No, the “woke” phenomenon is not some moral panic invented by the political right.
Sommaire en français Non, la mouvance « woke » n’est pas une panique morale inventée par la droite. Ce blogue est disponible en français sous le titre Le « wokisme » n’est pas une panique morale.
For several years, terms such as “Social Justice Warrior” (“SJW”) and “woke” were used by many members of that movement themselves, to self-identify. Over time, the word “woke” became mainstream and, as critics of “wokism” began to use it negatively, the word acquired pejorative connotations. (It is important to note that these critics are of all political persuasions, from Marxists to the political centre to people on the right.)
Now some people even claim that “wokism” does not exist, that it is just a right-wing fantasy, a “moral panic” invented by the political right to denigrate the left. That allegation is false and dishonest. The “woke” themselves adopted the word long before anyone else. Not only is “wokism” a real phenomenon but, most importantly, it is ideologically distinct from the classical political left.
So what is “wokism” anyway? It is a social movement that claims to be left-wing and prides itself on fighting for social justice and against various prejudices, especially racism. But the philosophical underpinnings of the “woke” phenomenon are strongly influenced by postmodernism and by the rejection of Enlightenment values, in particular the rejection of universalism. Its rejection of the Enlightenment represents the abandonment of the greatest achievement of European civilization.
Consequently, this movement does a very bad job of defending the minorities with which it is obsessed. The “woke” end up inflaming racism as much as fighting against it. To put it succinctly, the movement is neo-racist. I call it the post-left or the anti-Enlightenment pseudo-left.
The “woke” have the nasty habit of launching accusations of “fascism” against anyone who disagrees with them. This is very ironic—and hypocritical—because the “woke” and the far right have something very significant in common: they both reject Enlightenment values.
The excesses and follies of the “woke” are a real gift for the political right, because the latter uses them to denigrate the entire left, as if the being “woke” were synonymous with being on the political left. But this is false, because the real left is universalist.
For a more detailed presentation of “wokism,” see:
- My blog The “Woke” are Not the Political Left, A movement which abandons Enlightenment values is no longer progressive.
- Le volume Identité, « race », liberté d’expression (“Identity, ‘Race’ and Freedom of Expression”), collective work available from Presses de l’Université Laval.
- Le wokisme, ce recul déguisé en progrès (“Wokism, this regress disguised as progress”), Marc Simard, Libre Média, 2022-10-08.
“In fact, interbreeding is a threat to wokism, whose worldview is deeply rooted in racial affiliation. Racial mixing is the nemesis of the woke.”
- The Cancer of Wokeism, Kareem Muhssin, Alliance of Former Muslims (Ireland), 2021-01-02.
“If we want to defeat racism, then we must get over our obsession with race. We must stop seeing each other as victims or oppressors, and recognise that we are individuals with agency. We must stop looking for racism where it doesn’t exist, and start focusing on issues of substance.”