[This is Chapter 18 of Murphey's book Liberalism in Contemporary America. It is essentially the same as the Conservative Review article on "Multiculturalism."]
Multiculturalism: Liberalism's Latest and Most Threatening Assault
For almost a century and three-quarters, the world Left, including twentieth century American liberalism, has sought an alliance between the alienated intelligentsia and any unassimilated, disaffected group. In the absence of such an alliance, the intellectual culture has little political power and hence little ability to act in pursuit of its alienation.
This seeking of an alliance was the very essence of Marxism. In the twentieth century, however, the alliance with labor (Marx's "proletariat") has fizzled. Accordingly, the intellectual culture has felt its socialist aspirations blocked. This has led it into a funk similar to that experienced by American liberal intellectuals in the 1920s. Indeed, since World War II American liberals, writing in their in-house literature, have basically despaired of socializing the American economy.
The thing that has kept modern liberalism going since World War II has been the moral appeal of egalitarianism as applied to race and ethnicity (and, with the feminist movement, to gender). Even though the methods of legislated fraternity have left much to be desired from a conservative's point of view, this egalitarianism has been well-nigh irresistible to the American people, who have accepted its moral premises. The struggle for racial and then sexual equality has long given a moribund liberalism a much-needed boost.
This seems to me to have been, at first, a diversion. It amounted to a substitution of goals for the intellectual culture, which had earlier been so focused on socialism. And, too, the egalitarianism has in large measure amounted to an insistence on making everyone a participant in the successful middle class. When we realize how alienated the intellectual culture has been against precisely that middle class for well over a century and a half, the struggle to bring everyone into it is really an anomaly.
In recent years, however, "multiculturalism" (enhanced by all the vogue-making mechanisms that the academic and media cultures can muster) has come along to raise the stress on ethnicity to a much higher level. This has become the rage within academic and media circles, and has come to be enforced by irascible taboos that insist on a "politically correct" sensitivity to the needs of the members of "victimized" minorities. This gives us yet another example, on top of the tendencies of the 1930s and late '60s, of just how open the American Left really is to totalitarianism when it feels it has the power (which it does today in important pockets of our society).
A whole new potential has opened up for the Left. It now senses the possibility of multiplying indefinitely the potential ethnic allies that are to be enlisted. A few years ago it seemed that American liberalism would destroy its own appeal by becoming more and more tied into a limited assortment of strident fringe elements. But new vistas have opened up with the multiculturalist vision. Ethnic allies can arise from immigration, the growth of the minority populations that are already here, and an intensified self-awareness on the part of each minority (a self-consciousness that the intellectual culture is working hard to create). The members of each group are encouraged to see themselves as the "victims" of "Eurocentric" society (a recently coined term, as is the term "victimology"). Thus, to the extent the effort succeeds, they are imbued with the intellectuals' own alienation. The multiculturalism picks up on every ethnic nuance in the United States so long as it is not of European origin. The ideal of assimilation is dropped and "cultural pride and identity" are elevated. This portends an eventual Balkanization within American society.
This amounts, in effect, to an attempted alliance of the alienated intellectual culture with the Third World, imported into the United States. (A similar process is occurring in Europe.) The point I would have us realize is that this offers endless potential to those who so desperately hate our predominant culture.
What it does is to open up the prospect of demographic swamping. There are said to be 5.4 billion people in the world today. With enough immigration and population growth among America's minorities, it is projected that Caucasians will themselves become a minority in this country by the middle of the twenty-first century, if not sooner. The alienated intellectual culture can hardly restrain itself for glee.
The irony of it all is that most of the alienated intellectuals' allies eventually go their own way. They have no love for being on the intellectuals' lead-strings. They become "ungrateful" and "obtuse" (as blacks did in the Civil Rights Movement when under Stokely Carmichael they ousted the "white liberals," whom they didn't trust). So there is no assurance that an ethnic swamping-out of mainstream American culture will produce the sort of society the intellectuals want. Will an America patterned after the Third World idolize the intelligentsia, giving it power and social status while holding in check competitors for that same power and status? The question virtually answers itself.
Nor is it clear that all of the "ethnics" will even support the attack on American culture during the interim. Most of the people who come to America want to be part of it. One of the great sources of frustration to the alienated intellectual is that, like Old Man River, the so-called "bourgeoisie" "just keeps rollin' along." People want the good life, which means becoming "middle class."
So the future, as always, is problematical. The issue as framed for the future becomes one of whether Europe and America will continue to lead or even to exist as such. In part this is a question of whether the majority within the West has become so effete and so immobilized by the existence of the alienated intellectual culture within it that it is prepared to see itself displaced and its influence seep away. From all appearances, the current American majority, which rarely asserts its own prerogatives in either ideology or politics, is willing to acquiesce in this transformation.
Stated another way, the new struggle that today's "multiculturalism" poses will be about whether America and Europe are to dissolve into the Third World, or whether all of mankind will rise to a new level under the leadership of positive forces that will include, as one of their primary ingredients, the heritage of the West. There will be very little "heritage of the West" involved in it if the alienated intellectual culture -- the driving force behind "liberalism in contemporary America" -- has its way.