Mainstream self-styled ‘progressives’ tend to think of multiculturalism and diversity as inherently good things – ideas that only the racist and bigoted would contest. Which is why Swedish sociologist Goran Adamson’s new book, The Trojan Horse: A Leftist Critique of Multiculturalism in the West, is such a welcome intervention. It provides a definitive critique of the ideology of diversity, and it does so from a progressive perspective. In particular, it shows how reason, freedom and individuality – the cornerstones of democracy and civil rights – are being undermined by the ideology of multiculturalism and its elevation of particular identities and rights over universal political freedom.
Adamson has long been aware of the problems with multiculturalism. Several years ago, he was commissioned by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights to determine the best methods for increasing political participation among immigrant groups in Europe. Having studied the empirical data, he discovered that the separate-but-equal model of a pluralist, multicultural society was less effective at encouraging political participation among immigrant groups than a more classically liberal approach, whereby immigrants are invited to participate in public life on equal terms, as citizens. Adamson’s report, Immigrants and Political Participation, was quickly dismissed, even by those who commissioned it.
This attempt by the EU to quash findings that disagree with the multiculturalist agenda didn’t surprise Adamson. Citing Wolfgang Kowalsky, a policy adviser at the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and an expert in far-right demagoguery, Adamson argues that the methods and theories of multiculturalists are similar to those of right-wing extremists: both want to force reality to conform to their worldview, rather than respond to it as it really is.
There are other parallels between multiculturalism and old-fashioned racial thinking. For instance, as Adamson points out, multicultural ideology makes a fetish, like the racial theories of yore, of ethnic diversity. What matters is not, as Martin Luther King believed, the content of one’s character, but the colour of one’s skin. Common human traits, such as the capacity for abstract thinking, creativity and self-consciousness, are effaced in the name of what divides us. In this sense, multiculturalism is just as fixated on race as the racist thought of the past.
Furthermore, as Adamson argues, the multicultural view of immigrants doesn’t treat them as individuals who have a basic human need for self-determination; rather, ‘the immigrant’ is an abstract type, a species, a race. Thus the racist implications of multiculturalism loom large despite its ostensible anti-racism. The ‘other’ is presented as either inherently fascinating or as a fragile victim. They are not like us. And in this separation of us from them, racism festers, explains Adamson. After all, the idea of diversity rests on the belief that immigrants are different to us, that their difference should be the object of celebration and adulation. Accordingly, the universalism and inclusivity of the civil-rights movement appears to the ardent multiculturalist as an embarrassing form of ‘cultural imperialism’.