But it is not just that our basic institutions are declining by neglecting their essential responsibilities. Far more worrying is the fact that the liberal ideas underpinning these institutions are themselves collapsing under a constant barrage of criticism. In other words, people are losing faith in our foundational liberal values. This fact, barely visible in 1978, is an essential part of the present reality of Wokeness. Examples abound, but I will confine myself to one of the most outrageous. According to a recent graphic display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, visitors were told that individualism, hard work, stable families, logical thinking, and scientific objectivity are characteristic of “white” people. It follows, by that logic, that any attempt to assert these as universally desirable virtues must be viewed as racist. Needless to say, in the postmodern world of the Woke, logic itself is a social construct to be used only when it advances the political objectives of the movement.
To understand the scope and intensity of this collapse it helps to summarize the origins of this phenomenon.
Marxism has from its inception been very good at detecting and criticizing some of the more obvious deficiencies of capitalism—yet, as we know, terrible at offering any workable solutions.
Marxists were obsessed with taking power, and whenever they did, by insurrection or conquest, their rule descended rapidly into some awful form of totalitarianism. But with the exception of the underdeveloped Russia, and later China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba, capitalism turned out to be more enduring than the original Marxists envisioned, partly because of its remarkable ability to adapt and reform itself within the cultural traditions and democratic institutions that sit alongside it. That led to a new form of criticism, cultural Marxism, initiated by Gramsci, directed at the “hegemonic culture” through which capitalism maintains its power. The intense focus on criticizing all aspects of Western societies with the ultimate aim of weakening and eventually destroying them was continued by the Frankfurt School, under the name of Critical Theory, and brought to the US where it found a niche in American colleges and universities and from where it soon started its long march through America’s institutions.
Today, various critical theories dominate entire academic departments, such as Gender Studies, African American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Sociology, Education, etc., and provide a growing influence in almost all academic disciplines except maybe STEM—though almost certainly not for long. Take any possible identity group and you can find a critical theory dedicated to it. Critical race theory (CRT), for example, analyzes society from the point of view of race, while critical feminism theory is focused on understanding gender inequalities. Critical pedagogy theory (CPT) criticizes the traditional relationship between teacher and student which, apparently, is like the relationship between a colonizer and the colonized. These theories provide road maps for liberation from the oppressive, dominant power structures. They are also connected to each other by the doctrine of intersectionality, which claims to understand how a person’s various identities (from gender, sex, race, class, to disability, physical appearance, height, weight, etc.) combine to create unique modes of discrimination or privilege. Add to this a contempt for capitalism, an apocalyptic vision of climate change, and the neat trick of combining moral relativism in theory with a large dose of moral absolutism in practice, and you get the main contours of the so-called Woke phenomenon.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
"People are losing faith in our foundational liberal values. This fact, barely visible in 1978, is an essential part of the present reality of Wokeness."https://t.co/wLlfpdultd
— Quillette (@Quillette) October 26, 2020