A century ago intellectuals worried about the degeneration of the race. Today we fear cultural decay. Is the notion of cultural decay any more coherent than that of racial degeneration? Cultures certainly change and develop. But what does it mean for a culture to decay? Or for an identity to be lost? Will Kymlicka draws a distinction between the existence of a culture’ and its “character” at any given moment’… So, in making the distinction between character and existence, Kymlicka seems to be suggesting that Jewish, Navajo or French culture is not defined by what Jewish, Navajo or French people are actually doing. For if Jewish culture is simply that which Jewish people do or French culture is simply that which French people do, then cultures could never decay or perish they would always exist in the activities of people.
The logic of the preservationist argument is that every culture has a pristine form, its original state. It decays when it is not longer in that form. Like racial scientists with their idea of racial type, some modern multiculturalists appear to hold a belief in cultural type.
My own thoughts about gay culture and its end - or, rather, diverse and interesting reinvention - are here. This is a key distinction between conservatism properly understood and reactionaryism. Conservatives lament loss but they also understand its necessity. They are comfortable with constant change, because that is how societies, like human beings stay alive. Reactionaries have abstract and constant notions of what is correct and resist all efforts to adapt to new social realities.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.