Recognizing this is the key difference between the alternative left and other current forms of political thought.
A fan of the Alternative Left Facebook page recently posed this question to me:
Have you considered that you might be postmodernist? The actual meaning of the term, not Peterson's ridiculous conflation and confusion of it. It seems as if a lot of your philosophy relies on the rejections of meta-narratives.At a glance, this seems an absurd question. Isn't rejection of postmodernism integral to the alt-left? Doesn't all that deconstruction and bafflegab distract from the hard and real work of class struggle? Isn't a return to some semblance of economic realism, if not historical materialism, what we're all about at the end of the day?
Not so fast. While I don't think postmodernism is a tenable philosophy long term, it does make some good points. It's like nihilism and other forms of radical skepticism. They're nice places to visit, and doing so is a sign of intellectual growth, but you wouldn't want to live there.
My quarrel with postmodernism is how it tends to be cherry picked by the intersectional left, the feminist theorists in particular. They're quite good at using deconstruction to pick apart the texts of their opponents, and will exploit other postmodernist concepts such as "the death of the author" - the idea that textual interpretation by authorial intent is flawed - to license their tendency to simply read their own narrative into ideas that threaten them. They use such notions as science being a western, patriarchal "way of knowing" as a legitimizing excuse to handwave otherwise proven claims of some biological basis in gender differences, for example.
Deconstruction, cognitive framing and other advanced linguistic concepts are devastating ideological weapons against those who are not aware of them. Intersectional theorists get a unique education in these concepts in the academic institutions wherein their views dominate. Institutions that are not cheap to attend and require significant baseline intelligence to be successful in. They're therefore able to win debates against their less privileged opponents simply through framing and linguistic and cognitive gimmicks of this nature.
Ultimately, however, feminist theory's apparent embrace of postmodernism is self serving pretense. Notice how their own theories are presented as if they were eternal truths, universally binding on all people under all circumstances. Cultural relativism is fine when it's used to impose multiculturalism and diversity upon western cultural spaces, but has a funny way of disappearing when similar demands of tolerance are made of feminist theorists in turn. Fixed and objective meaning of text based on authorial intent is not authoritative, since the author no doubt lives in a network of socially constructed systems of which he is barely aware. But not so the feminist critic. Her views, and her views alone apparently, somehow transcend the context of the society that gave rise to them, and so are above questions of this nature and constitute an ultimate authority on par with divine revelation. No one is faster to declare epistemic superiority for their own points of view - standpoint theories so called - than college feminists who've studied the poststructuralists closer than anyone. If feminist theory is not a metanarrative, you tell me what is.
Who deconstructs feminist theory, one must ask?
Yeah, it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
Herein lies a very central tenet of alternative leftism: that the brands of postmodern critical theory so prevalent on college campuses and that are the underlying ideologies of the SJWs are actually conservative, not radical. They are in fact themselves systems of power, like the very notions of patriarchy and colonialism they so love to deconstruct.
This is quite naturally a counter intuitive concept when first exposed to it. Feminist theory, queer theory, critical race theory and so on - Intersectionality serving as a kind of one ring to rule them all and thus a useful term for referring to them collectively - is interpreted either as official party line and not to be questioned, in the case of the mainstream left. Or else condemned as "cultural Marxism" and taken at face value as advocacy for an artificial egalitarianism, in the case of the right. Neoreaction comes quite strangely closest to the truth in its denouncing of progressive ideology as "the Cathedral" - a vast Matrix like social construct comparable to the Christian church in the middle ages - the state religion to which everyone must pay homage, hence the term.
|The Cathedral: It doesn't challenge the aristocracy. |
It is the aristocracy.
So it is with intersectionality. Despite its pretenses, and despite what were likely genuinely radical critiques at one time, current year intersectionality does not challenge privilege. It upholds privilege.
Do not misunderstand me, dear reader. I do not condone racism towards minorities, misogyny and homophobia. The left spearheaded the fight against those things for all the right reasons. And not merely because prejudice undermines working class solidarity, thought that is reason enough. To be left is to value equality, to some degree or another, and fair treatment regardless of what one is by accident of birth. Intersectionality itself was intended to be a manner of looking at how various different forms of oppression reinforce one another. This is not in itself a bad idea.
The problem is that intersectionality has evolved into something does not actually promote real social justice. Its lack of tolerance for dissent made it vulnerable to abuse on part of the unscrupulous, who were thereby attracted to intersectional feminist spaces. They've co-opted social justice movements, and used them as tools to oppress people. It's like Marxist Leninism 2.0 - a popular movement is appropriated and exploited by an elite vanguard professing to represent the interests of marginalized people, and using that to consolidate their own power. Cultural rather than political power this time, but the underlying mechanisms are quite a bit alike.
It's also quite different from Marxism in one key aspect, and this is often overlooked by those on the right who equate intersectional ideas with Marxian leftism: intersectionality's lack of emphasis on political economy. It is not merely that they simply don't care about or are ignorant of the internal workings of the international economy or the political machines of the G7 nations. Intersectionalists are rewarded by capital for framing privilege in terms of racial and sexual identity rather than in terms of wealth and political power. These rewards include expansion in academia, access to agenda setting mass media and favorable policy service. Ideological systems that truly threaten the status quo do not enjoy universally favorable media bias, moderator bias on major corporate social media platforms and an exalted status in academic institutions.
The state religion does not advocate for the truly marginalized within the polity.
It's important that you divest yourself of the notion that intersectionalists truly represent the underclasses, including most women and people of color. They occupy a very different world than that of working single mothers or unemployed minority youths in the ghetto, or on their way to prison. They occasionally will use real oppressions suffered by women and minorities while making the case for an increase in their own influence, but that is the only reason for which they ever seem to do so. If one takes their standpoint theories at all seriously, the plush halls of the academy and major media outlets are not the places we should be seeing credible voices of the oppressed and marginalized. Those voices are kept quite intentionally silent, because their demands will be for redressment of their economic hardships and lack of political representation.
Women who are turned off of men and family as a result of feminism, and men who are turned off of religion, community and nationalism as a result of anti western critical theory find themselves completely atomized and without an identity. This is central to the alt-right's critique of modern liberalism and the abolition of borders.
But the real question is: who is the real beneficiary of all this? The far right will tell you that this is "cultural Marxism" and is necessary in order to groom the populace for the embrace of socialism.
That's not what happened. If you do not believe that, observe how neoliberalism increased apace just as this so called cultural Marxism did. The emergence of political correctness coincided with Reagan in the US and Thatcher in the UK. If the idea was for feminism and multiculturalism to precede socialism, they could not have failed more miserably.
Atomized individuals turn to careerism and consumerism to fill the void, and they're more easily replaced when cheaper cogs for the machine are found. So they're more obedient and easily used in the workforce and more responsive to consumer trends. When other vectors of identity are removed, do the brands we work for and consume become the way we identify ourselves? This seems to me to be the triumph of capitalism, and quite in line with the manner in which Marx believed capitalism would progress, abolishing relations based on kinship and reducing all human interaction to commodity exchange, rather than the triumph of Marxism itself that it's so often described as by reactionaries.
Hard Fact: Social liberalism is the handmaiden of capital, not of revolution. And so capital became socially liberal when national economies became fully saturated and capital had to go global in order to keep up its expansion. The alt-right is hated in the capitalist press because capital must always seek new markets, and it was therefore in capital's interest to globalize and promote diversity.
Observe one of the methods whereby Intersectionality preserves its hegemony: by seeking to get people who disagree with them fired from their jobs. Often with no recourse or due process whatsoever. In what world does leveraging the power of capital over labor so flagrantly and directly constitute anything that could be at all called left wing? This is what was done to socialists and trade unionists back in the bad old days of blacklisting. This isn't to say that removal of an offensive or hateful person from a workplace isn't sometimes appropriate or necessary, but to use the threat of employment loss as a means of enforcing ideological conformity more broadly is something the left should not be supporting. We can question the rationality of workers supporting conservatism all we want. It won't seem quite so irrational now that this ugly tactic has been normalized.
Another hard fact: Intersectionality relies on the absolute power that capital has over labor and consumers in order to successfully impose its will on the population, as it's doing in geek culture, for instance. The capacity for populations to resist cultural and moral relativism imposed from above would be greatly increased if cultural and economic as well as political institutions were democratized and under some or another kind of social ownership.
Intersectionalists are a safe and nerfed form of "leftism." One that attacks white male "neckbeards" and "dudebros" in places like 4chan while leaving the State Department, the military industrial complex and Wall Street lobbyists unscrutinized. Activists and even radicals who truly want to challenge the status quo find their anger and vigor channeled into safe outlets that do not truly threaten the powers that be. Offensive statements by white male celebrities are made front page news by an intersectionalist movement that's presented in the headlines as being radical and subversive - the resistance, so called. Offensives launched by the US military on the other side of the world in defense of petrodollar interests are kept more safely out of the public eye.
Intersectionality is a tool used by an educated elite to police the culture of the underclass, and to undermine the solidarity of that underclass by dividing it along racial and gender lines. We've seen this done time and again now: with Occupy Wall Street, with Bernie Sander's campaign for the White House, now with the Democratic Socialists of America. Most leftist spaces on social media are completely overrun by intersectional dominance, even ones that profess to be Marxist or anarchist.
Intersectional activists have a curious way of coming to dominate leftist spaces, and maintain their power through dividing the left against itself and redirecting popular anger towards other segments of the left. Sometimes the target is white male leftists - brocialists, so called. Sometimes it's white feminism, or TERFs or straight feminism. Sometimes straight black males are called the white people of black people. Sometimes cisgender gay males are driven out of LGBT spaces. Some or another activist has run afoul of the intersectionalist overlords and is publicly shamed, like in a Maoist struggle session or the young kids being banished from polygamous fundamentalist communities for the most trivial reasons.
But the real reasons aren't so trivial: to maintain the power of the leadership over the flock. Ceaseless purity spiraling destroys the cohesiveness of the left. J. Edgar Hoover and his COINTELPRO could not have done a better job if they tried. Perhaps the FBI still is, and that's what all this really is.
As mentioned previously, considerable education is needed to really understand their theories, and the intersectionalists themselves conveniently have a near hegemony within the academy itself. Hence, the relative absence of working class people in these self styled radical movements. Which in turn makes the whole of the left easy for the right to denounce as "limousine liberals", "champagne socialists" or the like. No more effective means of turning the working class off of the political left could be contrived. This makes McCarthyism look clumsy and amateurish. People who are rightly put off by intersectionality then defect quite willingly to conservatism as a protest against it. One almost wonders if this wasn't the intent all along.
The problem is not with education itself, which is perfectly fine and good. But rather with the co-optation of education to serve elite interests. Something that the left was much more willing and able to call out prior to the capture of the humanities and social sciences by intersectionalists.
The ideology of intersectionality itself is constructed to be a closed system of thought, wherein disagreement with it is likened to actual oppressive behavior against a marginalized person. Allegations of racism or sexism - made with the backing of powerful media outlets - against lone individuals without recourse and no due process are effective and currently socially legitimate ways of marginalizing people. It's a good way of removing someone who's bringing up facts and ideas that the truly powerful don't want publicly legitimized.
Far from emboldening the resistance, intersectionality keeps protest culture in line and ensures its continuity as a controlled opposition. One that allows the powers that be to claim that they allow and legitimize dissent - so long as it doesn't really threaten them. One oligarch or another might get thrown under the bus due to his alleged racism or sexism here and there. The oligarchy itself is thus made safer, for it submits itself to the appearance that it really is held to scrutiny and made accountable for its abuses. Surely the absurdity of a racist or sexist comment ruining a CEO while his abuse of his workers, defrauding of his shareholders and pollution of the environment as a matter of course going completely unnoticed highlights the absurd nature of intersectionality as a form of radicalism.
With leftism like intersectionality, who needs conservatism? It's the ultimate metanarrative, and if the postmodernist techniques of deconstruction can be turned against it, that can only be a good thing. An essential thing, as a matter of fact.
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