Inclusiveness: A Harmful Ideology

We hear a lot about inclusiveness, but the topic is never discussed analytically. The idea seems to be that it’s warm and fuzzy and what Jesus would do, so it’s obviously a good thing. The result is that our world is being remade for the sake of a goal that hasn’t been thought through. With that in mind, it seems sensible to ask what it is, what it does, and where it comes from.

The nature of inclusiveness is fairly simple: it’s the egalitarian welfare state applied to the social environment. It tells us that every one of us has the right to experience his social environment as equally accepting and affirming, so everyone is required to make sure things turn out that way.

With that in mind, inclusiveness demands changes that go to the heart of how people deal with each other. For example, it doesn’t like the idea that particular kinds of people can be more or less suitable for particular positions. More and less suitable means discrimination, and training and job redesign are supposed to take care of whatever issues there are. So if you’re running the Navy you’re expected to put women not only on submarines but in the SEALs. If there seem to be issues, it’s your job to find a way around them.

Nor does inclusiveness want people to rely on complementary qualities when they form functional relationships. Some people don’t have those qualities, and that leaves them out. So specific understandings of marriage and family have to go. Love and connectedness take many forms, and none can be preferred to any other. If you think the natural and traditional view of marriage is better that means you hate people who like something else. Nor does inclusiveness like old boy networks and so on. The idea seems to be that people who live and work together should build relationships based exclusively on common humanity, impersonal qualifications like academic degrees, and common devotion to fairness, diversity, and organizational mission statements.

 

AgainstInclusivenessCoverWith that in mind, inclusiveness doesn’t like particular culture. That’s the reason for the war against Christmas. If culture functions, so Christians do Christian things in any setting that matters, that excludes others. Human relations have to become a combination of individual choice, managerial know-how, and psychological and social therapy that applies the same way to everyone everywhere. If Lapps and Basques work better with Lapps and Basques, because they see things the same way and have similar habits, that has to change as well. The result is that the cooperative habits and informal knowledge that develop within culture, and provide the basis for the specific achievements of every civilization, have to be done away with as exclusionary.

The whole project is disconnected from reality. It’s at odds with how human life works, so it can be relied on to make people cruder, stupider, less functional, and more isolated. At some level people know that, so most people find inclusiveness and its demands stupid and disruptive. But if it makes no sense, and people know it, why are so many intelligent, experienced, and responsible people so firmly committed to it?

People sometimes say it’s because of the media, or social pressure, or competitive status seeking (“I’m better than you are because I’m more egalitarian”). All that’s true in its way, but why do those forces all point in the direction they do? Resentment mongering might explain some of it, but resentments are universal, and they’re normally ignored or suppressed unless they’re considered justified. If someone resents the depiction of Christians or social conservatives on TV, he’s a right-wing hater, and he can go stew.

To some extent the situation can be explained on semi-Marxist grounds. People whose position and wealth comes from money, bureaucratic status, and professional qualifications want to get rid of other competing principles of authority like family, religion, local community, and particular culture. They don’t like distinctions and connections like sex, culture, and religion that don’t lend themselves to quantification, supervision, and control by those at the top.

So it’s not surprising that people at the top like inclusiveness, which says in effect that all those messy opaque distinctions, connections, and authorities have to be done away with. Everything has to be put on a bureaucratic or monetary basis so it can be supervised and controlled. Experts, bureaucrats, lawyers, managers, therapists, and people with tons of money should run everything, because they’re the ones who run the only institutions that are allowed to work.

And in fact the great age of inclusiveness has turned out to be the great age of inequality based on money, organizational position, educational certification, and so on. Inclusiveness has helped destroy connections among ordinary people, and with them the habits, attitudes, and arrangements that help them lead orderly, decent, and productive lives. In contrast, the connections and distinctions that are necessary for liberal institutions to function are exempt from inclusivist demands. The result is that the last couple of decades have made Oprah a billionaire, and also reduced the average life expectancy of uneducated white women by five years.

Still, that explanation is not completely satisfying either. If the populace turns into a mass of troubled and not-so-functional people, like the ones Charles Murray and Theodore Dalrymple write about, that’s not helpful to people who are trying to run things. Also, and more basically, people at the top really do believe in inclusiveness. It’s viewed as an essential part of what it means to be a legitimate human being, and the higher someone’s IQ and the more years of schooling he has the more fervently he is likely to believe in it. It evidently has to do with the basic ways educated public thought makes sense of human life, and its causes must be very basic indeed. They have to do with fundamental concepts of what’s real, reasonable, and valuable that precede all particular judgments of reality and practicality.

So what’s going on? At bottom, inclusiveness comes out of the same attempt to make knowledge rigorous and human action sovereign over nature that led to modern science and technology. That may sound paradoxical, since warm and fuzzy inclusiveness and hard-edged science seem very different from each other, but it’s nonetheless clear. The inclusivist demands mentioned above all insist on abolishing the effect of traditional social arrangements that can’t be made clear and controllable, like those relating to sex, family, religion, and particular culture. Instead, we’re supposed to have enlightenment, which means rule by arrangements that supposedly are simply rational, like neutral expert bureaucracies.

The point of the newer arrangements is supposed to be achieving whatever goals people happen to have. We’re not going to base anything on questionable claims about highest goods, natural law, or objective moral order. Instead, we’ll go with preferences, which are concrete and demonstrable. Once we do that, though, equality becomes the obvious standard: people equally have preferences, and their preferences are equally such, so all people and their preferences have an equal claim to fulfillment. (An exception is that preferences that don’t fit the system, like Catholic views on marriage, get stomped on.)

One preference almost everyone has is a preference for the esteem of other people, so that has to be equalized as well. Esteem, after all, has to do with value, and value is now thought to be subjective and therefore changeable through training. And since people give social respect very high priority, that kind of equality should get high priority as well. Exclusion violates that equality, so it cannot be tolerated. So in a very few steps rationalizing ways of thought applied to the construction of social environment bring us to inclusiveness. Our current situation is thus a natural outcome of the attempt to abolish tradition, revelation, and natural law in favor of simply giving people what they want. It seems we’re stuck with it until current ways of thinking change in absolutely fundamental ways.

James Kalb

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James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

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