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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Culture Wars

The link above is a blog that discusses a June 2006 article from Diversity Magazine discussing how U.S. corporations are leading the charge on diversity, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Its thesis is that "When the U.S. government and many Americans aren't prepared to protect all citizens equally, the country's most powerful companies are the first to take an inclusive stand. And they usually are led by companies found on The Diversity Inc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list."

While its thesis is completely undermined by its problematic sampling techniques, the article is nonetheless fascinating for its discussion of backlash in a culture war. While one corporate representative quoted by the article suggests that his company avoids the culture war by refusing to give in to right-wing extremists, his stand only points up the way in which his company is now completely enmeshed in the culture war. Indeed, the whole idea of a culture war is that your culture is at war within itself; there is no way to avoid entry, because you are part of the culture and no opinion is also an opinion. Thus, companies who add "gender identity" to their EEO policies have taken sides, as have those who refuse to do it. But is it a "war"? Is it about the diversity-minded inclusive people fighting the closed-minded bigots, or the traditional family values bandwagon fighting the godless liberal panderers? I think not.

As Professor Richard Florida has written, the last 20 years has seen the rise of the "culture wars"--between those who value traditional virtues, and others drawn to new lifestyles and diversity of opinion -- but the "war" has been fought between ideologues. Increasingly in the 1990s, most ordinary people expressed themselves geographically, as more and more Americans chose to live in places that suited their culture and lifestyle preferences -- the Big Sort.

By 2000, the 21 regions with the largest concentrations of the creative class and the highest-tech economies voted Democratic at rates 17 percent above the national average. Regions with lower levels of creative people and low-tech economies, along with rural America, went Republican. It's less of a "culture war" issue and more of a "culture club" issue (apologies to Boy George). Companies that emphasize diversity and tolerance attract people who'd like to belong to that club. Companies that don't attract the other sort. Ultimately, the treatment of transgender employees is an issue that owes more to recruitment and retention issues rather than the legal department.

A good article on the "Florida theory" can be found here.

I've discussed the "Florida theory" before: in the context of the goings-on in South Bend, Indiana, and those in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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