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2011 June 19 Sunday
Razib Sees Liberal Multiculturalism As Epiphenomenal

Razib "big words" Khan thinks liberal multiculturalism is epiphenomenal. But before start slogging thru those 6 syllables we need to look at why this came up in the first place. In response to the white guy who posed as a Lesbian Muslim Syrian blogger and got adulation from the liberal press Mark Steyn opines "Amina Arraf" supplied liberals with a fantasy figure who makes their belief in multiculturalism seem more plausible than it is in real life.

From CNN to The Guardian to Bianca Jagger to legions of Tweeters, Western liberalism fell for a ludicrous hoax. Why?

Because they wanted to. It would be nice if "Amina Arraf" existed. As niche constituencies go, we could use more hijab-wearing Muslim lesbian militants and fewer fortysomething male Western deadbeat college students. But the latter is a real and pathetically numerous demographic, and the former is a fiction a fantasy for Western liberals, who think that in the multicultural society the nice gay couple at 27 Rainbow Avenue can live next door to the big bearded imam with four child brides at No. 29 and gambol and frolic in admiration of each other's diversity. They will proffer cheery greetings over the picket fence, the one admiring the other's attractive buttock-hugging leather shorts for that day's Gay Pride parade as he prepares to take his daughter to the clitoridectomy clinic.

The problem with liberal multiculturalism is that liberalism has a value system that really isn't compatible with a large number of existing cultures in other countries. The multiculturalists do not celebrate differences so much as they celebrate the idea that the only real enduring differences between cultures only encompass areas that do not conflict with liberal values and liberal fantasies.

Reacting to Steyn Razib says liberal multiculturalism is epiphenomenal. In other words, it is a result of another phenomenon. But how will it end? That's the important part.

Liberal multiculturalism as it is presently constituted is epiphenomenal. It will end with a monoculture, a de facto hegemonic culture atop others, or a Millet system.

As for the end of liberal multiculturalism: In a sense Razib is more optimistic than me. While I'm no fan of liberalism I fear what will replace it. Liberal multiculturalism is not only unstable but it undermines liberalism and threatens to make it a very marginal belief system while taking a number of other beliefs and cultural practices along with it. Will it remain strong enough to sustain itself as a hegemonic culture? World and American national demographics argue against this outcome. How can liberals stay strong enough in Europe, for example, when Muslims and other non-liberal groups are a rising fraction of their populations?

Then there's the Millet system where different cultures are allowed to rule themselves. I think the low cost and wide use of transportation and communication technologies today argue against this possibility because the different cultures can't achieve sufficient isolation of their communities to make this practical. We'd need something like Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Todos Santos in Oath Of Fealty where massive buildings function as their own local governments. In an era when national governments are creating massive electronic surveillance apparatuses will they allow that degree of local autonomy? What (I think quite unstable) balance of factions would make this possible? Carved out communities only seem to occur under dictatorships, and even then rarely.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 June 19 02:43 PM  Cultural Wars Western


Comments
Abelard Lindsey said at June 20, 2011 12:33 PM:

While I'm no fan of liberalism I fear what will replace it.

When you say "liberalism", do you mean classical liberalism (Locke, Rothbard, etc.) or do you mean the current political liberalism that is really leftist ideology?

Wolf-Dog said at June 20, 2011 7:50 PM:

This article is true overall. In anthropology it is well known that the big tribe often initially tries to assimilate the small tribe, or if that attempt fails, it exterminates the small tribe.

Randall Parker said at June 20, 2011 8:05 PM:

Abelard Lindsey,

I am referring to modern American liberalism. However, I also think libertarianism has major flaws and some of those flaws (e.g. regards immigration) doom it along with liberalism.

The problem the libertarians have never addressed: You are only as free as your fellow citizens allow you to be.

Razib Khan said at June 20, 2011 10:52 PM:

just a minor clarification: i think that millet systems also entail domination by one group upon others. the difference between hegemonic cultures and millets, at least the way i'm thinking of it (i made up the "hegemonic culture atop" formulation on the spot) is that the former don't make much pretense toward toleration, while the latter accept the reality of a modus vivendi (speaking of big words!). i can give an explicit example of what i'm talking up. up until the 18th century roman catholics in england weren't really tolerated at all. they weren't just second class citizens, to a great extent they shouldn't have existed at all, and were not allowed to practice. by the time of de facto and later de jure emancipation the roman catholic english was very small due to these pressures (the larger current catholic population in ireland is due in large part to 19th and 20th century irish immigraiton). in contrast, in the netherlands you had a similar situation where protestants were dominant vis-a-vis catholics. but the protestants themselves were divided, with a strict calvinist minority ascendant. to maintain its leadership in society despite being a minority these calvinists enforced a second class citizenship on catholics, but allowed them to maintain a separate and somewhat "open secret" existence. like christians in the muslim world catholics were not allowed to have public churches in many dutch cities, but everyone knew which houses were actually catholic churches. unlike in england there wasn't a need for an underground catholic culture, because as long as they understood their place in the social order the dutch protestant elite would tolerate a catholic sub-culture. in the 20th century this became the 'pillar' system.

CamelCaseRob said at June 21, 2011 4:53 AM:

Does he really mean "ephiphenomenal"? Or does he mean it isn't a "sustainable" system?

CamelCaseRob said at June 21, 2011 6:39 AM:

Actuall, sustainable isn't the word *I* was looking for. I meant to say "stable". Perhaps Razib meant to say "ephemeral".
R

Abelard Lindsey said at June 21, 2011 2:29 PM:

However, I also think libertarianism has major flaws and some of those flaws (e.g. regards immigration) doom it along with liberalism.

I am well aware of immigration and the other human biodiversity issues that have not been addressed by libertarianism. A society is only as good as the human capital that comprises it.

Woozle said at June 21, 2011 5:41 PM:
The problem with liberal multiculturalism is that liberalism has a value system that really isn't compatible with a large number of existing cultures in other countries.
You must be using a different definition of "liberalism" than I do; my understanding is that allowing for other cultures and other ways is a basic tenet of liberalism -- one that is opposed by conservatism, which about preserving one's own culture even at the expense of others. Is there another multiculturally-supportive "-ism" I should be aware of?
The multiculturalists do not celebrate differences so much as they celebrate the idea that the only real enduring differences between cultures only encompass areas that do not conflict with liberal values and liberal fantasies.
Again, perhaps we are using different definitions, or perhaps there are faux-multiculturalists who are guilty of this, but my understanding was that the whole point of multiculturalism is that other cultures are nifty and interesting rather than being a threat.

If there's a conflict, it's over issues like the right of children not to me mutilated, and the right to move between cultures (e.g. to leave Islam) without being in danger. Are you suggesting that such ideas are uniquely liberal, that non-liberals would opposed them?

Also, since when is Time "the liberal press"?

MlR said at June 21, 2011 10:04 PM:

^Whistling past the graveyard, exhibit A.

Randall Parker said at June 21, 2011 10:39 PM:

Woozle, It is a liberal conceit that we can just unilaterally allow for other cultures. It begs a question: What if they do not allow for ours?

What you say here is what is in error about multiculturalism:

the whole point of multiculturalism is that other cultures are nifty and interesting rather than being a threat.

Islam is not a threat to liberalism? I mean, really? Mental exercise: Choose a different culture. Make its members have majority voting power for US elections. What changes? For each culture the answer will be different, some far worse than others. The outcomes of my thought experiment will differ depending on the culture chosen. The outcomes will differ in ways that affect how free and how fairly treated we will be as a result.

Ideas that are uniquely liberal: Some important ideas are held by liberals far more than by other cultures.

Razib Khan said at June 22, 2011 2:37 AM:

Does he really mean "ephiphenomenal"? Or does he mean it isn't a "sustainable" system?

like randall said, result of an another phenomenon. the whole weird liberal "let's tolerate everything" tendency.

Tom said at June 22, 2011 5:11 PM:

Liberal multiculturalism is a monoculture.

There isn't much genuinely "multicultural" about a nominally Muslim, consumeristic, social media obsessed lesbian who mouths all the politically correct "human rights" platitudes.

The whole point of the misleading term "multiculturalism" is to conceal the fact that it actually is a monoculture, a de facto hegemonic culture above others. The idea is that different peoples, groups, cultures, etc. will be less defensive against and more inclined to submit to this hegemonic monoculture if it is viewed as being more inclusive, tolerant, etc.

It's a universalistic theocracy, like other universalistic theocracies such as Christianity, Islam, international communism, etc.

Woozle said at June 23, 2011 1:59 PM:
^Whistling past the graveyard, exhibit A.
^Trolling, exhibit #eleventy-thousand.
Woozle, It is a liberal conceit that we can just unilaterally allow for other cultures. It begs a question: What if they do not allow for ours?
That's why I said this: If there's a conflict, it's over issues like the right of children not to be mutilated, and the right to move between cultures (e.g. to leave Islam) without being in danger. Are you suggesting that such ideas are uniquely liberal, that non-liberals would oppose them?

I would agree that tolerance must have limits -- tolerance of intolerance does not further the cause of tolerance in general.

Islam is not a threat to liberalism? I mean, really?
Islam is a culture? I thought it was a religion. Admittedly it is popular in certain cultures, and I would also say that it does contain cultural elements, and that some of those elements are objectionable -- but that doesn't mean we can't have devout Muslims happily living in an enlightened multicultural society, coexisting with other religions and cultures. Exhibit A is the United States.

There do seem to be a lot of self-identified liberals of the "accommodationist" stripe who take the view that a culture is a single, unbreakable package -- that if we don't respect every single barbaric custom embraced by the most hard-line factions of a given culture, then we are somehow disrespecting the culture as a whole, and all its individual members too.

Indeed, the clash between Islam and western thought has been far more pronounced in parts of the world that do not understand multiculturalism, such as Europe -- where multiculturalism is represented as being fundamentally accommodationist in nature, which means that in any conflict between western and immigrant values, the latter must win because otherwise the westerners are being "intolerant".

This is a gross misrepresentation of the idea of "tolerance". It is total BS that does nobody (except hardline powermongers) any favors. It's an all-or-nothing, black-and-white, us-vs-them, zero-sum worldview. It is being "tolerant" of the bully who takes your lunch money because beating people up is "part of his culture" -- which is not and never has been a liberal position.

Mental exercise: Choose a different culture. Make its members have majority voting power for US elections. What changes? For each culture the answer will be different, some far worse than others.
A fascinating exercise. Can you give me an example of a culture that you think would make worse decisions than those made by our own TV-driven, religion-addled majority and oligarchy-owned Congress?

"Let's tolerate everything" is an oversimplification; let me know if I haven't adequately addressed it... though I would like to ask: if that position is too extreme, then what alternative do Randall and the other commenters here support? I presume we all agree that "nuke them back to the stone age" is much too extreme in the other direction. What reasonable approach are you all advocating, by contrast to multiculturalism?

Tom's comment strikes me as a straw-man from start to end; I see no need to address it further.

Deckin said at June 25, 2011 9:27 AM:

Here's what I posted at Razib's site:

"With all due respect, either you don't understand what the word 'epiphenomenal' means, and are intending to mean 'ephemeral', or you do understand what it means and you've marshaled absolutely no evidence for its being so.

Something is epiphenomenal (a term of art in philosophy) if it is the sort of thing as to have a cause but itself to have no effects. In the philosophy of mind, where this term finds a home, it's highly controversial that there are any epiphenomena at all. Things like qualia and afterimages don't seem to fit the definition, if one takes it seriously.

So if you do understand the term correctly, you would have to argue that multiculturalism has no effects, or, perhaps, no interesting effects. That's a tough one to maintain, and, more importantly, you've offered no evidence for it--or even a hint.

What you do offer is a prediction about how it will end, which leads me to conclude that you really mean 'ephemeral'--something fleeting."

I now see that Razib has answered that criticism here, but I also see that he really does seem to misunderstand the term. He thinks of an epiphenomenon as something that 'is the result of another phenomenon'. Well that pretty much makes everything an epiphenomenon, on the assumption that the principle of sufficient reason still holds. What he leaves out is that the epiphenomenon, though it's caused by another phenomenon, has itself no causes. That's the really important part of the definition and leaving that out is like leaving the part about killing out of the definition of murder.

Deckin said at June 25, 2011 9:32 AM:

Oops, "the epiphenomenon, though it's caused by another phenomenon, has itself no causes" should read '...has itself no effects'. D'oh!

jerry said at June 25, 2011 10:18 AM:

The multiculturalists do not celebrate differences so much as they celebrate the idea that the only real enduring differences between cultures only encompass areas that do not conflict with liberal values and liberal fantasies.

Liberalism is genocidal racism against white people and nothing else. Liberals don't care about illiberalism among non-whites except to the degree that their racist hypocrisy is embarrassing to them. How many times, for example, do you have to see Liberals sponsoring racist mass rape and murder against whites by ignoring it before you realize their alleged principles are phony, that they're nothing but white-hating racists? How much more illiberal can you get than sponsoring and participating in racist lynchings and rape? Liberals ain't liberal, they're just anti-white. (If you need a current example of their blatant racism just look at how the media is "dealing with" the flash mob phenomenon and its racist beatings and robbery.)

Mthson said at June 25, 2011 1:40 PM:

Jerry,

Yeah, but it seems likely by 2050 reprogenetics will start fixing the low IQ & violent genes that liberalism causes to increase, so ultimately it's temporary. NAMs will, over time, choose to be something like Jessica Alba, thus becoming no longer NAMs, and the tribalism that liberalism promotes will fade.

In the meantime, do what you can to carry a firearm, and make sure any females in your life overcome their unrealistic softness and do the same. Women fight fine in the IDF, for example (gallery).

Woozle said at June 25, 2011 2:17 PM:
Liberalism is genocidal racism against white people and nothing else.
What is your definition of liberalism? This sounds to me like it comes from some alternate universe; in the one I live in, one of the core values of liberalism is egalitarianism, which conflicts completely with the idea of oppressing anyone.
How many times, for example, do you have to see Liberals sponsoring racist mass rape and murder against whites...
Examples, please?
If you need a current example of their blatant racism just look at how the media is "dealing with" the flash mob phenomenon and its racist beatings and robbery.
Links, please?
Abelard Lindsey said at June 26, 2011 11:00 AM:

Yeah, but it seems likely by 2050 reprogenetics will start fixing the low IQ & violent genes that liberalism causes to increase, so ultimately it's temporary.

We should have SENS by 2050 as well. So, the "die off" rate of whites should decline dramatically starting about that time. I just read a book about the emerging biotech scene (When Biology is Technology). Biotech instrumentation and apparatus is following a Moore's Law like progression with regards to cost and performance. Biotech R&D, like aging research, that costs millions of dollars today will be far cheaper, say, in 2030. Randall has already posted about this on his other blog (but did not make the connection between it and accelerating research into curing aging). There is the "Vegas Group" initiative to promote the development of SENS and other anti-aging therapies among the DIY biotech crowd.

Mthson said at June 27, 2011 11:40 AM:

Abelard,

That's an interesting point about SENS...
1. Reducing the "die off" rate of everyone actually increases the proportion of whites because A. they're a population with an older average age and B. they replenish their numbers at a lower rate.
2. If SENS treatments are expensive, that will bias longevity even more than it is currently toward whites and asians (and in general people who have good genes regardless of what group they're from).

Glad to hear about the DIY biotech crowd pursuing SENS.

Randall Parker said at June 28, 2011 8:27 PM:

Mthson,

Suppose by 2040 genetic engineering enables a 15 IQ point increase in the average baby. Okay, those babies won't turn 18 until 2058. That's 47 years from now. They won't make a big impact on the labor force until for some years later than that.

SENS would have a more immediate impact since it will be used by smarter older people to make them younger and the rejuvenation will boost their intellectual abilities. Imagine minds with the experiences of a full life but the mental agility of a 20 year old.

The competition among smart people for dwindling resources will be very intense until the price of energy plummets.

Daybreaker said at June 29, 2011 10:07 AM:

There's another possible model: a permanent market-dominant minority over a churning mass of disintegrating cultures constantly roiled by further mass immigration.

In this system, the permanent superiority of the insular minority is supported by control of institutions that are powerful but take a long time to pack in your favor, such as important courts, by direct financial control of closely supervised political parties, by mass media control, by coercive means such as job discrimination and mass media directed by social ostracism, and mainly by the inability of ephemeral majorities to organize in their interests. In addition, if you have well-trained, docile, compliant populations in the mix, you offer them up as scapegoats, allowing the more militant populations to satisfy their aggression and desire for gain at the expense of media designated "acceptable targets" rather than at your expense.

This requires your market dominant minority to be insular, talented, energetically meddlesome, and rather nasty, in a non-physical way, to any talented potential rival groups. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that such a minority exists, or could exist.

There'd be no millet system. Self-government would not really exist at any level but the top, and driving cultures into chaos and dependency would be a prime aim of the system. And there'd be no hegemonic culture pervading the system. Rather, there'd be a real culture for the elite, and a deliberately alienating and degrading anti-culture of commercially exploitative "transgressive" trashing for everyone else.


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