UIC News Release
October 11, 2006
CONTACT: Brian Flood, (312) 996-7681, firstname.lastname@example.org
BOOK ARGUES RACE ISSUES OBSCURE NATION'S ECONOMIC DIVIDE
A new book by a University of Illinois at Chicago literary theorist
explores American society's emphasis on cultural differences and the
resulting lack of attention devoted to economic inequality.
"The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore
Inequality" (Metropolitan Books, 2006) by Walter Benn Michaels, UIC
professor and head of English, examines diversity in America, the
growing divide between rich and poor, and the need for genuine social
"We love race -- we love identity -- because we don't love class,"
Michaels writes. "We love thinking that the differences that divide us
are not the differences between those of us who have money and those
who don't but are instead the differences between those of us who are
black and those who are white or Asian or Latino or whatever."
Michaels contends that the prevailing commitment to race and
anti-racism initiatives associated with affirmative action, university
enrollment, and corporate training allows society to overlook the need
for economic equality.
"Classes are not like races and cultures, and treating them as if they
were -- different but equal -- is one of our strategies for managing
inequality rather than minimizing it or eliminating it."
One example of the economic imbalance is the country's education
system, where Michaels maintains the rich have a built-in competitive
advantage over the poor.
"The kinds of solutions that might actually make a difference --
financing every school district equally, abolishing private schools,
making high-quality child care available to every family -- are treated
as if they were positively un-American," he explains in the book's
While Michaels spreads blame across both sides of the political
spectrum for economic inequality, he believes liberalism has become
"the accomplice rather than the opponent of the right" in this matter.
He urges the Left to change its course.
"We must shift our focus from cultural diversity to economic equality
to help alter the political terrain of contemporary American life," he
Michaels, a UIC faculty member since 2001, is considered one of the
country's leading literary theorists. Much of his work examines
American literature and inequality, specifically issues of race and
He is the author of "The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of
History" (2004); "Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism"
(1995); and "The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American
Literature at the Turn of the Century" (1987).
UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research
funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students,
12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public
medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities
Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with
community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of
programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around
For more information about UIC, please visit www.uic.edu