Cultural Geography

David Brooks is the de facto columnist for the NY Times who will address young people directly even though he knows it’s the young person’s parents who will read it and think about how to integrate his thinking into their parenting. Today he starts off:

Let’s say you are an 18-year-old kid with a really big brain. You’re trying to figure out which field of study you should devote your life to, so you can understand the forces that will be shaping history for decades to come. Go into the field that barely exists: cultural geography. Study why and how people cluster, why certain national traits endure over centuries, why certain cultures embrace technology and economic growth and others resist them.

This is the line of inquiry that is now impolite to pursue. The gospel of multiculturalism preaches that all groups and cultures are equally wonderful. There are a certain number of close-minded thugs, especially on university campuses, who accuse anybody who asks intelligent questions about groups and enduring traits of being racist or sexist. The economists and scientists tend to assume that material factors drive history – resources and brain chemistry – because that’s what they can measure and count.

But none of this helps explain a crucial feature of our time: while global economies are converging, cultures are diverging, and the widening cultural differences are leading us into a period of conflict, inequality and segmentation.

It’s hard to disagree. Questions of culture are fascinating and I’ll be sure to get my exposure to these issues over the next few months.

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