Thursday, September 28, 2006
Walter Benn Michaels’ The Trouble With Diversity: A Valve Book Event
Starting on Monday, October 2nd, the Valve will play host to a discussion of Walter Benn Michaels’ The Trouble With Diversity. Several Valve regulars will participate, as will a number of prominent scholars from outside the discipline. Dr. Michaels has graciously agreed to respond to posts and comments. If you have read The Trouble With Diversity or the first chapter, recently published in The American Prospect, and would like to participate, contact me with your proposal.
Redistribution of wealth? Deemphasizing racial diversity as an admissions criterion? Capping private earnings?
Great ideas, but as Michaels himself notes, these are patently un-American.
He’s also preaching to the choir.
Mr. Gatsby—if that *is* your real name—I agree with you.
The major problem with Michaels’ new work is that he assumes the universal validity of wealth redistribution as either a political, economic, or ethical truth.
To a good capitalist liberal, Michaels’ argument doesn’t hold up. The cap-lib would simply argue, “Affirmitive action is necessary because blacks were not allowed to compete in the free market on equal terms until maybe 30 years ago. Poor whites have no such excuse.”
Michaels’ assumptions were OK when he was largely writing literacy criticism. He didn’t need to prove the need for wealth redistribution when he was only pointing out the lingering racialism of contemporary identity politics. But now that he’s entering the public policy/political science sphere, he’ll need to do the real work of proving why, for example, Hayek and Milton Friedman are wrong.
I think Michaels’ intentions are honorbale; he’s just too much of an idealist. At least, that’s the way he comes across in this essay.
The universal validity of wealth redistribution *seems* plausible. And perhaps the ensuing chapters of The Trouble With Diversity do attempt the “real work” of disproving Nobel laureates.
But there just seems a gap between Michaels’ humanistic critique and the exigencies of capitalism.
Walter Michaels was interviewed on CBC Radio this Sunday. I discoved my saviour, someone who can say capitalism should be fettered and still make a living. In a better world should elitists have rights - specifically for them? If your or my parents left us large sums of money, would not we be allowed to spend it on our kids teeth or give them a good education? I think we should - there are ways of moderating this - taxes and a more open discussion - some kind of media.