Continuing from part one on The Identity Trap (2023). In arguing against a “monomaniacal” prism for interpreting the world (whether via class as the Marxists use or via race, gender, and sexual orientation as is the case for identity theorists), Yascha’s book seems to be championing common sense: Of course all of these things matter but need to be balanced against each other. Moreover, we should recognize that it’s been liberalism that has allowed us to achieve the (imperfect) social progress that we have, and we should continue to try to live up to those values.
However, in this part we challenge Yascha about the book’s polemical character and his sweeping policy prescriptions. Should we base public policies on broad principles or pragmatically pursue whichever strategy (e.g. race-sensitive vs. race-neutral) seems to achieve the desired outcomes (e.g. educational outcomes) in the situation? Are selected anecdotes where a wrong choice was clearly made the best way to establish a general point about the rationale behind policy decisions?
Yascha argues that while of course people should be free to pursue voluntary associations, the division of society into groups that do not fruitfully communicate and which see themselves in zero-competition is a recipe for social strife. So how do we ease these tensions and foster nation-wide solidarity while still respecting Rawls‘ tenet of liberalism that says that that government needs to be neutral regarding the character of how people want to organize themselves? This represents an internal tension within liberalism: Liberalism, for example, requires free speech, but can illiberal speech erode the very norm that makes it possible? Does small-group solidarity of the sort that leads to isolation from the larger society likewise undermine the stability of that society that allows such freedom of association?
We also talk about diversity trainings, cultural association, free speech, deference to minorities, how inaccessible others’ experiences are, and more.