another term for radical egalitarianism. To publicly oppose “inclusiveness” today is, essentially, a one-way ticket to social, political, and economic marginalization. One is lucky to get away with mere exile and irrelevance while still being able to earn a living.
James Kalb, however, is not intimidated. His latest book is broadside against the “diversity regime”, and his name is on the cover. The strength of “Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It” is that the author understands the worldview of political liberalism and the complex motivations of its acolytes. He writes as someone intimately acquainted with the highest liberal patterns of thought. The best arguments present opposing views with justice, not caricature, and Mr. Kalb works hard to find rational coherence and high motives in the ideologies of those who are actively engaged in the destruction of our civilization. At times, one wonders if he gives them too much credit. Ultimately, though, this is a book that methodically exposes the fatal weaknesses and contradictions of the “inclusiveness” project – weaknesses that have compromised its proponents from the beginning, and which in Mr. Kalb’s opinion, will prove to be its undoing.
“Against Inclusiveness” is devoted to analyzing the motives behind the drive for inclusiveness, to demonstrating its contradictions and unworkability, and to exposing its tyrannical effects in everyday life. The distinctions we are not supposed to care about – differences in religious beliefs, for example – often matter greatly, in both public and private life, and frequently enough involve matters of conscience. The inclusiveness regime is therefore necessarily dishonest, and forces everyone to go along with the dishonesty. Furthermore these traditional distinctions always surface in inconvenient ways and must be dealt with. The old code of chivalry left an ethical vacuum, and needed to be replaced by proscriptions against sexual harassment that pretend not to notice sex differences. A friendly and benevolent but, yes, somewhat paternalistic relationship between racial groups needed to be replaced with affirmative action, quotas, and militant demands for equality where no equality exists. The enforcement of unreality on any single point is always morally corrosive, and the effect has been a tyrannical denial of human nature on the part of our reigning managerial elite.
The overwhelming dominance of the inclusiveness principle in the lives of Americans is hard to overstate. With few exceptions, education in the United States from pre-school through graduate school is saturated with inclusiveness and diversity concerns. Government at all levels shares this obsession, and that is important because 58 percent of Americans are directly or indirectly dependent upon government for their livelihoods. Government contractors, for example, must embrace an ideology of inclusiveness in order to compete for government projects. Corporate America is certainly no refuge from the madness, and most major corporations try to outdo each other in their promotion of inclusiveness. A typical example of corporate allegiance to the inclusiveness regime might be the “Global Diversity and Inclusion” website of Microsoft, which commences with this statement:
“Global Diversity & Inclusion is a long-term business principle that is linked to the current and future success of Microsoft. By providing access to technology, Microsoft strives to help all people realize their potential. This means that diversity and inclusion are not just words on paper for us; they are core values and business imperatives. We promote diversity at every level within our organization and strive for inclusiveness in everything we do. We believe that employing the world’s top talent from all groups within our communities—from many backgrounds and with varied experiences—helps us to better serve our customers and gives us a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.” – Steve A. Ballmer, CEO
For Microsoft and almost every major American corporation, inclusiveness is not merely one consideration among others, but an overriding ideological commitment that is intended to transform every activity and every relationship within the organization. It is a "non-negotiable" revolutionary principle, an absolute moral code that justifies economic success, embraced and imposed with something akin to religious fervor. Inclusiveness is the “air” everyone breathes - and must breathe - in order to secure a comfortable place in mainstream American society.
The author explains that the inclusiveness regime requires the support of other seemingly unrelated dogmas. One of the most significant is that of scientism – a belief that, in the public square, the only reality that matters is that which can be verified by the methods of modern empirical science. Nevermind that the advocates of scientism are often wrong about science itself, and irrational in their selective applications of its findings. Scientism is pernicious because it excludes a priori any truths that are not discoverable by what passes for the “scientific method”. Love, beauty, tradition, culture, divine revelation, moral character, and many other intangible realities are excluded from relevance apart from a few unprincipled exceptions – patriotism, for instance – that can be manipulated into the service of inclusiveness. Because these forbidden realities are stubborn and persistent, their exclusion from public life makes necessary a total system of rewards and punishments, incentives and disincentives, etc. to prevent their having meaningful influence.
This book contains many insightful digressions into the consequences of liberalism and the various ideas that make inclusiveness tick. One memorable passage involves the phenomenon of “coolness” which takes its energy from modern man's crisis of identity resulting, in part, from inclusiveness policies:
“The liberal order is irretrievably prosaic and boring. It turns everything into a productive resource or consumption good and so effaces distinction and individuality. Its ideas are unsustaining, and it has no room for the soul. A makeshift remedy, but the best available within the liberal order, is provided by ‘coolness’. It seems trivial, but people take it much more seriously than they admit. After all, what else is there?
Coolness started with jazz musicians and still has something of the spirit of the night, of escape from everyday reality, of unconditioned freedom, of improvisation without a goal. It is the liberal equivalent of the divine grace that bloweth where it listeth and none can define. It has something in common with sanctity, inasmuch as the cool are in the world but not of it. They possess a certain disengagement, so that they are independent of their surroundings and not easily flustered or excited. They are not conventional and have a sort of perfect pitch in matters of perception, expression, and practical decision.
Of course, coolness is also very different from sanctity. Sanctity is about eternity, coolness is about now. It has religious aspirations, but its hedonism and individualism mean they go nowhere. The lives of the saints have enduring interest because they point to something beyond themselves. The lives of hipsters do not. This lack of substantive content allows coolness a place in the spiritual world of liberalism, but is otherwise a radical defect. Coolness makes things a matter of style, which is why a clumsy attempt to be a saint is admirable, while a clumsy attempt to be cool is ridiculous …
At bottom, coolness is as silly as people think. It is notoriously unsustaining. Those who live by it either crash and burn, fall into gross hypocrisy (‘sell out’), or grow out of it. Within the liberal order, though, growing out of it means growing out of the only thing other than sex, drugs, celebrity, or lots and lots of money that redeems life from quotidian dullness. It means turning into a boring, conventional older person, just like Mom and Dad.”
I do have a few minor criticisms. It would have been helpful if Mr. Kalb were more interested in making ontological and hierarchical distinctions between the qualities of sex, religion, culture, race, and ethnicity. The book alternates so freely between these examples that one gets the impression (unintended, I am sure) that all traditional distinctions should be equally indulged all the time. It would also have been helpful to examine circumstances when these qualities might indeed be legitimately subordinated to a greater public good. Race in many contexts is easier to transcend than sex or religion or culture, and in the United States, due to our peculiar history and experiences with race, a public square that transcends race would seem to be a laudable goal. It would also have been immensely helpful to have more in-depth analysis of concrete situations under the inclusiveness regime. What is it like to be male, middle-aged, married with children, white, and openly Christian - with traditional attachments to family and community, strong religious values, a normal sense of humor, etc. – working for an inclusivist cultural wrecking ball like Microsoft in the ultra-liberal metro of Seattle? What are the pressures and challenges? What are the meetings like? What do the managers and memos say? What is spoken around the water cooler? What is the impact on morale? What kinds of traps are set for those who don’t conform? How must a man change to survive? Etc. In fairness, such an analysis may have been too far beyond the scope of this book.
We owe James Kalb a debt of gratitude. “Against Inclusiveness” is an intellectually formidable challenge to the core ideology of today’s managerial elite. It is also an essential book for traditional conservatives who really ought to better understand the complex motives of their adversaries. But the salient message of the book – the one thing every reader needs to take away – is that defeating the inclusiveness regime demands re-thinking our own assumptions and learning to speak a “new” language. Many of us will find that we have unwittingly bought into the same philosophical errors that bolster the emerging tyranny. It isn’t the policies that are ultimately the problem, but liberalism’s underlying false assumptions about reality. Rather than arguing for policy improvements on liberal terms, we need to present our arguments in the language of truth, goodness, and things that are real – and live our lives accordingly.