Briefly Noted: Roger Kimball on Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is the ideology that promotes the institutionalization of multiple cultures within a single community. Almost always, it promotes relativism in relation to religion and morality and, as such, is antithetical to Christian belief and practice. And according to Roger Kimball, in a recent issue of The New Criterion, Americans should question the legitimacy of multiculturalism because it doesn’t work.[1]

Kimball builds his essay around recent statements by several European leaders. He notes, for instance, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed in 2010 that “the dream of multicultural harmony, according to which people of radically different backgrounds and aspirations would ‘live side-by-side,’ had ‘failed, utterly failed.’” He further notes that Britons are also awakening to this reality. In other words, multiculturalism–which has for decades been touted as the ideal by the Western academy–is not so ideal.

One of the reasons some European leaders are now thinking this way is the negative effect of immigration, especially from Muslim countries, on Europe’s population and thus on the economy. (Economic crises such as the current Eurozone crisis are usually never only fiscal or monetary issues.) Kimball finds an irony, however, in multiculturalism’s roots and effects. “That is the curious thing about multiculturalism: it is a Western export that is itself anti-Western. Born in the academy, it is the creature of political correctness.” So, for Kimball, ideological multiculturalism is not an ideal at all, but rather the child of a flawed worldview, and he believes this worldview and its effects have great bearing on American policies of immigration, homeland defense, and the economy. In sum, he states, “The Brits and the Germans seem to be waking up to the dangers of multicultural accommodation. When will we?”

I agree with Kimball, and will add a couple of comments. First, one’s rejection of multiculturalism as an ideology is in no way a rejection of multiple cultures within one community. In fact, one hopes that multiple cultures and sub-cultures are able to live in harmony alongside of one another. Second, one’s rejection of multiculturalism is really a rejection of the relativism that often accompanies it. Such relativism attempts to neutralize the religious and moral beliefs of the various cultures, sitting above them in imperial judgment. Third, instead of such relativism, one hopes that multiple cultures will be able to live alongside of one another harmoniously, while still being free to speak convictionally about religious and moral matters in the public square.

For those readers interested in the conversation about multiculturalism, here are two further articles, one by the Pope and the other by R. R. Reno.


[1] Roger Kimball, “The Multicultural Morass,” in The New Criterion 30:7 (March 2012): 1–3.