It could be argued—and esteemed historian of ideas Russell Jacoby does so here—that the less diversity there is, the more we talk about it.
But what does the term actually mean? Where does it come from? What are its intellectual precedents? Moreover, how do we square our recognition of the importance of diversity with the fact that the world is becoming more and more, well, homogeneous? In fine prose and lucid argument, Jacoby puts our volatile present into historical context. Examining diversity (or lack thereof) in language, fashion, childhood experience, political structure, and the history of ideas, Jacoby offers a surprising and penetrating analysis of our cultural moment, and invites his readers to participate in the most dangerous and liberating act: to stop and think.
About the Author
Russell Jacoby’s books range in topic from the place of psychology in American society (Social Amnesia: A Critique of Conformist Psychology) to the role of utopian thought (The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in the Age of Apathy) and the origins of violence (Bloodlust: On the Roots of Violence from Cain and Abel to the Present). His TheLast Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe introduced into the lexicon the term “public intellectual” and is considered one of the essential texts of American letters. Originally from New York, he has a PhD in history from the University of Rochester, where he worked with Christopher Lasch. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches history at UCLA. In 2017 Jacoby was short-listed for the Times Literary Supplement’s All Authors Must Have Prizes Prize.
“On Diversity is philosophically generous, occasionally witty, tightly reasoned and engagingly written." --Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal
"This is an insightful, thought-provoking book which raises intriguing questions, and I enjoyed reading it." --popmatters.com
"Russell Jacoby has written a cogent and provocative essay on the paradoxes of identity, and he asks questions that yield no comforting answers. Does a concern with diversity of cultures strengthen diversity of thought? Has the global scaling-up of American mass society left us with more groups and fewer individuals? A highly personal inquiry into the jargon of authenticity, this book is also a fascinating history of a central modern idea." —David Bromwich, Sterling Professor of English, Yale University, and author of American Breakdown
"In this book, as he has throughout his career, Russell Jacoby asks the necessary questions, the ones few other contemporary writers care to pose. How is it, he wonders, that the explosion of officially sanctioned “diversity” has been accompanied by a decline of individuality? His answer takes us on a scintillating journey through the history of ideas, including Constant, Herder, Tocqueville, Mill, Herzen, Burckhardt, Durkheim, Randolph Bourne, Walter Benjamin, and many others. On Diversity is first-rate intellectual history and penetrating cultural criticism.” —George Scialabba, author of Low Dishonest Decades and What Are Intellectuals Good For?
“Russell Jacoby is the best kind of intellectual provocateur, a philosopher skeptic who knows that the pursuit of justice does not in itself yield truth and often enough yields falsehood. In On Diversity, he tackles some of the core pieties of our time, and drives home a central paradox, that the shibboleth of diversity cloaks a world of increasingly soulless uniformity. Immensely learned yet unfailingly lucid, Jacoby will make you think harder than you ever have about things you thought you knew.” —Sean Wilentz, George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton University and award-winning author most recently of No Property in Man
"Russell Jacoby’s new book offers an implacable and unprecedented dose of resistance to an unreflective mantra. Without denying group-based injustice in American life, Jacoby bracingly affirms the importance of the individual distinction that our classic thinkers identified as the ultimate aspiration for an age of accelerating conformity in how we raise our children, what we wear, and how we talk. A must-read." —Samuel Moyn, Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of History, Yale University, and author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World