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Rarely Certain recommends: noticing how damned capitalist Wokeism really is
Turns out I'm not the only one seeing leftishism as neoliberalism in drag
The replacement of the historical left's material reform project with the modern leftish's pursuit of redemptive identity justice has long seemed a cop-out to me.
This may be why so many educated and intelligent but often not particularly insightful people go along with it as the expression of left wing values at this point. It's just a flow which is easy to go along with.
Until you recognise the establishment of a 'postmaterial' telos1 and wonder whether it's really the best way forward, a focus on celebrating diversity and lamenting past iniquities like slavery provides a reassuring sense of 'progress'.
But who has time for the bigger picture when we're all so concerned with with differentiating ourselves from the 'other side' and not saying the current wrong thing?
Who has time to stop and wonder what nice-seeming concepts might also represent when we're mostly focused on not being glanced at askance by our peers? Few people, in my experience.
The only reason I feel safe to do so is because I'm now an independent outsider in my own professional field.
Whether it's for professional or social reasons it's safer to talk about how being 'woke' is nicer than negatively perceiving certain groups. And, unless you are especially curious about the bigger picture, it's also just easier to stick with that than it is to figure out how to best balance the distribution of work and reward at population level.
An obvious attraction of this ideology is that it requires no thought . You notice that it's vaguely related to the 'live and let live' ideals you grew up with and accept it as just the modern articulation of that obviously good liberal tradition.
It lends itself to the clever rhetorical flourish and slogans that have sticking power. Both good routes for circumventing thorny issues, hinting at solutions and saving you from really having to think.
Who wouldn't want progress? Only those stupid conservatives who want to go back to the days of racist comedy, gay-bashing, white dog shit and pride in the old Empire.
It's the safe option. You can show that you're a bien pensant who fits in and because of the patina of intellectual rigour created by wokeish academics you get the bonus of feeling like part of the ongoing Enlightenment.
What some observers notice, though, is that these principles are actually in service to something us traditionally left-leaners used to oppose because of the damage we always saw it doing to a lot of people; the unconstrained market.
Seen through the Luxury Beliefs lens these principles actually damage people who have next to no power or influence. And they also often elevate the market as a kind of moral arbiter. The very opposite of leftist thought.
It's a safe bet that almost none of the ordinary people who adopted BLM branding on their social media are aware that more than 3,000 black people died as a result of police withdrawing from certain neighbourhoods in response to the 2020 riots. That's an awful example of the cost of Luxury Beliefs (like 'defund the police') which is never incurred by those who adopt them.
But what frustrates me is that well-intentioned people who genuinely want to see a less harsh world for those most often labelled as 'victim' groups don't realise that they're being sucked into a rampant expression of neoliberalism that is anything but caring and communitarian. While believing that they are still 'on the left'.
Let's talk about sex markets, baby
The first time I was aware that the market could be seen by anyone as a kind of moral compass was when Margaret Thatcher was in her pomp. Suddenly the moral status of every policy in Britain (my native country) was determined according to how well it served consumer choice. Not whether it was going to address the class-based material disparities that bothered me and my fellow lefties.
It was a right-wing ideology. Which is fine, if you like that sort of thing. It isn't automatically wrong as an idea, because it does have internal consistency. I understand the appeal of giving everyone the chance to have exactly what they want instead of what someone else might judge to be best for them. Even if it does create sink schools as better-off parents remove their kids to nicer ones, as the example of making education into a market in Britain showed.
Markets are always right in some sense of the word 'right'. And if they create losers as well as beneficiaries, so be it. Things do get better on average. For that reason, this kind of thinking seemed to me at the time to be somewhat heartless, which is why I always disapproved of Thatcherism.
For me, the place for markets is in the consumer realm.
But the consumer realm is growing. Which means new markets.
Enter the leftish. From stage right, if you will.
A few years ago, before I torched my Twitter account, I had an intuition that the welter of people identifying as transgender reflected the maturation of capitalism to a point which meant the need to establish new markets to serve the expansion of consumer choice.
The arguments of the trans lobby often seemed to represent the commodification of womanhood itself as thing that anyone could acquire, like clothes or a title.
This idea of trans activism being primarily a late capitalist consumer ideology seemed so leftfield that I sought an independent sanity check from a gender-critical academic feminist philosopher (via Twitter) and she didn't laugh it out of court, so the idea has remained with me, without really going anywhere.
But others have been developing a similar line of thought, notably- who writes about the marketisation of human reproduction and sexual relationships. An example of this creep of leftish liberalism into deeply capitalist territory is proposed legal changes to the status of biological mothers in relation to people who pay them to gestate. Another is what she calls 'Sexual Thatcherism'.
However, nowhere is this expansion of capitalist ideals under the auspices of 'social justice' better illustrated than in the circles that say 'sex work is work'.
Which is where Dr David McGrogan, of Northumbria University, comes in as one of a few commentators who is tracking this strain of thought.
He's been taking a closer look at how the accelerated 'liberalising' project pursued by supranational agencies centred around the United Nations and the NGO industrial complex is articulated.
So, if you wonder what philosophy underpins harmless-seeming initiatives such as changing the common societal status of prostitution, he's your man.
This is as good a springboard as anything I've seen on the topic of neoliberalism's creep into the the culture of wokeish leftishism.
I'll confess to some frustration that it turns out I had a reasonable idea, five years ago, and sat on it all this time. Noticing the essentially squalid representation of the traditional left's ideals by the current and highly persuasive leftish in frames that perfectly serve late capitalism and squandering the chance to develop that argument it is why this Substack will never make me rich.
Unless you subscribe. I promise never to keep a valid idea secret again.
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"Telos" is a Greek word that means "end," "purpose," or "goal." It refers to the ultimate purpose or objective of something, often in the context of philosophy, ethics, or the study of natural phenomena. It's used to describe the inherent purpose or aim of an entity or system. [Definition supplied by ChatGPT]