October 28, 2015 § Leave a comment
The irony of all this is that if you drop Marx into it, you can easily cleave the left’s critique of capitalism from the SJW bullshit, since Marx was arguing that our underlying economic circumstance is what produces culture, rather than culture producing our economic circumstance.
What Kevin and other SJW identity politics types are arguing is that culture dictates our economic circumstance, rather than the other way around. This actually puts people like Kevin on the same side of the debate as right wing religious conservatives, contra Marx. That is why they think “education,” (i.e. shaming and persecution politics) and all the rest of it will stamp out racism just as surely as religious conservatives believe that faith-based education will stamp out sin. It’s just a left wing moral paternalism and forced conformity which is really not so different than the right wing religious version of it.
SJWs, like religious conservatives, believe that history produces bad outcomes, like racism, because of mean and evil people who do evil or stupid shit. They never ask *why* people believe those things or what experiences of material and economic reality would produce those beliefs.
By contrast, the Marxist simply looks at the underlying economic reality and reasons that racism persists because of the way economic competition divides people socially. It makes no difference if people are divided into racial groups, genders, nationalities, religious affiliations, etc., because some workers will blame other workers for the failure of the system, if it should fail, and in doing so will insulate the owners of capital from the prospect of class revolt from that other group of workers who blames the owners of capital instead. So German workers blame Jews rather than the industrialists and conservatives when the bottom falls out just as American racists blame welfare loafing blacks and immigrants rather than Goldman Sachs, as if a banker or a capitalist had to be Jewish to rip you off or as if you had to be Guatemalan or Mexican to want to flee poverty for opportunity.
So that’s why racism develops and persists. Nobody needs to design it or even understand it for it to develop, since you can find some version of this underlying social dynamic in virtually any society. There needn’t be any Illuminati or Bilderbergs behind the scenes to bring about this extremely typical outcome. It will arise on its own as a matter of spontaneous order, just like any price in a market, because it is chosen by nobody if it emerges out of the interactions between people.
Those who own capital will need to find common cause with some element of the lower class if they face the real prospect of revolt. As for the lower class which competes with itself for jobs, resources, social status, and so on, it will always segregate into different groups based on whatever arbitrary criteria because people depend on culture and norms to know how to behave around one another. Lacking any other recourse, they always flock to people who seem to be most like themselves because they know nothing else.
One element of the working class will identify with the values of their employers, or the ruling class, and sees itself as the aspiring ruling class, the “temporarily embarrassed millionaires,” while the other element of the working class rejects the value system of the ruling class and asserts its own values which are particular to its experience. There’s really nothing mysterious about it. How else would it work?
The former group become fascists, vigilantes, religious conservatives, right wing hardliners who complain about immigrants taking their jobs while opposing attempts to unionize the shop, the latter group becomes socialists, communists, reformers, non-conformists, people who try to unionize the factory which can no longer pay people enough to live on. The former group says “Man up and work harder, you whining losers, and maybe you’d win the game,” the latter group says “this game is rigged, you fucking idiots, there’s no way to win and in the end we all lose.”
As for the ruling class, it merely tries to find legitimacy by finding common cause with whatever element of the lower classes are willing to support it, usually because it is also divided and fighting with itself, with one faction looking to find common cause with the lower class which it can wield against the other. There’s no evil puppet masters pulling the strings. It’s not even clear if the ruling class recognizes that it is bullshitting whatever element of the lower class it is courting ideologically, since many of them may actually come to believe their own bullshit and rationalizations. What difference does it make anyway?
The divide and conquer scheme need not be a scheme at all. There simply isn’t any other way for this political economy to develop if the system should cease to work for the majority of its participants and instead produces the political will to revise the power structure or its existing class hierarchy. It’s the same reason that the European colonials could control Rwanda by playing the Hutus and Tutsis against one another. The same reason Britain could control N. Ireland by playing Scottish immigrants against the Native Irish. The same reason we all segregate ourselves into alphas and betas, come to think of it.
In colonial Virginia, playing black against white after Bacon’s Rebellion was the whole reason that the special legal designation of blacks came to exist in the first place. Before Bacon’s Rebellion, which united both blacks and whites against Virginia landowners, blacks could own slaves and property, they could marry whites and so on. After the rebellion, the ruling class responded by lifting poor whites above poor blacks on the class totem and thereby insulating themselves from the prospect of class revolt in a system that increasingly came to rely almost exclusively on black slave labor. In the event of a slave revolt, they could surely count on all the working class white aspiring slaveholders to defend them just as surely as David Koch can count on lower working class whites in 21st century America to vote their own benefits and workplace protections away.
The class war is always neutralized by being recast as a cultural, national, religious, or racial war. We could go on and on and on with historical examples of the same phenomenon if we were so inclined. The bottom line here is simply that racism in colonial Virginia, as elsewhere, had less to do with culture and belief systems but more to do with the underlying condition in which people adopt those belief systems.
Now consider the difference between this Marxist view and what SJWs are arguing: The SJWs aren’t looking at the underlying context or structural origin of racism. On the contrary, they’ve identified the “cis hetero patriarchy” and “white supremacy” as the culprits. They’re blaming belief systems themselves, not asking what underlying context would produce such beliefs.
Why would anybody adopt such a belief system? Go ahead and ask SJWs. They have no idea. I guess because cis hetero white men are mean and evil. We just need to “educate” them and the problem will be solved. This is why they’re so concerned with policing language, pronouns, shaming, demonizing, excluding, and so on. The SJW critique of the existing society is exclusively a moral one. In a recent video by marinashutup, for instance, she explains that “racial prejudice causes injustice.” In reality, however, it’s already existing structural economic and institutional injustice which produces prejudice as a means of explaining that injustice, either to legitimize it or legitimize resistance to it.
Really think about how stupid this view is. If we were to interpret history this way, we would have to conlcude that Europeans bought African slaves because they were mean, evil, or were told to do it by a mystical holy book; what is more likely, however, is that they did it because they needed cheap labor and the Africans were selling slaves. The culture, religious, moral, and ideological justifications for it came after the fact. In other words, economic and material reality gives rise to cultural reality, not the other way around.
People like Kevin don’t speak for the left and they are actually arguing the opposite of what the actual Marxist left argues. They’re a product of a dying anticommunist and liberal 20th century left wing consensus that turned a blind eye to structural causes for racism, sexism, etc. in order to avoid criticism of capitalism.
Here’s an interview with Leah Gordon, an academic who recently wrote a book about this very phenomenon in 20th century Cold War social science. She calls it “racial individualism.”
SJWs are not Marxists. Their politics isn’t “Marxist” or even on a continuum with Marxism, socialism, or communism, but is actually just the moral paternalism that originates with 20th century bourgeois white women’s understanding of the world. It’s mommy politics, a big part of the reason why we’re still fighting the drug war to keep little Timmy off drugs so that he doesn’t become a burnout like “those people,” y’know, the “losers.” It’s why we’re periodically trying to ban pornography or put labels on records with explicit lyrics or why feminists morality crusaders, who are really just the progeny of yesterday’s temperance movement, so often find themselves on the same side of debates as religious conservatives and other self-appointed saviors who promise to protect society from itself.
People forget that the “soccer mom” democratic left in the United States is still considered “the left.” It’s just the female half of the blue dog left. They’re basically just conservatives who support unions (sometimes) and their way of thinking about the world is, for all practical purposes, identical to their right wing social conservative counterparts. It’s based on fear of the other, not understanding or solidarity; on the inclination to coerce the imaginary bad guys, not the inclination to question power structures which coerce others. That’s the real origin of what we’re calling feminism, not Horkheimer and Marcuse. The modern feminist left carries not the torch that belongs to the cultural Marxist (or any Marxist), but the one that belongs to the petty, self righteous, authoritarian bourgeois do-gooder.