American Elephants


“DIVERSITY: The Invention of a Concept” by The Elephant's Child

Last night I was looking for the next book in a series I’m re-reading, and noticed another book that has long been on my overloaded bookshelves. It is titled simply “DIVERSITY: The invention of a Concept” by Peter Wood. I had forgotten all about it, though I bought it when it first came out fourteen years ago, read it and enjoyed it, which is why I still have it. Here’s a bit from the jacket flap, and remember this was written in 2003:

In just a few years, diversity has become America’s most visible cultural idea. Corporations alter their recruitment and hiring policies in the name of a diverse workforce. Universities institute new admissions procedures in the name of a diverse student body. Presidents choose their major appointees in the name of a diverse cabinet. And what diversity’s proponents have in mind, Peter Wood argues, is not the dictionary meaning of the word—variety and multiplicity—but a new and often narrow kind of conformity.

Whether as prescribed numerical outcomes or as the celebration of cultural “difference,” diversity, according to Wood, is now a deadening force in American life, a cliché that promotes group stereotypes and undermines any real diversity of ideas and individuals. …

But the current cult of diversity is no laughing matter. Wood shows how the elevation of this concept to the highest social good marks a profound change in our cultural life. Diversity as it is practiced today is anti-individualist and at odds with America’s older ideals of liberty and equality.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai believed himself to be defending diversity and opportunity for women in his company. James Damore was trying to point out that cultural taboos cloud corporate thinking about gender diversity. The Liberty Lawsite compared the Google bubble with the University bubble. At Hoover, Richard Epstein discusses the rigid ideological conformity in Silicon Valley, At American Greatness, Boris Zelkin noted that Sundar Pichai said that what Damore did was “Not OK” and suggested that Pichai could have thrown in a “double plus ungood” for good measure.

Meanwhile down in Charlottesville a very diverse meeting between three dramatically opposed groups— white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Antifa got together with the tools of their trade: baseball bats, bullhorns, flags, costumes and Tiki-torches, to protest the Civil War and any leftover remembrances thereof, did a lot of injury and killed two people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. President Trump pointed out that there is blame on both sides for the deadly violence, while the Associated Press went crazy and insisted that the antifas were just “protesting” the white supremacists. The president said they were all thugs and criminals and incited violence, for which he, though correct, was excoriated by the press.

I recommend Peter Wood’s book. There are used copies for only around $2 at Amazon, or you can pay over $100 — but if a good read would start a significant conversation about the deliberate invention of a concept and how it happened, it might be very helpful indeed.


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