Cashing in on the politics of grievance

Niall Gooch on how ‘diversity’ dictates our moral climate

The Tribe
by Ben Cobley, Societas, 250pp, £15

Roger Scruton popularised the idea of “the culture of repudiation”, the tendency of educated people to treat with hostility any moral axiom, cultural artefact or custom redolent of what you might call Old Britain. Ben Cobley does not use the phrase, but The Tribe is a book about repudiation; about the attempt by a new establishment to cement their own power by speaking, or claiming to speak, for the various groups who have (supposedly or actually) been kept down by the baleful influence of Straight White Christian Men.

Cobley is on the left and sympathetic to campaigns against genuine bigotry and unjust discrimination. Nevertheless, he has produced a searching examination of what he calls “the system of diversity”. By this he means the way in which elites control public policy and public debate, damning certain views as morally unacceptable. He documents the way in which the diversity discourse enables left-wing politicians to maintain support among purportedly marginalised groups via “community leaders” and the politics of grievance.

One strong theme is the internal contradictions of the diversity coalition – it’s hard to see, for example, what unites conservative Muslims with feminists or gay activists. It is this theme which links most closely with the idea of “repudiation”, since what these groups do have in common is that they are all, to some extent, antagonistic to Christian Britain as it once was.

Such antagonism is at the root of much public policy, especially on issues such as marriage, life and the family, and at the root of much official and private hostility to Christianity. Accordingly, Catholics should make every effort to understand it. This book is an excellent place to start.