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The Invention of a Concept

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Publication Details

Paperback / 336 pages
ISBN: 9781594030420
PUBLISHED: 7/1/2004

The Invention of a Concept

In this learned and entertaining book, Wood has undertaken nothing less than the biography of a concept.  Drawing on classic texts of history and anthropology, and science and religion, he shows that, contrary to the self-flattering assumptions of our time, Americans of earlier eras often met diversity with open-mindedness—with a combination of “awe, delight, and curiosity.”  This open-mindedness, however, was upstaged and replaced by a new “diversity” born in the 1970s and evolving since through decisions made in courts, college campuses, and corporate boardrooms.  Wood shows how this imposter diversity promises to embrace Walt Whitman’s “multitudes,” but actually validates only a narrow hierarchy of difference, asserting the principle that people are, above all else, members of social groups and products of the historical experiences of these groups.  He describes how diversity has come to dominate politics, law, education, business, entertainment, personal aspiration, religious faith and the arts as an all-encompassing claim about personal fate and human identity.

About the Author

Peter W. Wood is president of the National Association of Scholars. A former professor of anthropology and college provost, he is the author of several books about American culture, including Diversity: The Invention of a Concept (2003) and Wrath: America Enraged (2021).

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