Wednesday, September 28, 2016

more conspiracy theories at The Federalist. Why not? It works

a composite image of multicultural London

aLfrEdo tRifF

I was sent this article in The Federalist, published by Franklin Einspruch. I take the occasion to congratulate him for his piece,

and to argue this sentence:
It’s plain fact that political correctness and multiculturalism derive from notions hailing from the Frankfurt School, which in turn took its cues from Karl Marx.
What an irony, like Trump, Einspruch uses "political correctness" unproblematically. I bring Trump up because he's the man of the moment, misrepresenting ideals of pluralistic tolerance as a sign of decadence within American culture.

eugenics poster in 1920s America

Let's venture a provisional definition of political correctness:

A disposition of speech act awareness and tolerance towards others.     

We've committed these words to the trash can:

1- "n_gg_r",
2- "retarded" or "mongolic," instead of "mentally disabled or challenged"
3- "faggot," (for homosexual)
4- "Indian," (referring to Native Americans)
5- "mankind," (instead of "humankind"),
6- "bum," (instead of "homeless"),
7- "whore," (instead of "prostitute" or "sex worker"*), and so on.


Because words are used in specific historic contexts, and the wronged party has a right to be heard. I cannot speak for a black person offended at the word in 1-. I simply haven't lived his experience. So I defer the usage for the sake of understanding.

Which doesn't prevent me from understanding Kant's use of Menschheit for "humanity." See, "mankind" was not a problem back in 1790s. Today it feels inconsiderate towards women.

meanwhile Trumps ridicules any overture for more conscientious usage

Politically incorrect people don't get it. This is not a fight for the purity of words. No word is pure. In fact, there is nothing essentially wrong with the words in 1-7. Usage is always conventional! But that doesn't mean that convention doesn't matter. It does. A word's meaning has a limited time scope (what, three generations?). New contexts bring forth new meanings. It's conceivable that some of the words in 1-7 may come back clean from their previous dirty dealings. For that to happen the context would have to be very different.

As Wittgenstein made clear, meaning is usage. Usage reflects who we are as people at a given time. And we should be willing to negotiate usage in order to build a better, more civilized pluralistic society.

But why am I wasting your time? Trump's list of politically incorrect Trumpisms is sufficient proof that political incorrectness is a smokescreen for an essentialistic unitary ideology unwilling to negotiate language & speech acts for the sake of social cooperation.

What a waste of time to fight over a word that clearly offends someone.**

Next claim:
 ... multiculturalism derive from notions hailing from the Frankfurt School 

"Multiculturalism," the concept, emerges in the 1980s when the Frankfurt School generation has already disappeared. Adorno, Benjamin, Horkheimer, Marcuse are all dead by the late 1970s.**

You will not find the word "multiculturalism" in any of their canonical texts.

What today is referred to as "multiculturalism" emerges from a series of world events:
1- the end of World War II in Europe,
2- the multinational influence of the United Nations in global affairs,
3- the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination (1965-1969),
4- the end of colonialism in Africa and parts of Asia,
4- the Civil Rights Movement & the passing of affirmative action laws in the US,
5- the trends in migration in the 1970s,

By the 1980s, these diverse processes bring forth ideological, legal & economic shifts that include regionalist, ethnic and gender equality legislations within Europe and the USA. It's the outcome of these processes what we know today as multiculturalism. Only then, one begin to find these early texts addressing the idea of multiculturalism.

Let's investigate this supposed link between the Frankfurt School and Multiculturalism, by taking a look at the sources which make up for said "connection."

1- The first generation of texts on multiculturalism happens in the early 1990s, with authors like, Iris Marion Young's Justice and the Politics of Difference, Nathan Glazer's We Are All Multiculturalists Now, Amy Guttman's "The Challenge of Multiculturalism" in PPPA,  22:3, 1993, Dave Hollinger's Post-Etchnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism, etc. By the 2000s we get a second generation of texts which incorporate the post 9-11 and post-War contexts of Afghanistan and Iraq: Again, Will Kymlicka's 2005 Multicultural Odysseys, Multiculturalism and Political Theory by Laden, A.S., and D. Owen (eds.) 2007, Multiculturalism without Culture by Anne Phillips, 2007, etc (by no means I pretend to exhaust these primary sources). 

2- If the connection between Multiculturalism and the Frankfurt School was obvious, you would expect a consensus amongst reputed conservative scholars opposing multiculturalism to share it. But this is not the case.

In his Menace of Multiculturalism: Trojan Horse in America (1997), Alvin Schmidt has a whole chapter for Marx's influence in multiculturalism. Not a single reference to the Frankfurt School is found. In his Perils of Diversityconservative author Byron M. Roth argues against a liberal pro-Marxist academic establishment in the USA and the West, but doesn't mention the Frankfurt School by name. On the often consulted The Disuniting of America by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., where the author examines the idea of multiculturalism in detail, the Frankfurt School never appears as a influence. Yes, there is one quote in Allan Bloom's famous 1987 Closing of the American Mind on page 65, where he mentions the Frankfurt School by name. So what?

Is Einspruch not reading too much into Marxist conspiracy theories?

Finally, even if one could find authors connecting the Frankfurt School with "multiculturalism," that doesn't mean that the latter derive from notions hailing from the former. 

Simply because contiguity is not a necessary condition for causation.  

(And to think that Einspruch's piece in The Federalist is filed under "Philosophy")

* I've learned "sex workers" from my abolitionist students. I'm at the border here: There is plenty of good literature treating the subject as "prostitution." But "sex workers" makes perfect sense, if one holds an abolitionist view. **Imagine a Trumpian defense: "Why should I change usage, if all I mean is the original word as it was used back in the time?" Because when one utters: "retarded" in a class, for example, a disabled student may be offended appealing to "back in the time" only refers to an earlier context where we didn't know better). ***There are other thinkers, which have been quite important for early multicultural thought, for example, Charles Taylor, his Multiculturalism and The Politics of Recognition is a required reading on the topic, as is Will Kymlicka's Multicultural Citizenship


MC said...

I read his article all over the place. Is this guy a Trumpian? He looks it.

Alfredo Triff said...

Tx MC, I don't know if he's.