The Cult of Inclusivity

A concern with pluralism, difference, diversity and marginality has yielded some precious gains.  But it has also served to displace attention from various more material issues.  In fact, in some quarters culture has become a way of not talking about capitalism.  Capitalist society relegates whole swathes of its citizenry to the scrap heap, but is exquisitely sensitive about not offending their beliefs.  Culturally speaking, we are all to be granted equal respect, while economically speaking the gap between the clients of food banks and the clients of merchant banks looms ever larger.  The cult of inclusivity helps to mask these material differences.  The right to dress, worship or make love as one wishes is revered, while the right to a decent wage is denied.  Culture acknowledges no hierarchies, but the educational system is ridden with them.  Speaking with a Yorkshire accent is no obstacle to becoming a television newscaster, but being a Trotskyist is.  It is against the law to insult ethnic minorities in public, but not to insult the poor.  Any adult is free to sleep with any other who is not related by blood, but they are not also free to undermine the state.  Sexual experimenters are treated with indulgence by metropolitan liberals, while strikers are met with suspicion.  Difference is to be welcomed, but full-blooded conflict is not.  Nobody should arrogate the right the tell others what to do, an attitude tax evaders find mightily convenient. (35-36)

Terry Eagleton | Culture

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Culture, Commodity, and Inclusion

The breaking down of cultural hierarchies is clearly to be welcomed.  For the most part, however, it is less the upshot of a genuinely democratic spirit than an effect of the commodity form, which levels existing values rather than contesting them in the name of alternative priorities.  Indeed, it represents an assault less on cultural supremacism than on the notion of values as such.  The very act of discrimination becomes suspect.  Not only does it involve exclusion, but it must inevitably imply the possibility of a superior vantage-point, which seems offensive to the egalitarian spirit.

[…]

The bogus populism of the commodity, its warm-hearted refusal to rank, exclude and discriminate, is based on a blank indifference to absolutely everyone.  Careless for the most part of distinction of class, race and gender, impeccably even-handed in its favours, it will yield itself, in the spirit of a whore-house, to anyone with the cash to buy it.  A similar indifference underlies the historic advance of multiculturalism.  If the human species now has a chance, for the first time in its history, to become thoroughly hybrid, it is largely because the capitalist market will buy the labour-power of anyone willing to sell it, whatever their cultural origins. (156-157)

Terry Eagleton | Culture

The Present, with more options

The final limit on capitalism, Marx once commented, is capital itself, the constant reproduction of which is a frontier beyond which it cannot stray.  There is thus something curiously static and repetitive about this most dynamic of all historical regimes.  The fact that its underlying logic remains pretty constant is one reason why the Marxist critique of it remains largely valid.  Only if the system were genuinely able to break beyond its own bounds, inaugurating something unimaginably new, would this cease to be the case.  But capitalism is incapable of inventing a future which does not ritually reproduce its present.  With, needless to say, more options… (10)

Terry Eagleton | Why Marx was Right