DICTATORSHIP OF VIRTUE by Richard Bernstein

DICTATORSHIP OF VIRTUE

Multiculturalism and the Battle for America's Future

KIRKUS REVIEW

 From New York Times reporter Bernstein (Fragile Glory, 1990), a stinging attack on multiculturalism, a ``messianic political program...[that] does not take kindly to true difference.'' Just as the egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution fell into a dÇrapage (slide) that led to the Reign of Terror, Bernstein avers, so the civil-rights revolution has lurched into a leftist intolerance that is contradictory to its professed pluralistic ideals. Broader-ranging than Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education (1990), this analysis covers not only higher education, but also elementary and secondary school systems, state legislatures, corporations, newsrooms, even the National Council of Churches. All of these institutions, it is alleged, are increasingly being assaulted by pious, often well-meaning ``diversity experts'' who peddle fraudulent visions of an oppressive American and Western tradition. Bernstein sensibly contends that racism, sexism, and homophobia are receding to the margins of American life, not growing, as is often claimed. He neatly disposes of claims that today's ethnic and racial groups represent an exotic new force in American life by noting that immigration was proportionately higher in earlier eras, and that today's immigrants, unlike their predecessors, were constantly exposed to American culture before coming here. Bernstein offers chilling examples of how ``diversity'' has been used as a bludgeon by leftists in battle over high school curricula, sexual harassment hearings that deny due process, the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's initial voyage to the New World, and school courses that stigmatize ``dead white European males.'' Worst of all, Bernstein charges, diversity advocates, now comfortably lodged in the intelligentsia, question cultural norms that have historically enhanced upward mobility in the US, thereby damaging the disadvantaged whose interest they claim to serve. A sophisticated, tough-minded examination of the newest fault line in late 20th century American culture. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-41156-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1994




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