I recently completed Diversity: Invention of a Concept, by Peter Wood. This is the first of several book reviews I’ll be writing of books generously sent to me by my readers.
Diversity has become one of the defining ideals of our age, surpassing in certain respects our earlier commitments to formal equality, liberty, the rule of law, and merit. The diversity concept, unlike more exotic ideas such as multiculturalism, is important because it has spread outside the academy into the world of business and politics. Every mainstream institution from Hollywood and the art world to the education establishment and business trumpets its commitment to diversity. Yet diversity has undergone little criticism. Unlike affirmative action, which was earlier justified as a form of reparations for white injustice to blacks, diversity is a “feel good” idea that purports to benefit everyone, even members of the majority. Minorities advantaged by affirmative action obviously benefit by receiving positions and admissions they would otherwise not receive. But privileged groups also benefit according to diversity’s partisans because they are now exposed beneficially to different perspectives, ideas, and cultures.
Earlier works such as Dinesh D’Souza’s End of Racism (1995) and Alan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind (1987) dealt with narrower issues: the continuing social problems facing black Americans and the decline of standards in the academy respectively. Both of these works were authored in an age when diversity was less accepted as an aspirational ideal than it is at present. Wood’s contribution is unique. . . .