Elites, checked.

Samuel Huntington died. I haven’t read anything serious by him, with the exception of the hispanic challenge a while ago. Given that I grew up in a Chicago neighborhood where you could see Polish signs in the windows and Polish language bus schedules in 1985, and have spent much of my adult career working alongside brilliant Indians and Chinese people with various visa situations, my thoughts on the situation tend to be less focused through keeping a single pure Protestant culture intact. (But I didn’t meet anyone I realized was a Protestant until I was 18, so I’m probably part of the problem.)

I do want to quote this Louis Menand review of his “Who We Are” – the last line of this excerpt is one of my favorite sly jokes I’ve read:

The bad guys in Huntington’s scenario can be divided into two groups. One is composed of intellectuals, people who preach dissent from the values of the “core culture.” As is generally the case with indictments of this sort, recognizable names are sparse. Among those that do turn up are Bill Clinton, Al Gore, the political theorist Michael Walzer, and the philosopher Martha Nussbaum. All of them would be astonished to learn that they are deconstructionists. (It is amazing how thoroughly the word “deconstruction” has been drained of meaning, and by the very people who accuse deconstruction of draining words of meaning.) What Huntington is talking about is not deconstruction but bilingualism, affirmative action, cosmopolitanism (a concept with which Nussbaum is associated), pluralism (Walzer), and multiculturalism (Clinton and Gore). “Multiculturalism is in its essence anti-European civilization,” Huntington says. “It is basically an anti-Western ideology.”

He thinks that the deconstructionists had their sunny moment in the late nineteen-eighties and early nineties, and were beaten back during the culture wars that their views set off. They have not gone away, though. In the future, he says, “the outcomes of these battles in the deconstructionist war will undoubtedly be substantially affected by the extent to which Americans suffer repeated terrorist attacks on their homeland and their country engages in overseas wars against its enemies.” The more attacks and wars, he suggests, the smaller the deconstructionist threat. This may strike some readers as a high price to pay for keeping Martha Nussbaum in check.


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3 Responses to Elites, checked.

  1. EW says:

    I’ve got wholly solid Protestant bona fides, but I don’t take it too seriously. I mean, really, Anglo-protestants basically fall into three categories: yankees, quakers, and crackers. And, compared to other American demographics — what’s so special about them, other than being first in time?

    Huntington’s most famous book is “The Soldier and the State,” probably the best book on civil/military relations, at least this century.

    But here’s one ironic point vis a vis Huntington:

    The book doesn’t mention one large effect that the military exerts on civil society — the breaking down of racial/minority barriers. The military is probably the largest, most racially egalitarian organization in America. Of course, Huntington doesn’t realize that, or how the military has been an engine against racial balkanization (a small-town soldier or sailor might have two blacks, a latino, a new yorker, two southerners, and a Californian in his unit).

    As for Menand, deconstructing Huntington is exactly in his wheelhouse. Menand is really an expert on the de-WASPification of the postwar American university, which Huntington dislikes. Also, Menand also really knows that most WASPy of American philosophies, pragmatism, which is a half-step away from poststructuralism, which Huntington really dislikes, but probably doesn’t understand.

  2. Mike says:

    This comment is really good. Thank you for posting it.

    EW- I’ve been meaning to email you this:


    The incredibly bizarre origin story of Tyler Cowen – he was originally supposed to be a sleeper agent of Rothbardian Austrian Mises-style economics, getting the PhD in Harvard and adding respectability to the enterprise, but instead betrays them for Schelling, Hayek, and the (!!!) Kochtopus.

    They really love circling the wagons into who is in and who is out on the far left/right.

  3. EW says:

    That’s insane. It’s also evidence that libertarians are better pamphleteers than entrepreneurs. The paranoia, thin skin, and loyalty to paradoxical principles don’t work in the larger world.

    Speaking of paradoxical, I’ve never heard a libertarian explain away the paradox of enforcing private property rights — that is, authorities must confiscate and coerce property from others to have the means of enforcing property rights at all.

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