Political commentary / book review
A return to ethnocentrism
ast week I was getting rid of some old books. I dumped an obsolete 1990 book on molecular biology, my copy of Advanced Solaris Administrator's Guide, and a map, in Japanese, of the subway system in Osaka. I'm not sure whether it was my desire to expunge the outmoded ways of thinking the books represent, or my desire to avoid being crushed by their ever-increasing mass. Or maybe it's just my natural tendency as a running dog bourgeois capitalist imperialist to burn books.
Whatever the reason, one book I saved from the pyre at the last minute was Kevin MacDonald's 2002 The Culture of Critique. MacDonald, a social psychologist, was interested in Judaism as an evolutionary strategy. CoC was the third in his series on Judaism and anti-Semitism. His thesis is that Jews are ethnocentric, and use their influence to promote multiculturalism, which benefits Jews but harms society in general. To protect their influence, they promote the idea that opposition to Judaism is anti-Semitism, an unmitigated evil that invariably leads to genocide.
To illustrate what he means, consider Children of the Corn. In this movie, a xenophobic, rural Christian sect, under the influence of a little white kid wearing a funny hat, commits brutal murders of passers-by. It would be unimaginable to see a movie where a little Jewish kid wearing a black Borsalino leads a sect of Jews to massacre people. Apparently, blood libel against Christianity is okay, while criticism of Judaism is beyond the pale. In this respect MacDonald makes a good point in saying that pro-Jewish attitudes have pervaded our culture.
Daniel Levinson, a co-author of The Authoritarian Personality, Theodor Adorno's pseudo-psychoanalysis of the Right, defined ethnocentrism this way:
“Ethnocentrism is based on a pervasive and rigid ingroup-outgroup distinction; it involves a stereotyped negative imagery and hostile attitudes regarding outgroups, stereotyped positive imagery and submissive attitudes regarding ingroups, and a hierarchical authoritarian view of group interaction in which ingroups are rightly dominant, outgroups subordinate.” [p.150 in Adorno et al.; cited on p.171 of MacDonald]
The cure for ethnocentrism, which logically flows from this (massively flawed) definition, is to eliminate group identities wherever one finds them. This leads to an atomized society, where no one feels any group loyalty whatsoever. MacDonald calls this radical individualism.
It sounds crazy today, but the idea that all forms of group identity, such as nationalism, ethnicity, and religion, are inherently fascist must have made sense to someone, because it became the primary motivation for the creation of the European Union. It was adopted by modern-day leftists, who see themselves courageously fighting Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, whose shadows they see everywhere.
Kevin MacDonald was clearly disturbed by the conflict between the coherent group identity maintained by Judaism and the ideal of an atomized society promoted by Adorno. But he also believes ethnocentrism is harmful to Western civilization:
“I believe it is highly unlikely that Western societies based on individualism and democracy can long survive the legitimization of competition between impermeable groups in which group membership is determined by ethnicity.” [p.311]
MacDonald warned that ethnocentrism could arise among European-derived peoples as a result of multiculturalism. He saw America heading toward the development of collectivist, authoritarian, and racialist enclaves, as multiculturalism becomes more and more authoritarian:
“As ethnic conflict continues to escalate ... increasingly desperate attempts will be made to prop up the ideology of multiculturalism ... as well as the erection of police state controls on nonconforming thought and behavior.” [p.312]
MacDonald was startlingly accurate in that prediction, which he made over 12 years ago.
MacDonald also said the Jews' attempts to influence culture have always created conflicts over resources, which, he suggests, might explain the seemingly eternal reemergence of anti-Semitism; conversely, Western individualism is a threat to the homogeneity and survival of Jewish culture. Thus, their ethnocentricity has benefited them, but had harmful effects for outsiders. His goal seems to be to encourage a more balanced view of Judaism in America, but the alternative is left unsaid: if ethnocentrism has helped the Jews so much, perhaps it might not be such a bad thing for other ethnic groups.
Today psychologists would say that ethnocentrism should be considered as a phenomenon of nature: a natural response to the suppression of a group's cultural values by a larger society. Humans have a psychological need to be part of a group that reflects their values. When trapped in a culture that pressures them to adopt alien values, as with the American Indians or with the Russians under communism, they are forced to choose between forming an exclusionary ethnocentric opposition group and becoming extinct. Until communism collapsed, the Russians were indeed well on the way to becoming extinct through suicide by abortion and alcoholism.
While ethnocentrism kept Jewish culture alive for many centuries, Jews still constitute less than 0.2% of the world's population. Thus, ethnocentrism would seem to be found mainly in groups that feel numerically or culturally oppressed. If it is a survival strategy, it is a desperate one.
MacDonald paints a grim picture of the state of anthropology and the soft sciences, from Franz Boas to Margaret Mead to Stephen Jay Gould. He describes a branch of science that has been thoroughly corrupted by politics. Public opinion and public policy have been heavily influenced by leftist politics masquerading as science from our most famous universities. MacDonald says the motivation is to ensure the prevalence of Jewish ideas, but a simpler explanation might be that academics wish to ensure their research, and themselves, of an endless supply of taxpayer money by increasing the size of government.
But for all their efforts, the Left has not eliminated ethnocentrism; they merely exchanged one ingroup for another. Today, it is American values—freedom, individuality, and self-determination—that are under attack, and those ethnicities who identify with these values are the ones most likely to respond with ethnocentrism. MacDonald is very pessimistic, saying that European peoples evolved under conditions that favor individualism, and are therefore easily manipulated into cultural suicide. Indeed, the Israelis' unwillingness to follow this same path toward self-annihilation is undoubtedly the reason for the intensity of the hatred directed against them by members of the BDS movement and for the accusations of “apartheid” made by the Left.
But what's sausage for the goose is a goose for the gander. It seems to me that belief in individualism doesn't preclude ethnocentrism as an automatic defense mechanism. With group survival at stake, Americans might simply ignore the invective hurled at them by the Left, and focus on their group identity just as other groups have done.
Ethnocentrism fills the vacuum when patriotism becomes impossible. When loyalty to the state is required by law, as in the totalitarian state, patriotism becomes meaningless. As big government systematically crushes American individualism, the freedom-loving Americans who are left may have no choice but to become more ethnocentric to protect their core values.
The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish
Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements
by Kevin MacDonald
reviewed by T Nelson