Every night on CNN, Lou Dobbs continually returns to the issue of illegal immigration. In his enveloping rhetoric, he proposes that corporations and what he terms “socio-ethnocentric special interests” serve to weaken American borders and threaten American jobs. These two sides supposedly are in a secret partnership for their own interest. However, what he fails to reveal is that the corporations that thrive on the global form of late capitalism actually want his rhetoric that prevents looking at illegal immigration in the context of human rights, and instead villifies any advocacy organization that tries to do so. These immigrants are considered either as a productive resource or as an absolute threat to national sovereignty, but hardly ever as human citizens of the world. The content of humans crossing the border at great peril is actually contained and pacified by the global form of late capitalism, forever defined outside of the context of a free society. The inherent competitive nature of capitalism pits American workers against foreign-born workers even though both are exploited by the overall system. Workers and immigrants should be natural allies, but any possible solidarity against capitalism is thus thwarted and all people in the country are used for mass production or passive consumption regardless of being native or immigrant. Dobbs ignores this aspect by taking a position that looks like it is outside of political ideology, but is in fact the complete success of an ideology that classifies any attempt at human rights as a willing partner with corporate power. The immigration issue is a microcosm of a larger issue of multiculturalism and how it can present diversity only to be subsumed under global capitalism.
The effort to promote multicultural views has usually been to combat racism. Aside from issues of racial superiority or inferiority, there is another part to the debate about multiculturalism, and that is the dichotomy of provincialism against cosmopolitanism. Here, geography and the hold of tradition is at the center of the discussion. Besides the model of the “melting pot” fighting the model of the “tossed salad”, there is also the model of a rural landscape fighting the model of an urban landscape. Traditon is very strong in a rural landscape where social interactions are very solid and static, while in the urban setting there is a degree of anonymity that allows more fluid and dynamic social interactions and choices. Whether or not conformity and cultural preservation is best for a people of a nation or an immigrant people, there must be consideration as to whether there is a need to have a citizenry that is provincial in general outlook or foster a citizenry that is cosmopolitan in general outlook. A provincial outlook is very confined and determined by function, but a cosmopolitan outlook is adaptable and determined by the reach for new experiences. At first glance it appears that an American citizen that can have that potential for new knowledge and accepts it easily can survive and prosper in the interconnected globe. Multiculturalism therefore is the emphasis on a diversity of cultures existing side by side and allowing a general tolerance of all cultures for the benefit of all. But, the processing of multiculturalism serves a different type of scenario from global citizenship. Its concentration on general tolerance actually serves global capitalism.
The global tolerance of diverse cultures serves an immediate need to protect those who are discriminated against or marginalized. This is its pragmatic approach, and it has great validity. It is very different from a class struggle that demands one class, the proletariat, must absolutely defeat the bourgeoisie in order to enact justice and equality. This distinction creates a setting where particular acts of cultural harmony and identity are limited and prevented from addressing the global organization of capitalism. Overall these identities are reformulated as commodity-signs that can be consumed while the experience of these cultures are approached in a type of passive tourism. The particular contents of the culture are considered cute or quaint, while a larger critique of the systems of power, meaning, and production is avoided. The culture is made harmless and ineffectual in allowing empowerment of individuals or collectives. The significance of any culture is to shape meaning and make reality understandable for its participants. When culture does not pose an opposition to the status quo then its shaping of meaning can not serve freedom.
The inability of multiculturalism to address the problem of global capitalism makes it appear, according to the rhetoric of Lou Dobbs, as a willing partner with corporations in attacking national sovereignty and identity. It is in fact the national identity that assists the exploitation by global capitalism and the commodification of culture by a limited multiculturalism. The national identity of the people is a transcendent category posing as an absolute truth. The universality of individuals and collectives gives the appearance of a unified self and a marginalized other. The other looks as if it is inherently inferior to the unified self, possibly bordering on the barbaric. But the national identity is an abstraction that prevents social pluralism, which can be far more effective than multiculturalism. The false opposition between the national identity and the other, as characterized by the illegal immigrant or foreigner, works in accordance with the false unity of advocates for immigrant rights and corporations as the enemy. This makes the political arena much more murky, and alllows rhetoric that can villify the other while maintaining the other’s culture as a harmless commodity. This rhetoric and play of appearances benefits corporations and the national identity. Those who fear the enjoyment of the other seem to be on the opposite side of corporations in this debate, but their fear is used alongside the commodification of all culture in order to strengthen corporate power and the modern nation-state. The goal of both is exploitation of humans through a process where they are useful but not transgressive in a consolidation of power.
The proposition of multiculturalism as the respect and tolerance of the difference among multiple cultures and identities implies and requires an absolute difference in itself that precedes culture and is the nature of reality before any structure of meaning. A limited multiculturalism that is a passive consumption of cultural objects and symbols obscures this radical difference. Multiculturalism initially prevents unequal treatment under the law and promotes a cosmopolitan attitude, but does not place the existence of these laws or the global corporate organization into question. Therefore, multiculturalism must be transitioned into a social pluralism in order to mount an opposition that is similar to that of class struggle, whereby the status quo is completely transformed. In social pluralism, multiple social forms exist simultaneously in immanent relationships. As society is made up of culture, art, religion, politics, and economics the state establishes one set of social rules and presents it as transcendent truth. The other cultures are always subordinated in the relationship to the state form. In contrast, social pluralism is a balance between the external influence and internal influence of culture. This balance means that social pluralism can be a preparation for the truly alien other, especially when this alien culture has shocking or unpleasant elements. Multiculturalism does not acknowledge this possibility of unpleasant elements, and instead reduces the other culture as exotic which means that it is not taken as seriously as the culture organized by the national identity. Social pluralism can recognize multiple values as equals in that they are ways to organize human life. That is their commonality, which is the best method not only for peace but for a recognition that culture is a common human creation.
Religion, as a cultural form, succinctly illustrates the difference between multiculturalism and social pluralism. In this respect religion establishes one set of social rules in transcendence in regards to other social rules. Multiculturalism always presupposes that the culture that passively consumes the other culture has a connection to absolute truth, whereas the first culture demands an active consumption by the other culture. The other culture is tolerated as long as it remains in the role of repository of cultural objects that can be used selectively by the dominant culture within the framework of global capitalism. This is similar to the demand to follow a religion as a transcendent truth. Social aspects must be separated from both religious ideology and state power in reality, and it is here that free agency is possible through multiple social choices. Social pluralism is the enactment of this free agency where all social choices are part of various cultures that come from the same foundation of equality. There is a continuous objective background for multiple social forms and choices, as well as continuous objective connections that stimulates a background of tolerance that can then develop into a full acceptance. Both religion and culture are systems of meaning. Religion is a transcendent truth and ideology, and is the formation of an external source that appears natural and eternal. On the other hand, culture is an immanent truth and potential for counter-narrative, and is a process of individual creation and collective use. The subsumption of culture by religion is the establishment of dogma that prevents equal participation. Social pluralism begins with the fact that each culture is a manifestation of the human need to understand reality, and from that point goes beyond the limits of multiculturalism to examine how the positive and negative aspects of each culture is worth looking into.
Social pluralism can do something very distinct from multiculturalism. Where multiculturalism promoted respect and tolerance for the particular content of cultures, social pluralism can bring about an examination of the general form of culture that is common to each individual culture. Social pluralism can be a movement from the superficial content of culture that can easily be turned into commodities to a deep analysis of structural form that can allow participatory creation of new cultural objects. It can emphasize how culture can be a system of meaning and a tool for humans to understand reality. This is the next step that begins with the respect for diversity that is part of the 10 Key Values of the Green Party and is in fact a more productive approach than the mere window dressing and tourism that is limited multiculturalism within global capitalism.