Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Review of Against Inclusiveness by James Kalb


Kalb, James. Against Inclusiveness: how the diversity regime is flattening America and the West and what to do about it. Angelico Press, 2013. ISBN-10: 1621380408 ISBN-13: 978-1621380405 


This book is the best I have seen, and probably the best which could be written, that discerns and describes a single systematic ideology behind Liberalism/ Leftism/ Progressivism.


The key word to describe this book is thorough.

Even if, like me, you have given a lot of thought to these linked issues of Inclusiveness, Tolerance, Diversity and Multiculturalism - Kalb will impress by the way in which he joins the dots, fills in the gaps, makes logical links, and provides telling examples (in this last respect being bold and specific far beyond my own deliberately abstracted and decontextualized efforts). 

I find Kalb's prose style extremely pleasing - calm, reasonable, cultivated, yet quietly witty and with some pointed summaries, such as:

[p78]..inclusiveness reduces ethnic culture to ethnic-themed fast food, religion to self-indulgent reverie or poeticized versions of liberalism, and marriage to a sentimental recognition of almost any human connection with sexual overtones The end result is a single liberal way of life based on career, consumption, and diversion variously accessorized in ways not allowed to matter.

[p82] ...the destruction of the authority of particular culture bears especially heavily on cultural institutions. Rather than presenting, defending and developing a particular culture, which is likely to be one traditionally dominant at least locally, they must subvert it. Anything else would make them agents of oppression. Traditional and high cultures thus turn against themselves. They lose their specific function in the ordering of the life of a people and, to the extent to which they are not replaced by commercial pop culture, become hobbies, theaters of careerism, markers of status, or instruments of subversion.

[p108-9]  The liberal order is irretrievably prosaic and boring... 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?...

At bottom, coolness is as silly as people think. It is notoriously unsustainable. 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 don't think I have any substantive disagreements with Kalb - merely differences of approach, and a lower level of optimism concerning what is likely to befall.

For example, I give the mass media a much greater role than does Kalb, and he gives a greater role to the effect of abstract ideas as causes. He sees reasonable hope for a smooth transition to a better polity, where I find this hard to imagine. Of course, I live in England whereas Kalb lives in the US, and it could well be that the realities here are significantly worse than there.

In general, I tend to regard the abstract ideas of Leftism/ Liberalism as mainly post hoc consequences of the over-riding anti-Good destructiveness which causally motivated the Left, rather than as themselves causes of destruction.


And whereas Kalb elucidates and inter-relates the principles and ideologies of the Left (while making clear that these are each and collectively incoherent and unrealizable); I tend to notice the way that the Left switches-between these ideologies in an unprincipled manner which seems impossible to capture in terms of an over-arching unified positive goal. Rather, it looks to me as if the over-arching principle is negative and destructive, and the principles are used or discarded in accordance with this bottom-line nihilism.


As a focus of hope, Kalb puts the Roman Catholic Church, whereas I would emphasize the LDS church; Kalb emphasizes the potential benefits of studying great authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Pascal, Burke and Newman, whereas I think that reaction (when it comes) will necessarily be simple and straightforward enough to be comprehensible by the average man.

But these are not substantive disagreements, they are merely different emphases.

And on the whole, on those points where we disagree, I would be glad if Kalb turned-out to be right and I to be wrong!