Category Archive 'Marxism'
12 Sep 2020
Helen Dale’s review of Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay’s Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity in The Critic is a Must-Read item analyzing the real content of the Critical Theory rubbish that has recently come to dominate the American intellectual establishment.
At one point in Winnie-The-Pooh, Pooh and Piglet start to follow footprints in the snow. The pair think they belong to a creature called a â€œWoozleâ€. The tracks keep multiplying, and the two become increasingly confused, until â€” finally â€” Christopher Robin explains theyâ€™ve been following their own tracks in circles around a tree, and that Woozles arenâ€™t real.
These days, if you go to university to read humanities and some social sciences â€” notably psychology and sociology â€” youâ€™ll find yourself retracing Pooh and Pigletâ€™s steps, hunting for Woozles that arenâ€™t there.
You will encounter radical scepticism about whether objective knowledge or truth is obtainable, along with a commitment to the notion that real things â€” like sex and race â€” are culturally constructed. Your lecturers will impress upon you the idea that society is formed into identity-based hierarchies and knowledge is an effect of power. Your position on a league-table of oppressed identities determine what can be known and how it is known. If you disagree you will at least be marked down, and sometimes formally disciplined. Worse, there is no Christopher Robin to save you. Itâ€™s Woozles all the way down, and donâ€™t you dare dissent. …
The shift from â€œitâ€™s immoral to tell another cultureâ€™s storyâ€ to â€œitâ€™s impossible to tell another cultureâ€™s story, but in any case, one shouldnâ€™t try for moral reasonsâ€ is part of a process Pluckrose and Lindsay describe as â€œreificationâ€, which emerged after Iâ€™d left the ivory tower and commenced moving companies around and drafting commercial leases for a living. Once reified, postmodern abstractions about the world are treated as though they are real things, and accorded the status of empirical truth. Contemporary social justice activism thus sees theory as reality, as though it were gravity or cell division or the atomic structure of uranium.
The correspondence theory of truth holds that objective truth exists and we can learn something about it through evidence and reason. That is, things are knowable and we gain reliable information about them when our beliefs align with reality. Itâ€™s termed â€œthe correspondence theory of truthâ€ because a statement is considered true when it corresponds with reality and false when it doesnâ€™t. Reality, of course, is the thing that does not change regardless of what you believe.
While advanced civilisations going back to classical antiquity employed this reasoning in selected areas (Ancient Rome to civil engineering and law, for example, or Medieval China to public administration), itâ€™s only since the Enlightenment that itâ€™s been applied consistently to nearly everything, at least in developed countries. It forms the foundation of modern scientific and administrative progress and accounts in large part for the safety and material comfort we now enjoy.
Reified â€œTheoryâ€ is no more and no less than a rejection of the correspondence theory of truth. There are no universal truths and no objective reality, only narratives expressed in discourses and language that reflect one groupâ€™s power over another. Science has no claim on objectivity, because science itself is a cultural construct, created out of power differentials, and ordered by straight white males. There are no arguments, merely identity showdowns; the most oppressed always wins.
And, because language makes the world, attempts by scholars in other disciplines and from across the political spectrum to do what I did and falsify Theoryâ€™s empirical claims are met not with reasoned debate but an accusation that those individuals are harming the oppressed or silencing the marginalised, because all someone higher up the hierarchical food chain is supposed to do when confronted by someone lower down is listen. Thatâ€™s the point of telling people to â€œcheck their privilegeâ€ before they open their mouths.
18 Feb 2020
The late Vincent Scully lecturing Eurocentrically years ago.
Heather MacDonald, BK ’70, demolishes the cant being used to justify remodeling Yale’s once-illustrious History of Art Department into a distribution center for Marxist agitprop and Multicultural Identity Stroking.
By 1974, when I enrolled at Yale, its faculty had long since abdicated one of its primary intellectual responsibilities. It observed a chaste silence about what undergraduates needed to study in order to have any hope of becoming even minimally educated; curricular selections, outside of a few broad distribution requirements, were left to students, who by definition did not know enough to choose wisely, except by accident. So it was that I graduated without having taken a single history course (outside of one distribution-fulfilling intellectual history class), despite easy access to arguably the strongest American history faculty in the country. Scullyâ€™s fall semester introductory art history course has been my anchor to the past, providing visual grounding in the development of Western civilization, around which it is possible to develop a broader sense of history.
But now, the art history department is junking the entire two-semester sequence, as the Yale Daily News reported last month. Given the role that these two courses have played in exposing Yale undergraduates to the joys of scholarship and knowledge, one would think that the department would have amassed overwhelmingly compelling grounds for eliminating them. To the contrary, the reasons given are either laughably weak or at odds with the facts. The first reason is the most absurd: the course titles (â€œIntroduction to the History of Art: Prehistory to the Renaissanceâ€ and â€œIntroduction to the History of Art: Renaissance to the Presentâ€). Art history chair Tim Barringer apparently thinks students will be fooled by those titles into thinking that other traditions donâ€™t exist. â€œI donâ€™t mistake a history of European painting for the history of all art in all places,â€ he primly told the Daily News. No one else would, either. But if the titles are such a trap for the Eurocentric unwary, the department could have simply added the word â€œEuropeanâ€ before â€œArtâ€ and been done with it. (Barringer, whose specialities include post-colonial and gender studies as well as Victorian visual culture, has been teaching the doomed second semester courseâ€”a classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse.)
Barringer also claims that it was â€œproblematicâ€ to put European art on a pedestal when so many other regions and traditions were â€œequally deserving of study.â€ The courses that will replace the surveys will not claim to â€œbe the mainstream with everything else pushed to the margins,â€ he told the Daily News. Leave aside for the moment whether the European tradition may legitimately form the core of an art history education in an American university. The premise of Barringerâ€™s statementâ€”that previously European art was put on a pedestal and everything else was pushed to the marginsâ€”is blatantly false. The department requires art history majors to take two introductory-level one-semester survey courses. Since at least 2012, the department has offered courses in non-Western art that can fulfill that requirement in lieu of the European surveys. Those classes include â€œIntroduction to the History of Art: Buddhist Art and Architectureâ€; â€œIntroduction to the History of Art: Sacred Art and Architectureâ€; â€œGlobal Decorative Artsâ€; â€œThe Politics of Representationâ€; and â€œThe Classical Buddhist World.â€ No one was forced into the two Western art courses.
Nor would anyone surveying the art history catalogue think that Yale was â€œprivilegingâ€ the West, as they say in theoryspeak. That catalogue is awash in non-European courses. In addition to the introductory classes mentioned above, the department offers â€œJapanâ€™s Classics in Text and Imageâ€; â€œIntroduction to Islamic Architectureâ€; â€œThe Migrant Imageâ€; â€œSacred Space in South Asiaâ€; â€œVisual Storytelling in South Asiaâ€; â€œAztec Art & Architectureâ€; â€œBlack Atlantic Photographyâ€; â€œBlack British Art and Cultureâ€; â€œArt and Architecture of Mesoamericaâ€; â€œThe Mexican Cultural Renaissance, 1920â€“ 1940â€; â€œPainting and Poetry in Islamic Artâ€; â€œAesthetics and Meaning in African Arts and Culturesâ€; â€œKorean Art and Cultureâ€; â€œAfrican American Art, 1963 to the Presentâ€; â€œArt and Architecture of Japanâ€; â€œTextiles of Asia, 800â€“1800 C.E.â€; and â€œArt and Politics in the Modern Middle East,â€ among other courses. The Western tradition is just one among many. Nevertheless, Marissa Bass, the director of undergraduate studies in the department, echoed Barringerâ€™s accusation of Eurocentrism. The changes recognize â€œan essential truth: that there has never been just one story of the history of art,â€ Bass told the Daily News. But Yale does not tell just one story of the history of art. Department leaders have created a parody of their own department simply in order to kill off the Western survey courses.
Those courses must also be sacked because it is impossible to cover the â€œentire fieldâ€”and its varied cultural backgroundsâ€”in one course,â€ as the Daily News put it. If this statement means that the span of time covered in each of the one-semester Western art classes is too large, non-Western survey courses are as broad or broader. â€œChinese Painting and Cultureâ€ covers 16 centuries. â€œPower, Gender, and Ritual in African Artâ€ covers nearly two millennia. â€œIntroduction to the History of Art: Buddhist Art and Architectureâ€ covers seven centuries. â€œIntroduction to the History of Art: Sacred Art and Architectureâ€ covers several millennia. None of these courses is facing extinction.
Barringer promises that the replacement surveys will subject European art to a variety of deconstructive readings designed to pull that tradition down from its alleged pedestal. The new classes will consider Western art in relation to â€œquestions of gender, class, and â€˜race,â€™â€ he told the Daily News in an email, carefully putting scare quotes around â€œraceâ€ to signal his adherence to the creed that race is a social construct. The new courses will discuss the involvement of Western art with capitalism. Most intriguingly, the relationship between Western art and climate change will be a â€œkey theme,â€ he wrote.
Barringerâ€™s proposed deconstruction of Western art illustrates a central feature of modern academia: The hermeneutics of suspicion (Paul Ricoeurâ€™s term for the demystifying impulse that took over the humanities in the late 20 century) applies only to the Western canon. Western academics continue to interpret non-Western traditions with sympathy and respect; those interpreters seek to faithfully convey the intentions of non-Western creators and to help students understand what makes non-Western works great. So, while the replacement European art survey courses will, in Marissa Bassâ€™s words, â€œchallenge, rethink, and rewriteâ€ art historical narratives, the department will not be cancelling its Buddhist art and architecture class due to the low representation of female artists and architects, nor will it â€œinterrogateâ€ (as High Theory puts it) African arts and cultures for their relationship to genocidal tribal warfare, or Aztec art and architecture for their relationship to murderous misogyny.
27 Mar 2018
Ana Stankovic, coming from formerly Marxist Yugoslavia, is awfully sick of people living comfortably in the capitalist West speaking favorably of the philosophy of Karl Marx.
Call me a killjoy but I am sick to death of hearing about Karl Marx. I am sick of his name, his -isms, his undoubted genius, and his â€œphilosophy.â€ I am sick of him â€œhaving reason,â€ as the French say, or â€œbeing right.â€ But most of all I am sick of his â€œrelevance.â€
As someone whose parents were born and grew up in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and who missed the same fate by the skin of her teeth, I know perfectly well what Marxâ€™s relevance amounts to. Marx gave it a name, even if for him it meant something else than it did for the people of Yugoslavia. I am talking about the oft-quoted and seldom understood â€œreligion of everyday life.â€
In postâ€“World War II Yugoslavia, Marxâ€™s â€œrelevanceâ€ was to be a member of the ruling communist party. Outside of that supra-religious institution no substantial share in the social wealth was possible. …
I have a suggestion to make. Given the un-tragic wrongness of Marxâ€™s thought, why not make a case for the great manâ€™s contemporary irrelevance? After all, is there today anything more incongruous, perverse, and patently absurd than the call by self-styled communist philosophers like Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek for a Marxist-communist renaissance or â€œidea of communism,â€ which looks suspiciously like the idealism or â€œGerman ideologyâ€ that Marx spent his youth meticulously taking to pieces?
11 Feb 2018
It’s a foolish society that chooses for its teachers and storytellers people who hate that society.
All too often our children are being taught by people who have no experience of our society and no success within it. Their indoctrination at collectivist â€œeducationâ€ schools has made them openly (and ignorantly) hostile to America.
What if one of the requirements to teach K-12 was that you be at _least_ 50 years old, with proven success in the society (in business, a trade, parenthood)? You needn’t have made a million or be a top-level executive–so long as you have functioned effectively within American society.
— Ned Young
04 Oct 2017
â€œOur Marxists show strength only when they are tearing down; when it comes to thinking or acting positively they are helpless. By their actions they are confirming at last that their patriarch was not a creator, but a critic only. His heritage amounts to a collection of abstract ideas, meaningful only to a world of bookworms. His â€œproletariatâ€ is a purely literary concept, formed and sustained by the written word. It was real only so long as it denied, and did not embody, the actual state of things at any given time. Today we are beginning to realize that Marx was only the stepfather of socialism. Socialism contains elements that are older, stronger, and more fundamental than his critique of society. Such elements existed without him and continued to develop without him, in fact contrary to him. They are not to be found on paper; they are in the blood. And only the blood can decide the future.â€œ
Oswald Spengler, Prussianism and Socialism.
19 Jul 2017
Elizabeth C. Corey, at First Things, describes the First Church of Intersectionality.
In 1968, the political philosopher Eric Voegelin published a little book called Science, Politics and Gnosticism. In a section of that book entitled â€œErsatz Religion,â€ he argued that modern ideologies are very much like ancient Gnostic movements. Certain fundamental assumptions, Voegelin wrote, characterize both ancient and modern Gnosticism.
The gnostic, Voegelin observed, is fundamentally dissatisfied with his situation and believes that the world is â€œintrinsically poorly organizedâ€ and that salvation from the worldâ€™s evils is possible. The gnostic further thinks that â€œthe order of being will have to be changed in an historical processâ€ and that this is possible through human effort. Finally, the gnostic looks for a prophet who shares saving knowledge about how to make the transformation happen. It turns out that the intersectional project accords in every detail with Voegelinâ€™s description.
Intersectional scholars are, by definition, unhappy with their situations in life. From an outsiderâ€™s perspective, this seems more reasonable for some than for others, though itâ€™s apparent that everyone feels it to a greater or lesser extent. Most affectingly, at the Notre Dame conference, several black feminist scholars from South Africa described the explicitly repressive measures they had endured at their universities, where the prejudice against them is overt and sometimes results in violence. As one scholar put it, â€œItâ€™s not like Iâ€™m full of despair.â€ Then she paused and thought for a moment. â€œBut, of course, I am full of despair.â€
This nearly moved black American women to tears. They detailed their feelings of inadequacy in American universities, confessing that they feel they have no legitimate place, or that they are expected constantly to serve, because this is what has always been expected of black women. A young Hispanic assistant professor explained that United States immigration policy was a systematic attempt â€œto deny intimacy and familyâ€ to immigrants from Mexico. A self-identified â€œChicano gender non-conforming queer Latinxâ€ detailed the exclusion she had felt until she discovered a support group of other transgender people in Los Angeles. And the stories continued.
Expressions of hurt and exclusion were inevitably followed by anger at the systemâ€”at the patriarchy, racism, unjust institutions, and structural prejudiceâ€”and then by exhortations to do something about it. In Voegelinâ€™s terms, they were rebelling against the poor organization of the world, and maintained the hope of salvation through human effort.
Voegelinâ€™s idea that the order of being must be changed â€œin an historical processâ€ nicely captures the mandate of intersectionality. If schools, churches, and families are the primary institutions that have always formed people, and if they are fundamentally shot through with oppression and prejudice, then these institutions must themselves be thoroughly remade. In light of such an objective, the self-conscious deconstruction of what we take for granted makes sense. Gender, sexuality, family, Âhierarchy, capitalism, and, most of all, the university and its â€œpretenseâ€ to objective knowledge must be destroyed and reconstituted. Scholarship is secondary. Activism is what matters most.
12 Mar 2017
Andrew Sullivan takes time off from crying over the election of Donald Trump to identify and explain the new religion that has taken charge on elite campuses all over the country.
Intersectionalityâ€ is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, itâ€™s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity â€” such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. â€” but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, thatâ€™s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.
It is operating, in Orwellâ€™s words, as a â€œsmelly little orthodoxy,â€ and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained â€” and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., â€œcheck your privilege,â€ and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.
Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue â€” and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. Itâ€™s Marx without the final total liberation.
It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if youâ€™re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of â€œwhite supremacy,â€ you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You canâ€™t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate othersâ€™ souls, and wound them irreparably.
And what I saw on the video struck me most as a form of religious ritual â€” a secular exorcism, if you will â€” that reaches a frenzied, disturbing catharsis. When Murray starts to speak, the students stand and ritually turn their backs on him in silence. The heretic must not be looked at, let alone engaged. Then they recite a common liturgy in unison from sheets of paper. Hereâ€™s how they begin: â€œThis is not respectful discourse, or a debate about free speech. These are not ideas that can be fairly debated, it is not â€˜representativeâ€™ of the other side to give a platform to such dangerous ideologies. There is not a potential for an equal exchange of ideas.â€ They never specify which of Murrayâ€™s ideas they are referring to. Nor do they explain why a lecture on a recent book about social inequality cannot be a â€œrespectful discourse.â€ The speaker is open to questions and there is a faculty member onstage to engage him afterward. She came prepared with tough questions forwarded from specialists in the field. And yet: â€œWe â€¦ cannot engage fully with Charles Murray, while he is known for readily quoting himself. Because of that, we see this talk as hate speech.â€ They know this before a single word of the speech has been spoken.
Read the whole thing.
11 Mar 2017
Dystopic identifies Gramscian “Long March Through the Institutions” Marxism as the bug in an Edgar suit.
In the movie Men In Black, thereâ€™s a scene where an abusive farmer gets killed by the villain, some kind of giant alien cockroach. The alien then possesses his body and walks around in comic fashion, like some kind of rotting zombie. The farmerâ€™s wife exclaims â€œlike an Edgar suit.â€
Social Justice Marxists operate in the same manner. They take over institutions, groups, corporations, movements, whateverâ€¦ and kill them. They then wear the skin of the destroyed, rotting institution like an Edgar suit, ambling around in comic fashion, expecting to be treated as if they were still the institution itself.
Only unlike the movie, there are a great many of these alien bugs on Earth. They are legion. And the thing is, most rightists suspect this is true, because the Edgar suit doesnâ€™t act like Edgar. He acts like an alien cockroach. But they nonetheless give the benefit of the doubt, because they arenâ€™t sure.
It is in that space of uncertainty that Marxism is permitted to spread, and infest every sizable organization. Once infected, forget bringing the organization back to life. Itâ€™s a rotting husk. Itâ€™s dead. You arenâ€™t going to take it back, and even supposing you did, itâ€™d still be a rotting sack of skin.
I think this is the greatest weakness of the political right. We permit Marxism to spread because we are not confident in our assessment that the people in question are Marxists. Most of them deny it, of course.
Read the whole thing. It happened to Yale.
25 Apr 2016
Joel Hirst looks on as the lights begin to go off in Venezuela. That country has arrived recently at a point resembling the closing chapters of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
Tonight there are no lights. Like the New York City of Ayn Randâ€™s â€œAtlas Shruggedâ€, the eyes of the country were plucked out to feed the starving beggars in abandoned occupied buildings which were once luxury apartments. They blame the weather â€“ the government does â€“ like the tribal shamans of old who made sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of an intervention. There is no food either; they tell the people to hold on, to raise chickens on the terraces of their once-glamorous apartments. There is no water â€“ and they give lessons on state TV of how to wash with a cup of water. The money is worthless; people now pay with potatoes, if they can find them. Doctors operate using the light of their smart phones; when there is power enough to charge them. Without anesthesia, of course â€“ or antibiotics, like the days before the advent of modern medicine. The phone service has been cut â€“ soon the internet will go and an all-pervading darkness will fall over a feral land.
All it would take is the election of one more radical Progressive democrat like Bernie Sanders and the USA could share in the full Venezuela experience.