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... Many political terms (“fascism”) are as slippery as greased lobbyists, and this one is hardly the toughest to figure out. What is woke, then? The definition from the meme is actually rock-solid: a “woke” person, or “social-justice warrior,” is someone who believes that (1) the institutions of American society are currently and intentionally set up to oppress (minorities, women, the poor, fat people, etc.), (2) virtually all gaps in performance between large groups prove that this oppression exists, and (3) the solution to this is equity — which means proportional representation regardless of performance or qualifications.
Most other popular, coherent definitions are quite similar. To James Lindsay, a “woke” person is someone afflicted (infected?) with modern critical consciousness — which is itself the belief that society is set up to oppress you, and the only way out of the Matrix is critical theory. These summaries aren’t witty trolls from the center-Right, but instead reflect canonical statements from woke leftists themselves.
The claim that racism is “everyday,” “everywhere,” and that apparently neutral systems like standardized testing are actually structured primarily to benefit dominant groups, comes from Richard Delgado — one of the founders of critical race theory. The claim that virtually all group performance gaps indicate racist policy or subtle bias is the cornerstone argument of Ibram X. Kendi, probably the most famous “crit” alive today. Kendi has baldly stated, on several occasions, that the only two possible explanations for, say, an income or tested-IQ gap between major populations are actual inferiority on the part of one group or some form of bias — no matter how well-hidden and impossible to winkle out.
That is for sure a very good start!
Following this culture war eruption, I was asked by several people to coalesce many of the different observations and definitions from HWFO’s half a decade of writing on the subject into one place, for easy reference. A Grand Unified Theory of Wokeness. Herein, we will see that Wokeness is a result of the intersection of population level genetics and falling religiosity, is a system of luxury beliefs which propagates like fashion, is built on the backbone of social media interconnectedness, is an emergent beta test of a new religious framework, and is built on simple seed crystals that cause it to look like it looks today.
We will also postulate towards the end how competing belief systems might look, as they emerge in the 21st Century.
James Lindsay has been analyzing and criticizing Wokeism for some time now.
I was recently asked by someone reading my forthcoming book with Helen Pluckrose, Cynical Theories, if I would explain the relationship between Marxism and the Critical Social Justice ideology we trace a partial history of in that book. The reason for the question is that Cynical Theories obviously focuses upon the postmodern elements of Critical Social Justice scholarship and activism, and yet many people, particularly among conservatives, identify obvious relationships to Marxism within that scholarship and activism that seems poorly accounted for by talking about postmodernism. This confusion makes sense because postmodernism was always explicitly critical of Marxism, naming it among the grand, sweeping universalizing explanations of reality that it called “metanarratives,” of which it advised us to be radically skeptical.
The goal of Cynical Theories is to add clarity to this admittedly complicated discussion and lay out how postmodernism is of central importance to the development of what we now call “Critical Social Justice” or “Woke” scholarship and ideology. This is actually only one part in a far broader history that certainly draws upon Marx (and thus all the German idealists he drew upon), though in a very peculiar way and through a number of fascinating and, themselves, complex historical and philosophical twists.
One of these is the development of postmodernism, upon which we write, and another is the development of “neo-Marxism,” which is sometimes referred to as “Cultural Marxism.” This is a development of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, and it too was explicitly highly critical of Marxism in its economic particulars, though it retained the underlying ethos and ambition of overthrowing the ruling classes and establishing some variation on communism. Clearly, a third line of thought that bears some relevance is the long and, again, complex history of “social justice” thought, which can be approached in any number of ways, including religious, liberal, communist, and, as we explain in the book, “Woke,” which must be understood to be its own thing in its own context, whatever its intellectual history.
[...]In all of this, Marxism, though, which is conflict theory applied to Industrial Age capitalist economics, is more or less completely lost, except as a thing that people occasionally yell about without any apparent deep understanding. Class struggle, to Marxists, unites people across identity groups—“workers of the world, unite!”—so identity groups are mostly irrelevant to Marxism except in the effort to outline the specific ways that capitalism might uniquely exploit them. In fact, the proper Marxists of today don’t like Critical Social Justice at all because of its divisiveness around identity within class and its overwhelmingly obvious
| Douglas Murray
Outstanding and truthful editorial. I have seen James Lindsay on Oxford Union.
Initially used as a term to empower awareness of systemic inequalities in society, wokeism is now a deeply divisive term. The media's perpetuation of woke culture has made this term a buzzword. For some, being woke is part of the antidote of acknowledging the instruments of oppression. For others, it is a dangerously absolutist ideology, a sort of reverse McCarthyism, corroding liberal society and encouraging self-imposed victimhood. Is the 'war on woke' a legitimate phenomenon, or a reactionary distraction from the real problems being 'woke' addresses?
| Woke Culture HAS NOT Gone Too Far -
6/8 | Oxford Union
12 Jan 2023
A special thanks for that!
This man knows what he is talking about!,
At the beginning of that time period, historians agree, came the founding document of identity politics itself: "The Combahee River Collective Statement," a declaration that grew out of several years of meetings among black feminists in Massachussetts.
The key assertion of this manifesto, which prefigures the politics to come, is that "this focus on our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end someone else's oppression.
And who is the "someone else" to whom the document refers? Men. "Contemporary Black feminism," the authors explain, "is the outgrowth of countless generations of personal sacrifice, militancy, and work by our mothers and sisters [emphasis added]." When men are mentioned in the Combahee document, it is largely as adversaries with "habitually sexist ways of interacting with and oppressing Black women." Similarly: "The reaction of Black men to feminism has been notoriously negative. They are, of course even more threatened than Black women by the possibility that Black feminists might organize around their own needs."
The founding document of identity politics, in other words, reflects aspects of the world as many African American women would have found it in the 1970s-- and they had become the canaries in the coal mines of the revolution. Ahead of other groups, they were early witnesses to the transformations that are now the stuff of daily conversation and reality for all: a world in which men have become ever less trustworthy and reliable, in which relations between the sexes have become chronically estranged and consumerist, and in which marriage has become thin on the ground. African American were-- and still are-- disproportionately affected by abortion, out-of-wedlock births, fatherless homes, and related metrics. ...
... The year of the document's publication--1977-- was a watershed of a sort. The preceding year, the out-of-wedlock birth rate for black Americans had just "tipped" over the 50 percent mark. This rate kept climbing to its current high of 70-plus percent in 2016. At the same time, other measures indicating the splintering of the nuclear and extended family expanded too. By 2012, Millennials-- women who were then under the age of thirty-- shared for the first time the out-of-wedlock birth rate of black women in 1977 (i.e., over half). Millennials, of course, are the demographic backbone of identity politics.
-- Mary Eberstadt, Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics (Templeton Press, 2019)
Interestingly, Lindsay also notes how Queer Theorists were using the phrasing of the “intersection of sex, gender, and sexuality” before Crenshaw started writing about "intersectionality".
The implementation of policies based on who belongs in which category, oppressed or oppressor, and to which level and degree, is well known from the history of Maoism:
Thanks to our vigorously redwashed education system in the West, few Americans or Canadians today know how Mao did what he did. Though there are lots of technical elements involved, including a swift and total takeover of all education from 1950–1952, he primarily achieved his aims through identity politics in which several different types of identity categories were bound together into a systematic program of (youth) radicalization and power acquisition—just like today.
Mao, following the Soviets, defined “the people” and its “enemies.” Among “the people” were the socialists and Communists, but also the peasants and laborers whose image the CCP used while failing to do much for them (and visiting untold calamity upon them over and over again). Also among “the people” were those Mao and the CCP considered able to be “reformed,” though they had a great deal of “struggle” ahead of them so that their thought could be reformed to Chinese socialism. The “enemies” of “the people” were myriad, including former Guomingdang officials and sympathizers, landlords, “rich” farmers (“kulaks”), and the unreformable—counterrevolutionaries, bad influences, and rightists. Mao advocated ruthless treatment and taught open, vicious hate of the “enemies” of the people but always held out the opportunity (often through brutal struggle, brainwashing, and labor) to become one of “the people” by adopting “socialist discipline” under his system of “democratic centralism” that would administer an economy that redistributed shares so that “the people” were made equal.
More specifically, Mao originally created ten identities for people: five “black” (bad) and five “red” (good, Communist). People and their children, grandchildren, and further descendants were classified and handled according to this system. The idea was primarily to pressure youth given black identities to want to renounce and destroy the “Four Olds” of society and become Maoist revolutionaries. A variety of identity campaigns, involving both carrots and sticks, were employed in the process. Denounce your old way of life and thinking publicly and repeatedly, undergo criticism, self-criticism, and struggle, denounce your father and family if they had the wrong kind of identity, pledge loyalty to Mao, help his revolutionary cadres and forces—those kinds of things could get you a ticket out of a “black” identity into a “red” one.