Multiculturalism vs. Neoconservatism

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Multiculturalism vs. Neoconservatism:

Reading Social and Cultural Thoughts in Contemporary America and 2004 American Presidential Election

Wang Enming

Abstract: From the late 1960s and early 1970s onwards, there have been two currents of cultural thoughts, namely, multiculturalism and Neoconservatism, emerged in American intellectual and cultural community.

They engaged in an intensive and frontal debate which evoked the so-called “culture war” encompassing the social cultures of the American traditional values, education reform, lifestyle, sexuality, equal rights of minorities, rights of women and so on. This paper examined their origins, evolution and focuses, and concluded that the multiculturalism and Neoconservatism had defined the two principal legacies of social and cultural thoughts in contemporary America, whose polemic had characterized the conflict of the American values.

Therefore, the 2004 US presidential election can well be conceived as “election of cultural values”.

Key Words: Multiculturalism, Neoconservatism, culture war, US presidential election

About the Author: Professor, Center of the American Studies at Shanghai International Studies University

Bush had won reelection in 2004, on which American media had offered various reasons. However, most American press deemed Bush’s conservative stand as crucial to his reelection. For instance, he shared with voters the values of family, ban of homosexual
marriage, and restriction of abortion. Although Bush’s “card of counter-terrorism” had won him plenty of ballots, it was his moral values that were crucial to winning the hearts of American voters. Just as Time had put it, in confirming President George Bush as its person of the year, that Bush had reframed reality to match his design, most importantly, sharpening the issues concerned by Americans and obliging voters to make choice on moral issues.

[1] According to the surveys concerned, 22% voters put top priority on ethics, 20% on economic performance or employment rate, 19% on counter-terrorism, and 15% on Iraq War. Less than 8% of the voters took Medicare, tax and education as most important. As the surveys had showed that the voters that supported Bush more were the people that were more pious, lived farther from the city and valued the ethics higher. E.g., 80% of the voters who valued ethics voted for Bush, while 80% of the voters who thought economic performance as most important voted for Kerry. Less
than 40% of the urban voters were for Bush and 60% of them for Kerry. Bush’s popularity

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increased from small cities to small towns and from suburbs to 59% of countryside.

[2] Why?

Because the American countryside had long been the inhabited by American religious traditional forces and conservative ethic values. For instance, the countryside of American south and mid-America was not only the place called “Bible belt”, but also the base of American isolationist forces. Exactly as Bush was supported mainly by those conservatives, his reelection was thought as the victory of American traditional values and 2004 presidential election as a election of values.

[3] So, what are the values that are confronting each other? And what are the contradicting propositions? While the recent presidential election was referred to as a election of values, this author would rather see it as a contention between Neoconservatism and multiculturalism. This paper tries to have a reading of American social and cultural thoughts by outlining those two “isms”, which will provide a cultural and social prism in apprehending 2004 US presidential election.

Cultural Pluralism

Cultural plurality is a phenomenon only in modern society. Since as early as ancient Egypt and Roman times, nations of different cultures had lived peacefully in a community. In pre-modern times, some societies even had laws that recognized coexistence of different religions and managed to reconcile the conflicts among religious denominations.[4] However, cultural plurality is different from multiculturalism, in that the former is a phenomenon, while the latter is a political theory, or an ideology.
[5] While cultural plurality refers to the coexistence of different cultures, the multiculturalism not only does so, but also identifies the gaps of different cultures and calls for treating them as equal. [6] Therefore, multiculturalism is generally a rather radical, social theory.

Thus, how to define multiculturalism? Perhaps for the term is used so frequently, so broadly and randomly, it lacks a clear-cut and widely acceptable definition. [7] Multiculturalism can refer to anything as well as nothing. [8] It is up to the topic and context it is being talked. Therefore, specific object and relevant meaning have to be given or different readers will understand the word multiculturalism differently and even misunderstand it. For instance, according to different emphases, multiculturalism can break down into conservative multiculturalism, liberal multiculturalism, pluralist multiculturalism, and left-essentialist multiculturalism and critique multiculturalism. In terms of content and scope, multiculturalism involves disciplines and fields of political science, art, feminism, nationalism, history, culture, education, religion, sociology and so on.

[9] As this paper is mainly about contemporary American social and cultural thoughts,

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the multiculturalism here is more broadly defined and involves social and cultural issues like class, gender, race, family, sexuality and so on, which aims at describing its impacts on contemporary American politics.

As a new social theory, the multiculturalism set out like a storm blowing into every corners of society with its ideas and perspectives. People could not but to answer the questions it raised, which followed with grand social debates one round after another. The questions were hardly resolved though, the term multiculturalism had become a vogue word in America. To its
proponents, multiculturalism has become a framework to analyze the power relations of American social groups. To its opponents, it amounts to the deluge and monster that threatening the cultural root of America as a nation.

[10] As a social and cultural thought, multiculturalism owed its birth to its social and historical context and its theoretical bases. In terms of its social background, multiculturalism is closely associated with civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and with the new immigrants from 1970s onwards. The civil rights movement was first launched by the American blacks and soon followed by other ethnic minorities. The civil rights movement not only had pushed over the artificial wall of racial segregation in favor of blacks’ civil rights, but also elevated the ethnic conscience of blacks, Asian-Americans, Latinos and American Indians and made them more concerned with their own cultural identities. As more and more different races and ethnics tended
to trace their own cultural identification, the multiculturalism emerged in response and became the tactics and targets of their struggle.

[11] Meanwhile, the new immigrants of the 1960s added fuel to the fire of the movement. According to the relevant statistics, from 1960 to 1990, there had been 16 million new immigrants entered into the United States, of which 4 millions were Mexicans, 4 millions were Caribbean and 6 millions were Asians.

[12] The new immigrants had greatly changed the demographic structure of the American population. As a result, the ethnic minorities had increasingly felt the expansion of their ethnics and therefore wanted to be recognized by mainstream community and elevate their political, economic and cultural standings. Once the simple will had developed into a rational height, it naturally merged with multiculturalism.

In terms of its ideological and theoretical basis, the multiculturalism can be outlined in three respects. The first is Habermas’s “Constitutional Democracy”. The second is Charles Taylor’s
“politics of recognition”. And the third is “deconstructionism”. Specifically, in Habermas’ view, equality protected by law is not enough to compose constitutional democracy. Only if people regard themselves as lawmakers, can democracy be embodied in constitutional polities. Thus, the power system will take into account not only unequal social conditions, but also cultural diversity.

[13] In other words, only disadvantage groups participate in the public discussion and fully express their demand, before they can enjoy the civil rights of equality offered by the constitutional democracy. Tylor’s “politics of recognition” comes from his account of liberal

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democracy. In general, western political philosophers generalized the liberal democracy in one principle, “treat all people as free and equal beings”. However, there are two perspectives in democracies on how to carry out and implement the principle. As to one perspective, the government should keep neutrality when citizens contradict on the issues of social operation. As to the other perspective, government is entitled to intervene so as to enhance the cultural values of one social group, so long as all civil rights are protected and no one is forced to accept values whatsoever. Taylor thought that the second perspective was more democratic, and hence set forth his theory of “ politics of recognition”, i.e., a person’s self-identity and social identity is directly associated with the political recognition offered by the society. Fail to recognize or to mis-recognize will cause harm and oppression, a fake and disparaged plight of life.

[14] Applying Taylor’s “politics of recognition” to the American society, the majority of American society has failed to grant political recognition to women and ethnic minorities, which deprives them of equal rights and leaves them in the plight.

The impacts of deconstructionism on multiculturalism mainly lie in its discount of the necessity to set up a common criterion of thoughts and cultures. To deconstructionism, common criterion, whatsoever, is the disguise of political power, speech hegemony and rule of power by those groups that control social resources, hence common criterion is to serve the social advantage group, while the disadvantage groups not only fail to benefit from them, but also become their victims.

[15] Since what the multiculturalism believes is exactly the issues of political recognition and rights of cultures arising from the coexistence of different social groups in a single society, the challenges of deconstructionism to the speech hegemony and orthodox theory naturally become an important theoretical weapon of the multiculturalism. To summarize, the theoretical base of multiculturalism is made up by Habermas’s constitutional democracy that underlines social condition and cultural diversity, Taylor’s call for democratic polity to recognize the cultural identities of social groups, and deconstructionism’s allegation that the social advantage group sways speech hegemony over politics and culture.

The above ideas and theories were the two swords in the hands of multiculturalism: one sward pointed at the heart of political power, urging the government departments and social institutions to grant political recognition to different social groups, and the other pointed at the heart of the speech hegemony, deconstructing the orthodox theories on history, literature, philosophy, and politics. The two aspects are so extensive and complex that they need elaboration.

First is the relationship between multiculturalism and politics of recognition. Caveat should be made that the term “recognition” here is not one in its general meaning but specifies the recognition of ethnic minorities, the subcultures and the disadvantage groups, i.e., the recognition of their diversity, their equality, and their equal right of political participation. Here, equality is key. Thus, two issues arise. 1. the recognition implies that albeit the United States has been a multiethnic and multicultural society, the minority ethnic cultures and other subcultures have never been granted recognition, let alone elevated to “isms”. In other words, the United States is

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only a multicultural society, but has never implemented multiculturalism. The former only stands for the phenomenon of coexistence of multiethnic and multicultures, while the latter highlights the issues of power relationships between all ethnics and all cultures.

[16] Specifically, American multiculturalism alleged that the American majority culture led by the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) started with the praise of “melting pot”, i.e., melting other cultures into the pot stuffed by WASP, and followed by acquiescing “cultural pluralism”, attempting to keep its dominance though recognizing coexistence of multicultures. To the multiculturalism, however, it is inadequate to merely recognize the coexistence of the multicultures, for it fails to make clear whether the relationships between different cultures are subordinate or equal. Therefore, multiculturalism persists on recognizing the equality of different cultures and endowing all cultural groups with political, social and cultural equality.

[17] 2. How to substantiate the “recognition” and “equality” raised by multiculturalism. As mentioned earlier, with the issues of “recognition” and “equality” of the disadvantage groups, the multiculturalism asks for active intervention of government and public institutions to remove various unequal obstacles for them, and if necessary, even adopt particular measures to rid disadvantage groups of oppression and discrimination and let them become equal members of the society. The disadvantage groups, owing to their social status, request government and social institutions to take judicial and executive measures to safeguard their civil rights of equality.

With those assumptions, the multiculturalism raised various requests regarding recognition and equality of ethnic minorities and other subculture groups. For example, they advocate for bilingual education in primary and middle schools, so as to remove the language disadvantage of the Latino’s, expressing fairness in acquiring knowledge. Otherwise, if Latinos are forced to be taught in English, it will retard their enthusiasm of learning and their self-esteem.

[19] Take for another example, multiculturalism calls for leaning policies earmarked for the disadvantage groups of college enrolment at lower rates. They argue that since Blacks, Latinos and American Indians have long been oppressed and discriminated, it is obviously unfair if colleges fail to recognize the congenital deficiency and apply uniform standard to them, an approach looks objective though, and those minorities will be desperate. The only way to rectify the bias is by adopting a lenient policy of enrolling them at lower rates.

[20] In addition, the multiculturalism called for colleges and companies to employ the spirit of recognition and equality in their recruitment of talents. As multiculturalism alleged, the white males dominated in American education and business, where women and minorities were rare. This non-recognition of disadvantage groups is obviously evidence of sheer injustice and hegemonism of the advantage group. In view of the multiculturalism, without change of the status quo, the disadvantage groups will never overcome, and multiculturalism will be nonsense. With this assumption, multiculturalism strongly endorsed the affirmative action, hoping that the ethnic minorities and

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women could be favored in employment, promotion, bank loans and contract bidding by government actions and legislation of congress.

[21] Multiculturalists believe that only tough measures by government could reverse the inequality of disadvantage group and realizing John Rawls’ “fair equality of opportunity”.

[22] Of course, the recognition and equality claimed by multiculturalism are not confined to the realms of education and business. They involve other social and cultural issues, such as races, gender, class, language, education, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities and so on. The space of this paper does not allow discussing all the issues. Let’s take class and gender for examples. Multiculturalists looked at class mainly through the lens of John Fiske’s “power bloc”, i.e., to treat the social-economic strata as dynamical classes ever mobilizing along with changing social forces.

[23] In multiculturalists’ view, the immigrants, minorities, single-parent family, low-income Whites and manual-labor women were belong to American lower-class. Without speech hegemony and political influence, those groups have accessed no recognition in whatsoever realms, let alone political, economic and cultural equality. Multiculturalists urged the government and social institutions to push projects of “affirmative actions”, expand and improve social welfare plans and educational endorsement foundations, which would help the disadvantage group to acquire “recognition” and “equality”. However, due to the objection of the advantage group, all the above policies were either slowly cut down or simply cancelled since the 1990s.

[24] As for the issue of gender, the multiculturalists had forged natural alliance with feminists, jointly challenging the paternity and speech hegemony of male. They appealed to the majority society not only to recognize the female differences, but also grant all civil rights to females, for them to keep the cultural characteristics of females and become full-fledged citizens.

[25] Multiculturalism was better characterized by the fact that some “strong-women” in multiculturalist camp had even appealed to the respect for homosexual rights and recognition of their marriage. In view of the multiculturalists, a person’s sexual orientation is an issue of lifestyle, which rejects any interference of others. They added, homosexual marriage was an individual privacy, which should be recognized and protected by law. For that reason, what’s wrong with one more “division” in terms of sexual orientation and marriage forms in a society now that being pluralistic? In multiculturalists’ view, obviously, their choices should be equally treated by society.

Having discussed the core concepts of “recognition” and “equality” of the multiculturalism, it is much easier to understand its deconstruction of the speech hegemony of the majority culture. In challenging the speech hegemony of American majority culture, a major argument of multiculturalism was that the WASP had long claimed the majority culture that dominated the speech hegemony in America, which led to the silence of non-WASPs. The White males, especially those of WASP, dominated everything ranged from anthropology to political science,

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from history textbooks to literature, from arts to sports, from science and technology to industry and agriculture, from public education to social reforms. It seems that there existed only Washington, Lincoln and Lindbergh in American history, only Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mark Twain in American novelists and … in American musicians and artists. Multiculturalists raised challenge to this status. They dismissed it as ignoring historical facts in general and as lying and cheating in particular in that the important contributions of other social groups to the construction of the United States and to the American modern civilization had been concealed or excluded. To multiculturalists, the slavery of blacks in American history, the “half-sky” supported by women, the pain of the discrimination inflicting on immigrants, the sweatshops of the poor, the suffering of the minorities, the discrimination of homosexuals were all parts of American history, literature, politics, economy and society, and should be granted in the discourse proportionately. With enthusiasm to secure the discourse for the disadvantaged, the multiculturalists appealed to re-reading conventional texts, deconstructing them by the discourse theory, removing the parts of disparaged and distorted, adding the parts excluded in the past and trying the best to subvert what had been subverted by the WASP.

[26] Meanwhile, for enhancing the self-conscience of the disadvantaged and developing their particular culture, multiculturalists had deconstructed the WASP’s culture by actively building up the discourse system of sub-cultural groups for acquiring social recognition and equality. Thus, American colleges and universities had set up new curriculums such as Afro-American studies, Asian-American studies, Latino studies, feminist politics, gender studies, ethnology, homosexual studies and so on in the 1970s to 1990s, which become the vogue of professors and students at the moment. With the new curriculums, multiculturalists hoped to break down “Eurocentrism”, to dismiss “White supremacy”, to establish discourse power for the disadvantaged and, ultimately, to reach equal treatment of all cultures and a liberal democracy of harmonious coexistence.

[27] In sum, multiculturalism has been a political and social theory active in American academia, educational society and politics over the last two decades, which posed severe challenge to the American Creed and hence led to fierce cross-fire between the two values. Generally speaking, the clash of the two values is mainly manifested in the following. 1, In American Creed, maximization of an individual’s potential is the ultimate goal of the person living in this world.

Thus, all institutions including government should work for realizing this goal. But, multiculturalism diametrically objected the assumption by claiming that the collective welfare rather than personal achievement should be sought as the ultimate goal of life. Therefore, the self-realization of an individual should not be seen as the benchmark of measuring social progress and economic development.

[28] 2, For American Creed, the duty of government in a free society is to make relevant laws and policies for creating an environment of equal opportunity without prejudice on any individual and community. But, multiculturalism rebutted the assumption by saying that the duty of government was to ensure social justice and civic equality. When some

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groups are denied of equal opportunity because of discrimination and exclusion, government should intervene and offer full equality to all the social members, especially the group of disadvantaged. 3, In American Creed, American ideas and value system derived from Judeo-Christian, Hellenic, and Roman civilization, and the core American culture is WASP. They are the cornerstones of American civilization, which no one is allowed to shake. To multiculturalism, this is typically “Eurocentrism” and a manifestation of discourse hegemony, i.e., ignoring America as a multi-racial and multiethnic nation and eliminating the contribution of other social groups to American civilization.

[29] Hence, multiculturalists set forth “politics of difference”, not only refusing to melt into the majoritarian culture of WASP, but also calling for recognition of cultural difference and equal treatment of the differences.

No doubt, those theories of multiculturalism are robust and of great lethality. The theories were not only challenging the prestige of American advantage group, but also hit the pain of American
traditional force. More significantly, they had shaken the root of American majority culture and stepped the tail of WASP. Thanks to the booming of American minority population and growing political consciousness of disadvantage group plus the “specter” of anti-majority culture movement haunting in 1960s, multiculturalism had transformed from a theory to a social vision and had repercussions from every realms of American society. For a time, people from as high as government agencies, public media, and as low as grass-root neighborhood and family schools were talking nothing but multiculturalism, regardless of political purpose or social justice, and group interests or rebellious psychology. Hence, everything is pluralistic. Values are pluralistic and so are norms of ethics, lifestyles, classroom languages, marriage forms, family patterns, and sex. The list can go on and on. Facing the surging multiculturalism, the conservatives, disciples of the American creed, were at a loss and like sitting on thorns before they were awakened to find the edifice of civilization in their heart shook under the attack of multicultural forces and thus launched counterattack as were heavenly ordained.


There are two conservative movements occurred in postwar American history. One is called new conservatism that arose in the early postwar and reached its height in 1950s. The other is called Neoconservatism that saw its genesis in 1960s, activated in 1970s and 1980s, sank in 1990s, resurrected at the turn of the century and sophisticated in the early twenty-first century.

[30] Being political and cultural thoughts representing American heritage vision, the two conservatisms have differences and points in common. This paper talks about the Neoconservatism that began in 1960s and makes a brief introduction of the new conservatism in order to describe the clue and trend of contemporary American Neoconservatism.

Neoconservatism was coined to distinguish it from the traditional, paleoconservatism. Neoconservative is composed of two forces. One is anti-communist force that absolutely

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irreconcilable to communism. The other is hard-liner of free market economy that perceives Roosevelt’s “New Deal” as deluge and monsters. Although the two forces did all they could to
sell their ideas, they had achieved little in 1950s and were driven out of American majoritarian
thoughts at the time.

[31] One of the causes was that the ultra-right, anti-Communist forces had become notorious following their pursuit of McCarthyism and their organizing John Birch Society. The other cause was the staunch advocates of free market economy had their laissez-faire theory defeated without fight in the wake of Great Depression in 1930s. Notwithstanding, the two strands of forces did not give up, nor retreated from politics. The conservatives were impatient as seeing the liberals flourishing and dominating the resources of media, think-thanks, foundations and higher education. They made up their mind to fight back and scrambled with liberals for the front of ideological propaganda: pitting Wall Street Journal against New York Time, pitting American Enterprise Institute against the Brookings Institution, and pitting the Institute of Economic Education against Ford Foundation. All is for one purpose, seizing power from the hand of liberals. In a short run, the resurgence of this conservative force had brought about the heavy weight conservative caliber Barry Goldwater that won the Republican nomination of Presidential Candidate in 1964.

[32] In the long run, the new conservative thought had its repercussion on Ronald Reagan’s election of Governor of California, which prepared for conservatives to regain power.

[33] Notably, despite the anti-Communist ideology and liberalism constituting the main framework of new conservatism in 1950s, [34] the traditional ideas had also played an important role in the resurgence of new conservatism, which include individual morality, self-constraint and rational thinking. For example, the conservative historian Peter Viereck conceived that the new conservatism is new because its emphasis on returning to Christian morality and traditional ideas.

[35] As one of the prominent conservatives Russell Kirk said candidly, a real conservative must believe in a priori order of morality, social heritages, elitism, faith in God and equality before law and beyond nothing. He particularly emphasized the humanity education of young elites on the ground that they were to pass on the torch of American traditional values.

[36] Besides, the conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet and Editor in Chief of National Review William F. Buckley had also contributed a great deal of thoughts to the development of postwar new conservatism.

[37] Yet to the disappointment of conservatives who had made great contribution to the rise of Neoconservatism, the neoconservatives were unable to translate their advantage in propaganda and media into the substantial political power. After all, American life in the fifties was still in the shadow of Roosevelt’s New Deal and of liberalism soloed in the sixties. However, neoconservatives had little to do in this period except for a little bit of relief in the founding of the neoconservative organization Young Americans for Freedom.

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Surprisingly, however, just as the new conservatives were wondering how to contend with the then excesses of liberalism, a bunch of intellectuals broke ranks suddenly from liberals to form the neoconservative force, a few in number but considerably energetic, in the late sixties and early seventies.

[38] According to the “father of Neoconservatism” Irving Kristol, the reason of dubbing Neoconservatism as referring to this bunch of learned scholars and intellectuals is to highlight the process of their conversion from liberalism to conservatism.

[39] According to the staff writer of Weekly Standard Max Boot, the conversion was attributed to their disappointment to the softness of Democrat in handling domestic social contradictions and toughness not enough to the Soviet Union, a feeling of being severely wounded by reality. In fact, except for favoring welfare policies and government intervention, neoconsertives were not different from the conservatives. But according to Paul Gottfried’s analysis that, among those neoconservatives, there were not only Cold-Warrior liberals and liberals that were discontent with “black power” politics, but also more liberals detesting the “alternative lifestyle” extolled and pursued by “counter-culture”.

[40] Despite the above differences in the accounts of the geneses of Neoconservatism, their geneses in common were evident, i.e., most of the early mainstay neoconservatives were deeply concerned with and worried about the social/cultural issues in America in the sixties and seventies.

What had happened in the sixties and seventies that drove the neoconservatives outrageous and breaking rank from liberalism to conservative camp? As known to all, the sixties were the most turbulent years in modern American history. Civil rights movement, feminist movement, antiwar movement, counter-culture movement, and new-left movement and environmentalist movement were tremendously impacting American values and surging American social texture. In the wake of the “hurricanes”, the streets were left with debris and the souls of the people were filled with blanks. According to the well-known American historian William L. O’Neill, America in the sixties were coming apart, depriving its values of pillars and its social structure of cohesion.

[41] Apparently, this is not the picture that the conservative adherents of American traditional values want to see.

As mentioned earlier, neoconservatives were originally disciples of liberalism, i.e., believing in traditional liberal values. The prominent neoconservatives like Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, Daniel Patrick Moyniham, Nathan Glazer, Samuel Huntington and James Wilson were no exception.

[42] What had made those ex-liberals heart-ached was the various “liberties” displayed in the sixties and seventies, which contradicted the liberal ideas in their hearts. To the neoconservatives, those were distortion of liberal ideas and abuse of freedom, be it new-lefts’ unrest on campuses and their occupying of college administration buildings or angry youths took on the street against government, be it cultural rebellions using marijuana or sex revolutionists indulging in sexual desires, be it avant-garde women seeking gender equality

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or minorities appealing to cultural plurality, be it dilution of family values or weakening of marriage sanctity, and be it dramatic growth of abortions or recognition of homosexuality. They were further disappointed with liberal Democrats, who were presumed to be committed to liberal ideas though. The liberal Democrats not only had not denounced and prevented the immoral activities, but also had appeased them, which led to the lost of young generation of moral criteria and their living in a vacuum of values. To their great dismay, they had but to break rank from the mainstream liberals and set up their own sect in hope of looking for Neoconservatism to protect American heritage cultural values.

[43] Then, what are the American heritage cultural values that make eternal sense and deserve ardent preservation for the neoconservatives? This is a difficult question as there are various conservatives with different emphases. For examples, Russell Kirk had listed six conservative beliefs, Clinton Rossiter had twelve beliefs [44], and Dunn and Woodard insisted that ten canons were enough to summarize American traditional values. To take the ten canons as an example: (1) Continuity: order and the rate of change; (2) Authority: power and limits of government; (3) Community: decentralization of social institution; (4) Deity: man and morality; (5) Duties: responsibility over than rights; (6) Democracy: limited government and constitution; (7) Property: the role of economics; (8) Liberty: equality’s other brothers; (9) Meritocracy: the leadership class; (10) Antipathy: the anticommunism impulse.

[45] To Dunn and Woodard the ten canons define the heart of American traditional values, which all the conservatives regard as vital as life and do all they can to protect them. The space of this paper defies elaboration, but to compare the ten canons with the values sought by the sex revolution, counter-orthodox culture, new-left, “abnormal lifestyle” and so on in the sixties and seventies would show their contradictions conspicuously. Apparently, neoconservatives had been so angry that the ten canons were mocked and treaded before they broke rank and defended their beliefs. This is precisely why the Neoconservatism is often called idealism.

[46] Since neoconservatives have ideals to defend, it is natural that they have to resist, critique and counter-attack any thoughts and actions that threatened their ideals. In America, liberalism is usually the rivalry of conservatism. They are virtually natural enemies. Conservatives and liberals had been vying and competing throughout American political history before 1970s. But the liberalism characterized by Roosevelt’s New Deal had been greatly modified by Truman’s Fair Deal, Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Johnson’s Great Society. First, government was expanded, and the welfare programs were too ambitious a burden for government. Secondly, excessive expansion of liberal ideas had led to the abuse of liberties and declining of social morality. For neoconservatives, it was exactly the radical liberal actions of the sixties that had planted the roots of problems in the West today.

[47] However, no sooner the neoconservatives were to rival the liberals than gone with the excesses of the latter, which were resulted from their mounting social

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and economic policy mistakes. In America today, liberals as a political label has got a sense of political suicide and as an actionable thought has demised.

[48] But, liberalism as a force of political party may find it hard to gain momentum though, many of its values are still attractive and manifest in various forms from time to time. In the view of neoconservatives, multiculturalism prevailed in American society over the last two decades contained much elements of liberal ideas. Now that the old rivalry liberalism is out of the picture while the multiculturalism is so aggressive, neoconservatives naturally target the multiculturalism as their new rivalry. With this in mind, one of the leading neoconservatives Samuel Huntington appealed to neoconservatives to wage a two-front war: against Western universalism abroad, and against multiculturalism at home.

[49] The neoconservative’s first target was multiculturalist’s education revolution that had sparked the fire of “campus war”.

[50] The neoconservative vanguard Allan Bloom had said bluntly that multiculturalists had cut off Western classics from curriculums and put non-classics and feminist works in place, which was a mayhem of American traditional spirit, undermining American cultural basis and a mockery of American culture. He urged to boycott the meddling of multiculturalism in education, so as to ensure WASP’s domination over American mainstream culture intact.

[51] To its echo, regarding Stanford University’s reform of its “Western Culture” curriculums, American conservative media Wall Street Journal alarmed, that Western Culture was on trial in Stanford today.

[52] Things got so worse that the neocons had to response. They vigorously defended Western culture as representing humankind’s pursuit of truth, reason and objectivity on the one hand, and on the other, strongly critiqued multiculturalism and dismissed it as American rubbish.

[53] It is rarely difficult to understand that neocons were so outraged and swearing like a trooper on multiculturalist’s education reform measures. Because, as a nation made of immigrants, American ethnics have different cultural contexts and traditional customs, thus average families cannot afford to educate their youngsters of orthodox American culture. Only schools are able to inculcate immigrant descendants with American traditional spirit. In other words, Americans acquire their identity of American traditional values via formal school education. [54] Education as a battleground is so vital to passing on American traditional spirit that neoconservatives will not give up the battleground easily.

Neocons’ second target against multiculturalism is ethnic pluralism. As known to all, in the wake of civil rights movement in the sixties, American ethnic awareness increased and gave rise to a fervor that ethnic peoples were tracing their ethnic roots and identity. The fervor had led multiculturalists to invent the dual recognition of ethnical difference and of ethnic equality.

[55] For neocons dual recognition theory had at least two dangers: shaking the Anglo-Saxon status as a dominant social elite and threatening American national cohesion. In neocons’ view, the

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conservative “ten canons” contain order and authority and the WASP’s values provide the best guarantee for the order of American society, whose authority is doubtless. Had ethnic pluralism claimed by multiculturalism been implemented, America would have made its way to ethno-multicentrism, WASP’s authority would have ended, the order of social ethics would have fallen into chaos, America would have seen worse ethnic segregation as it lacked core cultural values, and ultimately led to the “disuniting of America”.

[56] Neocons insist that the Western society and its value system are superior to other societies and their values, so multiculturalism is not only redundant, but also harmful. For sake of maintaining the superiority of Western value system, neoconservatives called for steadfastly blocking the “bizarre” of the dual recognition of ethnic difference and of difference equality and the like, so as to ensure the superiority of the “common culture” cored by Neoconservatism.

[57] Neocons’ third target against multiculturalism is the cultural relativism derived from the logic inherent in multiculturalism. As we know, multiculturalism presumed that all races, ethnics and groups of humankind are different though, there is no substantial distinction between superiority and inferiority. It is up to the individual standard if there is distinction. Neocons rebutted that multiculturalism had artificially eliminated the value criterion, which deprived people of foundations in their judgement and caused blindness in distinguishing good from evil and benevolence from viciousness. For neocons, multiculturalism’s cultural relativism is extremely dangerous and is the source of the declining social issues and moral standard in America today.

[58] Cultural relativism is to challenge WASP-rooted American value system in general, and to change American lifestyle in particular. As mentioned earlier, multiculturalism pressed hard the principle of cultural equality of minorities and other disadvantage social groups. It can be imagined that WASP would lose their dominant status as America’s most superior cultural tradition claimed by neocons if minorities had acquired cultural status equal to theirs. This is obviously not acceptable to neocons.

[59] Worse are the challenges of multiculturalism in particular areas. According to cultural anthropology, culture is in fact a lifestyle. By the logic of multiculturalism, since cultures are equal, so are lifestyles, which must be respected. Thus, abortion culture, drug culture, free-sex culture, rock-n-roll culture, homosexual culture and other diversified cultures can be regarded as a lifestyle and be defended by multiculturalism. After all, they are just one “division” among pluralistic lifestyles. For neocons it is exactly the so-called pluralism that leads to the mess of American values and decay of morality. Hence, neocons called for eliminating those “pollution of spirit” and reestablishing absolute authority of American traditional values.

[60]In neoconservatives’ view, all problems brought about by multiculturalism can be attributed to the loss of faith and expansion of worldly desire. In America most conservatives prefer Judeo-Christian tradition and believe that real conservatism could only be based on religious and social

[Page 14]


[61] Started from the view of this religious morality, neocons attribute the social issue in America, such as random abortion, rising divorce rate, single families, drug abuse, homosexuality, teenage mother and so forth, to the falling self-restrain of morality. Although multiculturalism had not appealed to atheism, nor played down the significance of religious morality, they did instigate recognition and equal treatment of different cultures and favor pluralistic lifestyles (pluralism of family patterns and marriage forms), in addition to endorsing feminism and opposing ban of abortion, which led to neocons accusing multiculturalism of lacking religious and moral restrictions in its opinions and actions and denouncing its betrayal of Judeo-Christian spirit.

[62] For the purpose of rectification, the neocons condemned various actions identified by multiculturalism and emphasized the revival of religion as well. As the neoconservative Daniel Bell had put it bluntly that only religion is eligible to revive American traditional values.

[63] Apart from the above four respects, neocons had vehemently assaulted multiculturalism of advocating affirmative action, bilingual education programs, Equal Rights Amendment movement and political correctness. For them, those programs had respectively deprived people of freedom as having caused reverse discrimination, lowered enrolment standard as having reduced educational quality, nullified gender difference as having caused family disarray and breached constitutional spirit as having violated the freedom of speech. In sum, the neocons had been deeply disappointed with liberalism in the sixties and strongly believed that the counter-culture, feminism, sex revolution, civil rights movement, other social/cultural thoughts had brought to America with a cultural holocaust.

[64] Hoisting the banner of Neoconservatism, the
neocons rushed into the “culture war” in a spirit of knight. Started with resorting to Nixon’s “silent majority” in the seventies and followed by sharing Reagan’s “moral majority” in the eighties, the neocons were like nights making massive assault on any ideas and actions that were detrimental to American heritage and cultural values. Since liberalism as a political force was in recession and multiculturalism was aggressive at the time, neoconservatives pointed their spearhead at the latter and crusaded against its cultural pluralism. The contention between Neoconservatism and multiculturalism on values had constituted the great collision, the so-called
“culture war”, of the two social/cultural thoughts in America in the last two decades.


Liberalism as a political force waned in America in the late sixties and was replaced by equally or more radical thought multiculturalism. Different from liberalism, multiculturalism is more concerned with the revolutions of cultural values, rather than vie for political power with conservatives. Taking the advantage of the social reforms such as civil rights movement, feminist movement, new-left movement and counter- culture movement, multiculturalists posed as a

[Page 15]

spokesman for the marginalized social strata and sub-cultural groups, challenging American traditional values represented by WASP, urging the majority society to recognize and treat women, minorities, homosexuals and other non-majority groups as equal, and calling for setting up a pluralistic society, where all races, genders and classes are equal. The multiculturalism concepts and opinions were immediately and positively responded by the non-majority social groups and a considerable part of majority group and had swiftly influenced American education, intellectuals and politics. For a time, multiculturalism had been a fashion in American society.

Everything involved the words of “plural”, “culture” and “ism”. It seems that all issues and values can be deconstructed by multiculturalism and everyone becomes multiculturalist.

[65] For neocons, who believed in the monistic values of the WASP, multiculturalism’s propositions and approaches of pluralistic values and criterions are more than actions of dissolution and destruction, i.e., dissolving American traditional values and destroying American cultural foundation. For the purpose of maintaining and defending American traditional values and consolidating its dominant status, neocons acted as guardians of majority culture, made head against the challenge of multiculturalism, and crusaded it of having blurred American values. For neocons the “culture war” with its main rivalry multiculturalism is too crucial to be lost or the traditional value system as the cornerstone of American culture will have lost its significance and attraction under the attack of the pluralistic force such as homosexual rights, rights of abortion, freedom of sexuality, rights of sub-culture groups, minority rights, rights of alternative lifestyles and the doctrine of political correctness. Exactly for aware of the significance and urgency, the neocons had adjusted their strategy in the last two decades. They had put top priority on religious/cultural issues and issues of morality and values at the expense of the issues that had been previously appreciated by conservatives, such as smaller government and free market economy.

The neoconservative leaders were sober on that. The young neoconservative William Kristol had clearly pointed out that the cultural issues in 1990s were more important than government taxation and privatization of public estate.

[66] Another prominent neocon William Lind had put it more bluntly, American neocons’ tasks in 1990s were in cultural realm rather than in economic realm.

[67] Why did neoconservatives attach so much importance to cultural values? The answer is simple. Firstly, they wanted to revert the values that had been reverted by the counter culture in 1960s, a rectification movement, so to speak. Secondly, they wanted to prevent multiculturalism from impacting and imbuing American society and culture in the last two decades, an elimination of pollution, so to speak. Thirdly, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Americans got a sense of “the end of history”.

[68] Now that the external ideological threat is over, the worst ideological threat to America and the West were thus mainly from the internal, heretic cultures, such as multiculuralism, feminism and theories of cultural research and so on, [69] an internal

[Page 16]

rearrangement, so to speak. In sum, for neocons, American traditional values must not to be challenged if the edifice of American culture is to be maintained. Now that multiculturalism had challenged the traditional values and wanted to change them, it was time for Neoconservatism to counter-attack.

Thus, a “culture war” about American values was unfolded in American intellectual and cultural fronts;

Thus, American media, public and social groups were involved in the “culture war” in the light of their respective values and in different ways;

Thus, America was divided into “Red US” and “Blue US” due to the “culture war”.

[70] Under the banner of Red US rallied the paleo-conservatives, neoconservatives, religious right-wing
conservatives and various right-wing conservatives, who mostly lived in the South, mid-America, and Los Angeles, and were mainly citizens from suburbs, remote and rural areas. And under the banner of Blue US rallied multiculturalists, feminism, moderate liberals, subculture groups and disadvantage groups, who mostly lived in the densely populated areas of New England, East Coast, West Coast, and were mainly urban and suburban citizens;

[71] Thus, “Red US” and “Blue US” carried their respective values to the 2004 presidential election, casting ballots to the presidential candidates of their own values.

The first bout of this “culture war” had come out: neocons had succeeded in putting Bush into White House again. What will be the second bout? We shall wait and see, for America is now still in a “Red” and “Blue” polarization, and the “culture war” is still under way.


[1] 21st Century, December 22, 2004.

[2] Zhang Tianqin, “Bush’s Reelection: More Security to Science?”, Zhonghua Dushu Bao, Dec. 15, 2004.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Michael Walzer, On Toleration (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 17.

[5] Paul Kelly, ed., Multiculturalism Reconsidered (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers Inc., 2002), p. 1.

[6] Gurpreet Malhajan, The Multicultural Path (London: Sage Publishers, 2002), p. 15.

[7] Wang Xi, “Multiculturalism: Origin, Practice and Limitation”, American Studies (Meiguo Yanjiu), No. 2, 2004, p. 45.

[8] Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg, Changing Multiculturalism (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1997), p. 1.

[9] Joe L. Kingcheloe et al., Changing Multiculturalism, pp. 1-26.

[10] Avery Gorden, et al., Mapping Multiculturalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), p. 1. Arther Schlesinger

Jr., The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society (New York: Norton, 1994), pp. 102-103.

[11] Wang Xi, “Multiculturalism: Origin, Practice and Limitation”, American Studies (Meiguo Yanjiu), No. 2, 2004, p. 57.

[12] Yu Zhiseng, Bao Qiu, “On American Multiculturalism”, Journal of East China Normal University, No. 5, 1995, p. 117.

[Page 17]

[13] Jurgen Haberma, “Struggle for Recognition in the Democratic Constitutional State”, in Amy Gutmann, ed., Multiculturalism

(New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994), p.113.

[14] Charles Taylor, “The Politics of Recognition”, in Amy Gutmann, Multiculturalism, pp. 101-103.

[15] Amy Gutmann, “Relativism, Deconstruction, and the Curriculum”, in John Arthur and Amy Shapiro, ed., Campus Wars: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Difference (San Francisco: Westview Press, 1995), p. 61.

[16] C. W. Watson, Multiculturalism (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000), p. 107.

[17] Ibid., pp. 14-15.

[18] Gurpreet Mahajan, The Multicultural Path, pp. 85-87.

[19] C. W. Watson, Multiculturalism, p.48.

[20] Shen Zongmei, “Challenge to American Majority Culture”, American Studies, No. 3, 1992, p. 124-125.

[21] Wang Xi, p. 58-59.

[22] John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, revised edition, 1999), pp. 12-14.

[23] See John Fiske, Power Plays, Power Works (New York: Verso, 1993).

[24] Joe L. Kingcheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg, Changing Multiculturalism, p. 110.

[25] Ibid., pp. 137-167.

[26] C. W. Watson, Multiculturalism, pp.47-48.

[27] Gurpreet Mahajan, The Multiculturalism Path, p. 15; Terence Turner, “Anthropology and Multiculturalism” in David Theo Goldberg, ed., Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), pp. 405-425.

[28] K. J. Milich and J. M. Peck, ed., Multiculturalism in Transit: A German-American Exchange (New York: Berghahn, 1998),pp. 48-53.

[29] Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg, Changing Multiculturalism, pp. 169-229.

[30] Robert Muccigrosso, Basic History of American Conservatism (Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2001), pp. 87-91, 101-111; Irving Kristol, Neoconservatism: An Autobiography of an Idea (New York: The Free Press, 1995), pp. 230-234.

[31] Flora Davis, Moving the Mountain (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), p. 434; Zhong Wenfan, “Early Postwar American Conservatism”, American Studies, No. 1, 1996, pp. 7-35.

[32] Flora Davis, Moving the Mountain, p. 435; Robert Muccigrosso, Basic History of American Conservatism, p. 86.

[33] Robert Muccigrosso, Basic History of American Conservatism, p. 86.

[34] Here, liberalism refers to the attitudes of the economists of Austrian School of economic thought like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich A. Von Hayek, who oppose any forms of statism, embrace individual freedom and keep alert on the threat of modern centralism.

[35] Robert Muccigrosso, Basic History of American Conservatism, p. 88.

[36] Ibid., p. 89.

[37] Jonathan M. Schoenwald, A Time of Choosing: The Rise of Modern American Conservatism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 21, pp. 219-220.

[Page 18]

[38] Zhao Changwei and Lu Guixia, “On American Neoconservatism”, Journal of Linyi Normal University, No. 4, 2004, p. 98-103.

[39] Cui Zhiyuan, “Bush Principle, Western Tradition and Neoconservatism”, Reading (dushu), No. 8, 2004, pp. 98-103.

[40] Paul Gottfried, The Conservative Movement (New York: Twayne Publisher, 1993), pp. 78-79.

[41] William L. O’neill, Coming Apart (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1971).

[42] Robert Muccigrosso, Basic History of American Conservatism, p. 105.

[43] Charles W. Dunn and J. David Woodard, Conservative Tradition in America (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publisher, revised edition, 2003), pp.3-5.

[44] Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind (Chicago: H. Regnery Co. 1953), pp. 7-8.; Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (New York: Vintage, 2nd. Ed., 1962), pp. 64-66.

[45] Charles W. Dunn and J. David Woodard, Conservative Tradition in America (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publisher, revised edition, 2003), p. 48.

[46] Max Boot, Think Again: Neocons.

[47] Bruce Pilbeam, Conservative in Crisis? (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 21.

[48] Theodore Lowi, The End of Liberalism (New York: Norton, 2nd edition, 1979).

[49] Chan Shaojie, “Text Reading: Huntington Preparing ‘Global War in 2021’”, Journal of China People University, No. 6, 2004.

[50] John Arthur and Amy Shapire, ed., Campus War: Multiculturalism and Politics of Difference (San Francisco: Westview Press, 1995).

[51] Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), pp. 344-346.

[52] Amy Gutmann, “Relativism, Deconstruction, and Curriculum”, in John Arthur et. al., Campus War, p. 57.

[53] John Searle, “Postmodernism and the Western Rationalist Tradition”, in John Arthur et. Al., Campus War, pp. 28-48. Newsweek, March 16, 1992.

[54] C. W. Watson, Multiculturalism, p. 46.

[55] Charles Taylor, “The Politics of Recognition”; Penelope Harvey, Hybrids of Modernity: Anthropology, the Nation State, and the Universal Exhibition (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 70,90.

[56] Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The Disuniting of America (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), pp. 102-3.

[57] Joe L. Kincheloe et al., Changing Multiculturalism. p.4.

[58] Lynne Cheney, Telling the Truth (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), pp.15-16.

[59] Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The Disuniting of America (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), pp. 82; Robert Brookhister, The Way of the WASP: How It Made America, and How It Can Save It, So to Speak (New York: Free Press, 1991).

[60] Bruce :Pilbeam, Conservative in Crisis, pp. 101-102.

[61] Quintin Hogg, The Conservative Case (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1959), p. 19; William Kristol, interview with Bruce Pilbeam, in Bruce Pilbeam, Conservative in Crisis, p. 97.

[62] Charles W. Dunn and J. David Woodard, Conservative Tradition in America (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publisher,

[Page 19]

revised edition, 2003), p.8.

[63] From Bruce Pilbeam, Conservative in Crisis, p. 52.

[64] The Atlantic Monthly, March 1991, p. 52.

[65] Nathan Glazer, We Are All Multiculturalists Now (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1997).

[66] From Bruce Pilbeam, Conservative in Crisis, p. 85.

[67] William Lind, “Defending Western Culture”, Foreign Policy, 1991, No. 84, p.40.

[68] Fukuyama Francis, “The End of History”, National Interest, 1989, No. 16.

[69] From Bruce Pilbeam, Conservative in Crisis, p. 86;; C. W. Watson, Multiculturalism, p. 106..

[70] David Von Drehle, “America in Red and Blue: A Nation Divided”, Washington Post, Sunday, April 25, 2004.

[71] Dante Chinni, “A Suddenly Segregated Red and Blue US”, The Christian Science Monitor, May 6, 2004: Robert J. Vanderbei, Election 2004 Results,;

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