Wokeness, cancel culture, identity politics, political correctness, multiculturalism—terms unsettling but also somehow inescapable. Thomas F. Powers shows how these are all one thing, elements of one broad political phenomenon—the anti-discrimination regime—–that has since 1964 been working to challenge and undermine America’s defining liberal democratic tradition (the tradition of the Declaration and the Constitution). The many deep lines of tension between the old and the new, presented here with arresting clarity, allow us to grasp the new order in its distinctiveness. Novel imperatives to regulate private life (behavior, speech, thought) begin to come to sight in the new order’s many laws and institutions. Attentive to the crucial role of law, the main focus of this book is nevertheless on the ideas, especially the moral ideals, thrust upon us by the new regime. This study examines theorists of multicultural education (non-postmodernist and postmodernist) who, without hesitation, set forth a new civic education and a new form of democratic pluralism for America. When a country has a new civic education, a new pluralism, and a new morality, these are signs of fundamental change not to be ignored. The book culminates in a direct critical examination of the new logic of group politics and the new morality of the anti-discrimination regime. In embarking on this new chapter of democratic life, do we know what we are doing?
Thomas Powers is Full Professor of Political Science at Carthage College, where he teaches constitutional law. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He has written on anti-discrimination politics, multicultural education, religious freedom, and liberty and security in the post-9/11 era.
“Critical race theory seemed to explode on the scene in 2020. The ground for today’s CRT was prepared more than fifty years ago with multiculturalism. And multiculturalism was just America's anti-discriminatory, anti-racist laws translated into education. Like Christopher Caldwell’s Age of Entitlement, Thomas Powers’s American Multiculturalism and the Anti-Discrimination Regime shows how the laudable impulse behind anti-discrimination revolutionized education, law, morality, and finally the Constitution. No gimmick can rid the country of this deeply-embedded challenge to our institutions. Our anti-discrimination morality is radical and illiberal—and America must choose between being a free country and being an anti-racist country.” —Scott Yenor, Professor of Political Science at Boise State University
“This excellent, groundbreaking book meticulously shows the need for an Aristotelian political science that analyzes the Civil Rights Regime, the actual regime that orders our lives and minds today, which has supplanted the natural rights regime of the Founders. Citizens and scholars wondering about the real causes that transformed America should turn to Powers as a guide.” ––Arthur Milikh, Executive Director of the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life
"One of the most important insights [of this book] is how the civil rights revolution went beyond law and politics to permeate our educational institutions, moral norms, and cultural identity. As Powers explains, the book 'is partly a story about the law and the effects of the law, but it is also one involving the independent efforts of citizens inspired by the promise of the law.' […] We need scholars like Thomas Powers, just as much as activists and pundits, to abandon the trite celebrations of the civil rights movement and to start thinking critically about what the revolution has done to our social, political, and constitutional order. We are all indebted to Powers for writing what is, to date, the most scholarly account on the subject." ––Jesse Merriam, associate professor of government at Patrick Henry College and a Washington fellow of the Claremont Institute's Center for the American Way of Life
National Review article:
“How Wokeness Prevailed” is an essay written by Thomas F. Powers for National Review. It is adapted from his recently published book American Multiculturalism and the Anti-Discrimination Regime. Please find it at this LINK.
Join First Things contributing editor Mark Bauerlein below for the latest installment of his ongoing interview series, Beware of Multicultutalists, where he interviews Thomas F. Powers about his book!
Are you interested in learning more about the book? Please see this review in the journal Law & Liberty, by Scott Yenor, Senior Director of State Coalitions at the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life and a professor of political science at Boise State University. The book review can be found at thisLINK.
Conversation Series: American Democracy in Crisis
Join Professor Thomas F. Powers and Dr. Jennifer McCoy at Missouri State University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science and Philosophy where they discuss the question: Is American Democracy in Crisis?