In an important sense, everyone must be a multiculturalist, because each culture is itself a multiculture. Take the social and political culture of the West. It is famously constituted by a dialogue between two intellectual poles—Athens and Jerusalem—a culture of reason and a culture of faith and tradition. But, of course, the culture of the West is not only a social and political culture but an aesthetic one. And here it is composed in part of all sorts of national cultures that are themselves the products of subcultures within the nation.
All cultures thus are mongrel cultures. A culture is also never static but always in motion propelled by collisions with others. And what emerges from the collisions is the result of millions of choices of individuals over generations who determine how to mix and match what many cultures offer them. At its best what underlies all multicultures is the dynamism of liberty.
Unfortunately, much that goes under the name of multiculturalism today is a multiculturalism of coercion.
Peter Feuerherd’s recent column at JSTOR Daily discusses sixteenth century Protestant Reformer John Calvin and his influence on capitalism. Calvin is viewed negatively by most moderns, both because of his identification with the doctrine of predestination – that God has eternally elected those who will be saved – as well as for a common, if not quite accurate, styling of the Weberian hypothesis, that Calvin and Calvinists believed worldly affluence to signify divine election.
Sheldon S. Wolin, who died last year, was an immensely influential figure in American political thought. His student, Nicholas Xenos, has edited 25 of Wolin’s essays as a kind of monument to his teacher, the noted democratic theorist, lover of “participatory democracy,” and scourge of all forms of antidemocratic thought. And a fitting monument it is. Fugitive Democracy and Other Essays gradually reveals the whole of Wolin’s thought from bottom to top, from fundamental question to perpetual answer. That question is what to do about modernity. Like Martin Heidegger and his French followers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault, but above…