Diversity as Fraternity Lite

Submission for SAAP Meeting
March 3-7† 2005
Category: Traditional Paper


Diversity, the conference theme, is a watered-down and flawed ideal.† It represents a social-science, i.e. quantifiable, approach to political life.† While recognizing the importance of multi-ethnicity in a contemporary democratic republic, diversity, along with multi-culturalism, encourage the creation of a "silo-society." Such a Balkanized society continues to† privilege "identity" and "purity."† It† simply multiplies the purified identities, silos, that need to be preserved.† Here is where the forgotten member of the 18th century democratic slogan, fraternity, can play an important role.† Fraternity, as "fraternization," urging transformations and privileging mixtures and blendings over purity, needs to be restored as a guiding value.† This paper examines challenges to fraternity in theory and practice.† Freud and a 19th century critic of Mill's liberalism, James Fitzjames Stephen, are examined in this regard.† Friends of fraternity, specifically Henri Bergson and John Dewey, are then drawn upon to rehabilitate the ideal.† Within the umbrella of fraternity, some explicit commitment to transformation, something like constant creolization, is suggested as an antidote to identity politics and a silo-society.

Diversity as Fraternity Lite

And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Katherine Lee Bates/Ray Charles

"Diversity" our conference theme, is a watered down, misguided ideal.††† Its most immediate ancestor, the more robust "affirmative action," embraced certain specific goals and for awhile even flirted with quotas to mark real progress (businesses, after all get ahead by setting quotas).† For political and practical reasons (outright opposition to positive discrimination, difficulty in successful implementation), affirmative action morphed into "diversity." One positive result: success can more easily be claimed.† An organization's diverse mix may include offspring of Kenyan politicians or of Pakistani physicians, but that is fine.

Lingering far in the background, behind both "diversity" and "affirmative action" lies a remote and now mostly discredited ancestor, "fraternity." Conservatives, fearing state-imposed philanthropic mandates, reject it as a unwarranted social engineering.† Liberals, recognizing its religious roots (not to† mention the term's inherent sexism) hardly dare speak its name.† So we are left with "diversity," both more readily attainable and consistent with two widely embraced social goods, tolerance and multiculturalism. The triumverate, diversity, tolerance, multiculturalism, comes up short, however, when looked at from the perspective of fraternity, final partner in another triumverate, the 18th century one that matched fraternity with liberty and equality.†† A nation solicitous of diversity risks turning into a "silo-society." In such a society, multiculturalism translated practically into islands of mostly isolated communities, punctuated by some interaction in the public and occupational realms.† Tolerance, for its part, tends to emphasize the negative.† It's a "leave-them-alone" kind of virtue.† It does not encourage genuine affiliation or even active dialogue.† It may, indeed,† be quite compatible with the insular group life of "identity politics" rather than with an integrative "mongrel" model of mixing, blending, and changing.

The pejorative tone associated with "mongrel" is unfortunate. My substitute, drawn from Caribbean authors, albeit with differences, will be the term "creolization."[1]† A society in which fraternity remained a guiding value would do much to rehabilitate the term and the aim of fostering a transformative rather than a merely multi-cultural ideal. Under the umbrella of "fraternity" the transformative ideal would be one that emphasizes engaged transactionalism rather than the oppositional extremes of homogeneity and fragmentation.[2] Fraternity, however, seems not all that prevalent in either contemporary theory or practice.† Even its 20th century philosophical friends, Bergson and Dewey most prominently, seem, as we shall soon see, flummoxed about how to characterize it.† Not only can we say that diversity† represent fraternity "lite," but actual interpretations of fraternity tend to be themselves thin or "lite."

Some history first of all.† Although fraternity does not occupy a prominent place in contemporary consciousness, it was not always so.† The now abandoned Champlain Canal, site of great commercial activity, would seem an unlikely place for exhortation to brotherhood.† Yet an 1812 report explained how canal commerce would "strengthen the bands of union and preserve brotherly affection in the great American family."[3]† Such an open embrace of fraternity has deep roots. In 1630 John Winthrop reminded new colonists how the great divergence of human character† was divinely ordained so that "every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the Bonds of brotherly affection" (Winthrop, pp. 79-80).† His sermon takes us back to the 17th century, a period when the largest urban area in the colonies was called city of Brotherly Love.† The high point for fraternity (and maybe the low point as well) came in 1789 with the French revolutionary slogan embracing it as co-equal with the more universally recognized democratic ideals of "freedom," and "equality."

By the late 19th century, when Katherine Lee Bates was celebrating brotherhood in† "America the Beautiful," the ideal itself had slipped into the shadows.† Such a waning was accompanied by important criticisms wondering if it should ever have been an ideal in the first place.†† Freud leveled a crucial one in Civilization and its Discontents.† Another came from a strident critic of John Stuart Mill, the lesser known James Fitzjames Stephen.†

Freud's position is both direct and brief.† The exhortation to "love one's neighbor" suffers from two serious flaws: (1) theoretically, it goes against an honest scientific understanding of human nature, (2) practically, attempts at realizing it come at a high price, finding a common enemy. Homo homini lupus provides the slogan from which a scientifically-sound approach to human community building would proceed.† We should be wary of others, enforce restraints, and expect no more than some compromised form of co-existence as the most realizable ideal.

In practice, things get worse.† The most effective catalyst for banding together requires but one step, as simple as it is brutal: find a scapegoat.† What is the best way for people to rally together under slogans like brotherood and love of neighbor?† Freud knew the answer only too well from personal experience: identify a shared enemy.† Nothing moves people more effectively toward solidarity within a particular group† than concerted focus on a commonly despised foe.† Nothing binds people together, blinds them to their own differences, than identification of a threatening presence.† The ideal of loving one's neighbor thus gets turned inside out.† In practice it means finding some group to despise.[4]

The second criticism comes from a 19th century foe of Millian liberalism, James Fitzjames Stephen. Although not exactly a household name, Stephen has made a bit of a comeback aided by Richard Posner.† Judge Posner wrote a helpful introduction to a reissue of Stephen's 1873 critique, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.†† The book's tone is well conveyed in a rousing conclusion attacking each component in the French revolutionary slogan. Enthusiasm for the phrase "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," says Stephen, is misplaced since

†there are a vast number of matters in respect of which men ought not to be free; they are fundamentally unequal, and they are not brothers at all, or only under qualifications which make the assertion of their fraternity unimportant (Stephen, 262).

When it comes to fraternity, Stephen is particularly caustic. Let's get real, he says in effect.† How should I respond to someone who is false, calculatingly cruel and ungrateful?† Easy: stigmatize and punish.† "In the first place, I for one do not love such people, but hate them."† (Stephen, 230).†† "General philanthropy" cannot be justified by empirical evidence.† "Many men are bad, the vast majority indifferent" (Stephen, 226]† It cannot be justified by examining human motivations.† The most secure motivating force is self-love.† All love for others flows from this center as we† move carefully and selectively† in ever-widening concentric circles.

Since there is no empirical justification for celebrations of universal brotherhood, there must be a psychological explanation.† For Stephen, it can be found in the inverse relation between love of those with whom we are in contact, and those at a distance.† "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen is peculiarly apt to suppose that he loves his distant cousin whom he hath not seen and never will see" (Stephen, 238).† Those who praise fraternity do not live in the world of concrete experience.†† Instead, they worship and serve "humanity in the abstract" (Stephen, 222).†

Both Stephen and Freud urge that we build our social ideals on realities, not fictions.†† "Are we all brothers?" asks Stephen, No.† "Are we even fiftieth cousins?"† No again (Stephen, 240).† Let's face the human situation as it is.† This may involve truths that seem harsh, but the practices resulting from them actually make social relations more realistically harmonious. That, at least, seemed the classical English liberal tradition's last word at the end of the 19th century.

20th century political philosophy did little to retrieve fraternity as a guiding ideal.†† Henri Bergson proved an exception in this regard. But then he was French, and religious.† In The Two Sources of Morality and Religion he made the case that without fraternity, the other two components of the revolutionary slogan face the danger of disintegration.† Liberty and equality, inherently vague and open to interpretation as they are, can be so transformed that they no longer serve the public good. In their application, humans are tempted to move them† "in the direction of private interest" (Bergson, 283).† Fraternity, for Bergson, is the oil that makes the gears of equality and liberty mesh as smoothly as possible.† Without a sense of trust in and affection for our fellows, the tensions between liberty which, by itself can lead to radical inequalities, and equality, which, by itself, can be used as a justification for severely limiting freedom, can culminate in an ugly divorce.† If the pair liberty/equality is to be preserved as a stable, if not entirely tension-free, couple, the third term is crucial.†

Is this the case?† In developing his position, Bergson is disappointingly vague. His positive appraisal does, however, stress something worth emphasizing.†† Liberty and equality are often at odds with one another. An ever-present temptation is to privilege one at the complete expense of the other.† Moving social ideals beyond mere legalisms, fraternity, as an umbrella ideal, serves as a reminder that, for optimal social harmony,† liberty and equality need each other.† Neither is to be considered an absolute end in itself. They are rather, cherished siblings, who both are to be cherished, in spite of the oft-erupting tensions between them.†

For moving beyond such a functional appreciation to one that characterizes fraternity more substantively, we can move to another thinker who did not give up on fraternity, John Dewey.† He praised the slogan "liberty, equality, and fraternity" as the "historic formula of the greatest liberal† movement of history."† In the same breath, though, he admits the inherent, problematic vagueness of the three key terms (Dewey, 1993, 43).†† Dewey's approach hinges on how seriously one takes the claim that democracy is a more than just a system of government, that it is a "way of life."† Democracy as a political system can be defined in terms of constitutions, legal systems, voting procedures, eligibility to hold office.† Important as these are, they are not, for Dewey, sufficient.† Democracy is not secure, he claims, until it becomes a way of life, until, that is, it comes to be appropriated in our habitual dispositions.[5]† Still, the question remains why fraternity should be held onto as an ideal for a flourishing community life.†

Within the context of political democracy, diversity and solidarity take the social ideal about as far as it can go.† They recognize the reality and value of a multi-ethnic society, one in which tolerance extends across racial, ethnic, and class lines.†

All this is well and good, but are diversity and multi-culturalism sufficient to realize fraternity.† I submit that they are not, and, indeed, that, beyond a certain point, they can inhibit its progress. Fraternity, along with its oft-misused cognate "fraternization," require more than tolerance and acceptance of differences.† The enemies of fraternity are not just enmity and indifference.† Another enemy, an especially pervasive one, is purity, the acceptance of oppositional "us" and "them" categorizations, coupled with the desire to preserve the "us" from any contamination by "them."† Purity can comfortably find a place within multi-culturalism.† It only needs to be pluralized.†

Here is where "fraternity," or better "fraternization," can play a substantive role. "Fraternization" urges amalgamations, mergings, and blendings rather than purity.† Its goal moves beyond multi-culturalism to something that, as mentioned earlier, might better be called "creolization."[6]† At this point fraternity moves from an airy exhortation to a definite guide for delineating whether democratic ideals are becoming more and more realized in practice.† "Creolization," as I am using the term, can be articulated in both negative and positive ways.† Negatively, "creolization" refuses to play the game of polarized opposites.[7]† Homogeneity/fragmentation as well as assimilation/multiculturalism are oppositional abstractions that can be overcome in practice.† A vibrant creolizing community may, as the anthropologist Ulf Hannerz points out, operate from a context in which there is a "culture of the center."† At the same time, however, creolization indicates a "creative interplay" between center and periphery.† "Creolization," as he puts it, "allows the periphery to talk back" (Hannerz, 264, 265).† Positively, "creolization" emphasizes the constant activity of contact and transformation.† Since "Creole" is historically a pluralistic term (Europeans born in colonial lands can be Creoles, as can descendants of African slaves, and peoples who are mixtures of the above[8]), creolization does not indicate the gradual movement toward a homogeneous mixture. Different nations will continue to resonate out of centers of meaning made up of differentially weighted values, and those centers will, because of creolization, be subject to modification.† At the same time, since it indicates the results of transformation, either of cultural changes, ethnic changes, or racial changes, it, at the same time goes beyond the silo-society's fragmentation into bounded, authentic, pure sub-communities.

For creolization to work, several theoretical moves have to be made.† (1) Praxis must become central.† The suffix "ation" indicating constant activity suggests the prominence of engaging in actions.† The prominenct of episteme, by contrast, can freeze social thought into a debate among abstractions. (2) Myths of pure origins must be relegated to the periphery.† What Josiah Royce referred to as "communities of memory," communities with a shared myth, must emphasize in that story of origins, its multiple, blended character.† That way each member of the community, when thinking of his or her distant past can say, in Royce's pregnant terms "that belonged to my life."[9] Most societies, when their histories are studied in detail will involve some element of contact, some multidimensionality from the very beginnings.† These now come to be highlighted. (3) The underlying 17th century metaphor of atomism must be replaced by a 20th century informational one.† Instead of atoms, isolated, separate, self sufficient, humans are to be thought of as resulting from a coding that is inherently multiple and complex.† It contains all the possibilities within it and manifests them in different, multiple ways, even within supposedly pure, authentic communities.†

Two different models now confront us: One is multi-culturalism not divested from the lure of purity.† An easily envisaged result of such multi-culturalism: a silo-society, multi-ethnic, maybe politically free and equal, but not democratic if genuine fraternization is part of democracy as a way of life. The multi-cultural ideal remains comfortable when emphasizing the episteme of an authentic essence rather than the praxis of contact, change and transformation.† It remains comfortable with myths of original purity.† And it is perfectly consistent with the atomic model of human life. The other model, described above, is that of creolization.† It is the one most consistent with retrieving fraternity or better, fraternization, as an overarching ideal for democratic communities.† The various grouping within a creolizing community would not think of each other primarily in oppositional terms, but in terms of the many ways they are responding to and being transformed by the others.

What does Dewey offer in this regard?† A mixed bag. Wanting to provide a specific, constructive formulation, he characterized fraternity in terms of shared social interactions and goods.† "In its just connection with communal experience, fraternity is another name for the consciously appreciated goods which accrue from an association in which all share, and which give direction to the conduct of each" (Dewey, 1927, 329). This formulation is minimally helpful.† "Solidarity" would be a more accurate term for what he describes.† We're all in it together, he is saying, and by both recognizing our interdependence and sharing in the common good, we will all benefit.

Another formulation gets closer to a more robust notion of fraternity. Fraternity, as an ideal, he says, means taking "continuity" seriously.† It means "association and interaction without limit" (Dewey, 1993, 46).† In an earlier work Dewey had made clear the criteria which were to serve as "a measure for the worth of any given mode of social life."† These took the form of two questions: "How numerous and varied are the interests which are consciously shared?† How full and free is the interplay with other forms of association?" (Dewey, 1916, 88, 89).†

Building on these claims, we can go further and formulate certain questions which a would-be democratic community should ask itself.†† Are interactions between the many groupings that make up the wider nation-state narrow and one-dimensional or are they diverse and ample?† How free, flexible and common are the movements among, between, and within the sub-communities?† How prevalent are blendings and mixings of individuals from diverse sub-groupings?† Answering such questions provides a concrete sense of the degree to which one mark of the democratic way of life, fraternity, i.e. real fraternization has become a living ideal.

Although his emphasis on varied and multiple interactions helps, there remains nothing specific in Dewey's analysis which specifically fosters creolization, the genuine mixing and blending that moves a community from the ideal of diversity and multi-culturalism to fraternization.† Fraternity in the abstract, it is true, can manifest itself, Stephen-style, in some vague, universal, intangible love for humanity.† Fraternization, however, depends on increasing transformations that result from genuine affiliation, intermingling and blending with others.† Fraternization, as ongoing praxis, does not signify a reality already in place.† It represents an end to be striven for.†† In this case the effort involves reaching beyond the familiar.† It is here that diversity falls short.† Diversity in a school or a workplace can be consistent with silo-style existence outside the school or the workplace. Multi-culturalism can actually encourage this bi-level sort of existence.† Fraternity, considered as ongoing creolization, tends more resolutely to challenge the lingering silo-style temptation still present within multi-culturalism.††

For iconographic help indicating the gap between diversity/multiculturalism on one side and fraternity/creolization on the other, I turn to someone usually avoided by academics: Norman Rockwell.† His 1961 painting "Do Unto Others" groups together representatives easily recognizable as belonging to differing races and ethnicities.† Across the painting's lower half, as if it were needed, the golden rule is printed out.† This is not the most subtle canvas ever painted.† For my purposes, though, it is important because it well exemplifies the ideals associated with diversity/multiculturalism.† It asks us to be understanding and tolerant of difference, cognizant that there are all sorts of people in the world and suggests that we not only make room for them, but treat them as we would like to be treated.†

Who can argue with this?† Well, thinking people can, at least in the sense of identifying limitations.† The gap between diversity/ multiculturalism and fraternity/creolization can be highlighted if we think of an altered image.† The extant one embodies certain shortcomings:

†(1) The exhortation "do unto others" can be read in a strictly negative, minimal way. It encourages only diversity as a sort of laissez-faire tolerance, rather than a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood.† (2) The cast of characters, simply gathered together in a loose sort of assemblage, need not be thought of as undergoing transformation.† (3) The individuals are all readily identifiable as members of certain stock groups within the human race.† Missing are representatives of groups that† have emerged via mixing and blending of the various peoples on the canvas. †

Such shortcomings can be addressed by one emendation.† Instead of picturing the individuals as does Rockwell, let us imagine two changes: (a) the group is seated around a table; (b) the composition now includes families which result from intermingling among the originally distinctive groups.† Now we have a more powerful contrasting image.† The new one not only suggests a gathering of individuals with flexible, emerging affiliations.† It also suggests transformation and changes.† The suggestion of a pre-existing, purity-privileging silo-society recedes, being replaced by a dynamic one which suggests an emerging, transformational society.

With such an iconographic emendation, we have a ready test for determining if fraternity has become the guiding ideal, or whether it remains diversity.† We can say that societies in a substantive, not just a procedural sense, live out the democratic ideal of fraternization when its tables reflect the re-imagined Rockwell scene.† To what degree is fraternity, the creole model of blending and mixing, an important living presence? For an answer which does not require poking into people's bedrooms,† look at who is seated around the table.

College cafeterias are good places to begin. This organization's banquet is another.† If it is always the same people, with the same interests, the same backgrounds sitting together, then there continues to be a wide gap between aspiration and actuality.†

This does not mean that democracy fails to exist in those locales.† Democracy is not an all or nothing proposition.† The presence of certain political structures represent a necessary condition, but not one which defines the fullness of democracy as a way of life.† The fuller democratic ideal, combining political structures and a way of life, provides both the lure and the barometer of how well or ill the ideal is being approximated.† In this sense, the composition of table companions serves as an index of how well a community manifests the way of life consistent with democratic aspirations, if those aspirations seek to live out the full promise of not only liberty and equality, but of fraternity as well.†


[1] The most important manifesto in this regard is Bernabé, Chamoiseau and Confiant's …loge de la Créolité.

[2]† Cp. "Creoleness is the interactional or transactional aggregate of Carribean, European, African, Asian, and Levantine cultural elements, united on the same soil by the yoke of history" (Bernabé, p. 87).

[3] The report is cited in a historical marker by the canal in Waterford, New York.

[4] See Freud, Chapter V.

[5] After asserting the "intrinsic moral nature of democracy,"† Dewey goes on with the following two sentences: "We have advanced far enough to say that democracy is a way of life.† We have yet to realize that it is a way of personal life and one which provides a moral standard for personal conduct" (Dewey, 1939, p. 155).

[6] A succinct formulation of what it means for an anthropologist to think in terms of the "root metaphor" of† "creole cultures" can be found in Hannerz, pp. 261-267.

[7] That game is played most eloquently by Samuel Huntington in an article "One Nation, Our of Many."† While discussing a key topic, the centrality of assimilation and acculturation, Huntington does so within a context which assumes a rigid either/or disjunction, that between promoting "subnational identities" (the multicultural position in his view) or embracing the new national identity.† Such a dilemma requires turning the new "national identity" and the old "subnational identity" into abstractions absolutely opposed to one another.† Cultural creolization, by contrast, while preserving a center which identifies national identity, allows for the center and periphery to engage in constant conversation and mutual transformation.† At one point, and tellingly, Huntington cites the "president of the National Council of La Raza" who proclaimed the existence of a "cultural clash" between "our values and the values in American society."† Huntington adds the comment that for this president, the former values are "superior to the latter."† Here both the president of La Raza and Huntington have fallen for abstractions.† There are probably many ways in which American values are superior to those of Mexican peasant immigrants (especially those which lead to comfortable economic maintenance for self and family), and many ways in which the Mexican peasant's values are superior to those of America (stronger family bonds, less emphasis on consumerism).† Blanket pronouncements make little sense in light of concrete, complex reality. (See Huntington, pp. 4 and 6).

[8] "Originally, a criollo meant a European (normally a Spaniard) born in the New World (as opposed to penninsulares); today, a similar usage is current in La Réunion, where everybody born in the island, regardless of skin colour, is seen as créole, as opposed to the zoreils who were born in metropolitan France.† In Trinidad, the term Creole is sometimes used to designate all Trinidadians except those of Asian origin. In Suriname, a Creole is a person of African origin, while in neighbouring French Guyana a Creole is a person who has adopted a European way of life" (Eriksen, p. 1)

[9] Royce in Classical American Philosophers, 205.† "Now when many contemporary and distinct individual selves so interpret, each his own personal life, that each says of an individual past or of a determinate future event or deed: "That belongs to my life;"† "That occurred, or will occur to me," then these many selves may be defined as hereby constituting, in a perfectly definite and objective, but also in a highly significant, sense, a community."

Works Cited

Bergson, Henri (1932; 1956) The Two Sources of Religion and Morality. Trans. R. Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton. Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Bernabé, Jean; Chamoiseau, Patrick; Confiant, Raphäel (1993).† …loge de la Créolité: In Praise of Creoleness, …dition bilingue français/anglais.† Paris: Gallimard.

Dewey, John (1916;1985). Democracy and Education in The Middle Works, vol. 9.† Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

------ (1919; 1988).† "Philosophy and Democracy," in The Middle Works, vol. 11.† Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

------(1927;1984). The Public and Its Problems in The Late Works, vol. 3.† Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

------(1939;1988).† Freedom and Culture in The Later Works, vol. 13.† Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

------ (1993). The Political Writings.† Eds. Debra Morris and Ian Shapiro.† Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Eriksen, Thomas H. (1999). "Tu dimmunn pu vini kreol: The Mauritian Creole and the concept of creolization"† http://www.folk.uio.no/geirthe/Creoles.html (4 August, 2004).

Freud, Sigmund (1930; 1961).† Civilization and its Discontents. Trans. James Strachey. NY: W.W. Norton & Co.

Hannerz, Ulf (1992).† Cultural Complexity: Studies in the Social Organization of Meaning.† New York: Columbia University Press.

Huntington, Samuel (2004). "One Nation, Out of Many."† http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleid.18144/article_detail.asp (4 August, 2004).

Stephen, James Fitzjames (1873;1991). Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and three brief essays.† Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Winthrop, John (1630)† "A Model of Christian Charity," in Pery Miller, ed. The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry.† NY: Anchor Books, 1956.


Norman Rockwell†"Do Unto Others"†1961