Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt is an extremely intellectual and philosophical analysis of the growth of the nanny state. Gottfried’s thesis is that western governments have built upon a bastardized version of protestant beliefs to incorporate them into the education and acculturation of the citizenry.
Our welfare state since midcentury has become increasingly preoccupied with modifying social behavior. … it has moved into socializing “citizens” through publicly controlled education and wars against discrimination.
This is pretty much a given, Gottfried seeks to explain why. In doing so, he also proves it convincingly. Gottfried has done his homework, the book is heavily footnoted and obviously well researched. He has worked his way through an incredible amount of papers written by leftist “theologians.” (The subtitle of the book is Toward a Secular Theocracy.)
The introduction expands upon the “what” before laying out how, the succeeding chapters will elaborate on the “why.” In an earlier work, Gottfried traced the intellectual foundations of what he calls the “therapeutic state” through a series of works produced in the mid-20th century. He explains the thesis of these social and psychological investigations,
… “prejudice” in the United States looms as a pathological hate that envelops particular victims. It is also a sickness that, we are assured, only public administration, is equipped adequately to deal with. In this special pleading, dressed up as clinical analysis, administrators are charged with social healing. They can allegedly attain this goal by reeducating others and by confronting social and moral dissent as an unacknowledged illness. By now the understandings of “liberalism” and “democracy” proposed by sensitizing social psychologists have come to prevail. Today in most western countries, public speech and written publications that unsettle ethnic and racial minorities have undergone the process of criminalization.
Furthermore, Gottfried asserts that even many who are supposedly on the right of the political spectrum, have ceded the basic argument without a fight. America’s implicit guilt is no longer questioned, merely the degree of atonement required.
For all their complaints about “political correctness,” moderate conservatives, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and contributors to the National Association of Scholars’ periodical, Academic Questions, do not devote their primary attention to the government control of speech and behavior. The battle between supporters and opponents of political correctness is thought to be taking place among warring cultural elites. Moderate conservative see themselves as contending with new class intellectuals, but they try not to express a negative attitude toward the American state.
Yet it is the state that has taken on the role of “educating” to ensure that proper opinions are held. The key to the state’s success in doing so, is the destruction of the “older bourgeois society based on community, church, and family.”
But this demolition is also linked to a vision of psychological wellness for individuals free of the past. Such individuals can be taught to live in a global society abounding in expressive freedoms, providing they do not violate the state’s judgments about what is insensitive conduct. Given the discrediting or preempting of other authorities, only public administrators and allied arbiters of “niceness,” “fairness,” and “caring” are empowered to prescribe behavior.
This demolition of cultural norms is accomplished through the implementation of a multiculturalist agenda. Gottfried distinguishes between “multiethnic” and “multicultural.”
At issue is not the coexistence of more or less tolerated ethnic minorities grouped together under an administrative unit or imperial jurisdiction but the celebration of state-sponsored “diversity.” In the new multicultural as opposed to conventional multiethnic situation, the state glorifies differences from the life associated with the once majority population. It hands out rewards to those who personify the desired differences, while taking away cultural recognition and even political rights from those who do not.
The therapeutic state undertakes the building of a multicultural society, pledged to “diversity,” by treating citizens as objects of socialization. Some will be pumped up to feel good about whoever they are, while others will be required to forfeit, disavow, or disparage their inherited identities.
Having dispensed with defining and explaining “what” is going on, Gottfried begins the book with a look at some of the causes of the self-destruction of the western classical liberal tradition. In the first chapter Gottfried looks at how socialism has morphed from a philosophy advocating nationalization of industry and capital, into one that attempts to co-opt private ownership through control of individual freedoms outside of the purely economic realm. Instead of spending huge amounts of money (although huge amounts of money continue to be spent), legislation and regulation force the ends sought by administrative governmental agencies. Gottfried cites the example of the Family Preservation and Support Services (FPSS), an agency created as part of the Safe Families Act.
The act and the mandated service empower a federal agency to investigate first-time parents in the United States and to make determinations about which families are “troubled” and need government guidance. It provides for the collection of data dealing with families of special interest to the FPSS; the computerized information is then fed into a nationwide databank, the program information management system. The FPSS states as its purpose the furnishing of “universal home visitation for all new parents and intensive services for families most in need.” Although “visitations” are not presented as coercive, those who fail to welcome the assigned “home visitors” may be, and have been, reported to child protection services. In some cases, uncooperative parents have been stripped of guardianship of their offspring.
Instead of dwelling on the horrific implications of such imposed visitations and nonconsensual collection of personal data, one might note here another side effect of the social policy being discussed. Non-elected government officials can achieve an indeterminate power over American family life in return for a relatively small allocation of revenue. Social control by the state does not presuppose a socialized economy, and government interventions into child-rearing, spousal relation, and intergroup dynamics can now go forward in conjunction with market forces.… Such a project can be undertaken on the cheap by having public administration distribute entitlements, regulate certain aspects of the common economy, and mold the young .
Gottfried contends that Socialism has changed subtly in it’s aims but has not gone away with end of the cold war and the seeming victory of Capitalism. Instead, the aims are to allow a “restricted economic freedom” while at the same time governing with an administrative state dedicated to social engineering.
What is being designated is a managerial state that seems to modify social behavior and cultural values but tolerates economic growth, up to a point.
In chapter 2, Gottfried examines The Religious Foundations of the Managerial Therapeutic State. Gottfried makes a round-about exploration of his thesis that liberal protestantism is the source of much of the power of the administrative state. He starts out by explaining that the mainline protestant denominations have embarked on a self-destructive path in abandoning traditional values, citing shocking statistics about attendance and demographics.
Instead of traditional theological and classical training, protestant seminarians are being schooled in “rote invectives about “race, sex, and class oppression.” Apparently not unrelated to this decline in mainline protestantism, is the fact that protestants no longer make up the most successful Americans. Mainline protestant groups now trail behind Ashkenazic Jews, and Irish, Italian, German and Polish Catholics in their achievement levels according to a study done by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.
Theological and moral mushiness, suggest some critics, is doing more than damaging seminary training of liberalized protestants.
Regardless of all this, and the subsequent resurgence in more traditional, fundamentalist branches of protestantism, Gottfried argues that the damage has been done and that the influence of the left has subtly altered the interpretation of religious dogma even in supposedly right of center denominations. The subtle shift is the belief in collective guilt and the need for expiation.
… the politics of atonement has spilled over into the American Christian Right, the side of the religious spectrum where one might think it would be hardest to find.
Gottfried juxtaposes the previous self-image of American protestants as Israelites in a new promised land with the new doctrine of redemptive suffering for the misdeeds of the Christian West. The following is a quote from a professor of Jewish Studies at Washington University which exemplifies this new doctrine,
The Christian partner in Holocaust discourse, standing as heir and representative of the Christian cultures in which… The Holocaust was nurtured, must obediently hear , and acknowledge , and memorialize the truth of Jewish anguish and the legitimacy of Jewish outrage. The proper response of the Christian to the Jew is, by the kind of tacit mutual agreement, a spiritual self annihilation, a confessing openness to one’s own guilt that mirrors in subtle ways themes of classical Christian theology.
And thus, “today’s therapeutic religion does not exclude the outward acceptance of Orthodox Christian Doctrines.
Mainline congregations put up with liberal teaching because they believe it, in some sense, to be Christian — or pointing toward a higher ethic than they themselves practice.
Gottfried provides numerous examples to support his contentions, but the point is that the subtle usurpation of American protestants has dovetailed nicely with the objectives of the therapeutic state. The crucial issue being that the “custodians of political correctness” maintain “a contrite mood that serves social reform.” Such a priority often means that sensitivity has a greater value than truth.
Sensitivity requires that members of the majority society give special consideration to the self-esteem of those considered as disadvantaged or victimized. In the United States hate crime legislation is widely accepted on the explicit assumption that a much higher percentage of interracial violence originates among whites and Asians than among blacks. The facts, as reported by Justice Department statistics, are exactly the reverse: Black males are at least six times as likely as White or Asian males to engaging into racial violence, a figure close to the one given for interracial crime in England.
Midpoint in the chapter, Gottfried makes a sobering point,
A transformation of the self image of the majority population would have had to take place in order for the therapeutic state to have reached its present strength.
In the third chapter, Gottfried attempts to answer the question of which came first, the therapeutic state, or the special classes that benefit from being singled out for protection and nurturing. Gottfried demonstrates that the state itself is the source purveying the mantra of collective guilt and that without it’s active support, the protected groups wouldn’t be able to exercise the disproportionate influence they do. The state derives its power from dividing society into those oppressed and the oppressors. By their lights, keeping “prejudice” from becoming oppressive “requires state control of social relations, to be guided by ‘social professionals.'” In other words, you have to be crazy to disagree with their policies. The following illustrates the connection
between public administration and the course of social and psychiatric services. One reason this cooperation has progressed is that social ideologues, working hand in glove with the state, have been able to depict unfashionable thinkers and retrograde views as “pathological.” Those who expressed ” prejudice ” or those who try to open questions of the political class is decided close, do so presumably because they are “sick.” Thus Atlanta pitcher John Rocker, who made disparaging remarks in an interview with Sports Illustrated about the gays, blacks, and Third World travelers he had encountered on Subway Train 7 in New York, was delivered, after a media outcry, to psychiatric care. What would seem more brutal insults directed against whites, policemen, and women by Seventy Sixer basketball star and black rap singer Alan Iverson did not bring forth a comparable demand for psychiatric solutions. Unlike Iverson’s vocal artistry, Rocker’s comments, it was decided, were “prejudiced.” They were the unguarded sentiments of a rural white southerner, which were aimed at politically protected groups and were therefore symptomatic of a sick personality. Not all insults directed at minorities, as seen from this starkly ideological perspective, are “pathological.” Such an epithet is reserved for what the political class does not wish to hear or have said.
Gottfried lists three ways in which managerial regimes manage consensus. These are:
The courts in Canada employ this last approach liberally in their enforcement of federal and provincial hate speech codes.
“Prosecutors are not required to show proof of malicious intent or actual harm to win convictions in hate speech cases, and courts in some jurisdictions have ruled that it does not matter whether the statements are truthful.”*
Any student of history ought to see the eery and chilling parallels to the re-education camps of Soviet Russia. Those who claim to be the fascist fighters are in fact the fascists.
Gottfried also has some fairly blunt criticism of the American political right for “greasing the skids” in normalizing the use of government power to achieve “cultural” objectives. Conservative celebrities are all to eager to acknowledge the “progress” made against prejudice … through government policies and initiatives, thus legitimizing the use of force to establish social goals. However,
Therapeutic regimes are packaged in a way that disguises their resort to force; both the Left and Establishment Right in the United States, which misrepresent political life, have made this concealment possible.
The Left utilizes the rhetoric of “empowerment” to achieve its ends. These take the form of government directives such as “banning hate” as proposed by Bill Clinton or requiring teachers to “accentuate the normality of gay relations and gay marriage.” Rather than coercive, such efforts are to be perceived as “expressions of caring that require hard love for those that resist.” A recent example of this: Teacher Opposed to Gay Marriage Could be Fired.
Some on the Right seek to utilize the power of the government to export democracy. We apparently have a duty to bring American political institutions to other societies, if necessary, by force. It’s what’s good for them. Gottfried cites Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind for his praise of American participation in WWII, which was after all “really an educational project undertaken to force those who do not accept these principles [freedom and equality] to do so.”
Similarly, attempts to use the power of the government to counteract the “insidious counter-culture,” while not only ineffective, also legitimize the use of government power to achieve social ends.
There is much more in this chapter, detailing the methods, incarnations, and variants of the therapeutic state’s exercise of control in America and Europe, as well as the symbiotic relationship of the press and those who “favor a weakening and eventual disappearance of bourgeois civic Christian culture.” It’s sobering stuff.
In chapter four, Gottfried shows how foreign policy has been affected by the politics of multiculturalism. President Johnson summed up the new direction for foreign policy by stating, “our foreign policy must always be an extension of our domestic policy. Our safest guide to what we do abroad is always what we do at home.”
Gottfried sums up the evolution of Wilsonian progressive internationalism thusly,
What the current project seeks to do is overcome history as the cumulative record of prejudice, by extending the domestic revolution in sensitivity to other parts of the globe.
Gottfried also explains how Fascism and it’s subtype Nazism is always used by the multiculturalists as the projected outcome of any move to the right in European governments and increasingly in America. The Holocaust is equally useful as an excuse for any intervention in the name of “human rights,”
Obsessing about right-wing extremism takes the form of returning to Hitler each time western governments impose sanctions or go to war against “human rights” violators. … the unconquered fascist past has a remarkably fluid content. It keeps taking the shape of whatever is deemed politically incorrect.
The chapter can be summed up,
A missionizing and reforming regime has taken the place of a bourgeois liberal polity and has begun to impose its sensitizing ideology on the non-Western world.
The fifth chapter of Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt briefly explores the interesting flip of the European populist right to an anti-American perspective. Whereas the European Left has traditionally been suspicious of American power and the notion of American Exceptionalism, they now whole-heartedly embrace the “cultural leadership” of America. American social movements like feminism and gay rights have dwarfed the leftist multiculturalist movements of the European Left.
The European Right, in spite of the threat of a new Fascist menace raised by the Left, is forced to deal with a reality of a feminized and largely destroyed set of states in Europe. What used to make a state a state was sovereignty and the ability to wage war. With the advent of NATO, the EU, and the European welfare state, there isn’t much autonomy remaining to much of Europe. Mark Steyn’s more recent book, America Alone, confirms this analysis with dismal demographic trends in European countries. Ethnic Europeans aren’t even producing offspring at replacement rates, while the populations grow steadily older. Meanwhile Muslim immigrants are reproducing at an incredible rate. Basically, there isn’t much to worry about from the populist Right in Europe.
Gottfried concludes with a somewhat optimistic (depending on your perspective) prognostication that the forces of multiculturalism in the United States are likely to meet with a reality that they cannot guilt the populace into ignoring ad infinitum … immigration. Gottfried puzzles over why both the left and right in America are so complacent about an issue which is bound to stir up American sensibilities eventually. Mass, mostly Hispanic immigration weighs uncomfortably on the American underclass, taking away jobs from those least well off, or at least depressing their wages. It also unleashes divisive national movements against the Anglo population. In Gottfried’s words,
Hispanic Racialists, Third World patriarchs, and Mexican irredentists will likely eat up the present regime if given the demographic chance.
What will replace it is anybody’s guess.
*In Canada, Free Speech Has Its Restrictions by Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post, Dec. 12, 1999, A41