The “woke”—that is, the regressive pseudo-left—are not part of the political left. They left the left when they abandoned Enlightenment values.
This blog is the first of two parts.
Sommaire en français
La soi-disant « gauche » régressive, connue couramment comme les « woke », ne font pas partie de la gauche politique. Ils ont quitté la gauche au moment où ils ont renoncé aux valeurs des Lumières.
Le présent blogue est la première de deux parties.
The term “woke” is an Afro-American slang expression meaning politically awake, politically aware, especially about social justice issues. However, the word has come to acquire a much wider meaning and now refers to the dominant current of thought in ostensibly left-wing politics in the USA, Canada and several other countries. And yet, this school of thought is in reality not on the political left because it has abandoned Enlightenment values.
Those Enlightenment ideals include reason, tolerance, freedom, progress, universalism, human rights and secularism. Taken collectively, they are often referred to as modernism. The Enlightenment has given us much of what we take for granted today. Its products are many and include: the concept of human rights, the abolition of slavery, liberalism, Marxism, modern science and technology, the U.S. Constitution, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789) and secularism law (1905), the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and much more.
The Origin of the Political Left and Right
As many readers will recall, the terms “left” and “right” when used in the political sense originated from the seating arrangements in the National Constituent Assembly (Assemblée nationale constituante) during the French Revolution starting in 1789. Those seated on the left side of the chamber were generally supportive of the revolution, republicanism and secularism whereas those seated on the right remained loyal to the monarchy, the clergy and traditional institutions of the Ancien régime. These two poles corresponded roughly to support for or opposition to the values of the Enlightenment, an intellectual and philosophical movement which had been spreading throughout Europe for about a century. Indeed, the French Revolution was itself a product of the Enlightenment, as were the American, Haitian and Russian Revolutions.
Thus, the political left referred to those who supported such Enlightenment values whereas the political right encompassed those who opposed them. The same general pattern applies today. The political left and right are defined by support for and opposition to Enlightenment ideals. If a left-wing current abandons them, then it is no longer on the political left. This is the situation with “wokism,” if I may call it that, which is also known by several other monikers such as the “regressive (pseudo)left” and, my preferred term, the “anti-Enlightenment pseudoleft.” The woke are left mostly in name only. Their mentality has become dominant among those who claim to be leftists and even centrists. There is (almost) no (real) left left.
Political & Philosophical Roots of the Woke
The woke mentality is based on a number of political and philosophical sources:
- Intersectionality, an obsession with personal identities, especially minority identities, which amounts to a simplistic point-system for determining who is lucky enough to have the most oppression points.
- Multiculturalism, or cultural relativism, an anti-universalist political ideology which attaches greater importance to ethnic or religious affiliation than it does to either universal rights or to citizenship.
- Postmodernism, a philosophy associated with cultural relativism and inspired by a scepticism about modernist ideas of objectivity, rationalism and knowledge.
- Post-Marxist defeatism, a degeneration of Marxism, resulting from Marxism’s failure to deliver on its promise of a brighter future based on Enlightenment ideals. This has led to blaming the Enlightenment itself. Also known as neo-Marxism, or cultural Marxism, or cultural post-Marxism
- Islamoleftism, an extension of the previous point, a further degeneration of post-Marxism, in which the priority traditionally accorded to class and economics is now replaced by the defence of minorities, especially Muslims.
Thus the woke mentality is derived, partially at least, from left-wing thought, but it is a perversion and degeneration of it. In particular, Wokism is not Marxist. Marxism has a lot of negative and dubious things to answer for, but you cannot blame Marxism for woke insanity. To put it succinctly, the woke mentality is a form of “post-leftism” which is approximately a combination of post-Marxism and postmodernism.
James Lindsay, who has studied these issues extensively, sums up the situation thus:
Marxism is an economics-based social theory, and Critical Social Justice actually usurps economic analysis and obscures it to use it as a proxy for its peculiar approach to identity politics. To be more specific on that, for example, it’s overwhelmingly obvious that economic causes are the sources of many of the phenomena Critical Race Theorists name as “systemic racism,” but they use the fact that there are statistical economic differences by race to claim that racism (not capitalistic exploitation) are the ultimate causes of those differences. Thus, they make class a proxy for the site of oppression that they’re actually obsessively focused upon, race, and thereby obliterate any possibility for liberal, rational, or even materialist or Marxist analysis of the underlying issues.
Wokism at its worst is a modern parareligion. I define a parareligion as an ideology which is not a religion in the strict sense of the word because there is no obvious supernatural element, but which nevertheless behaves somewhat like one because it displays some of the following characteristics which are typical of religion:
- Dogmatism, a rejection of reason.
- A penchant for non-falsifiable assertions, i.e. hypotheses which can never be disproven and are thus meaningless. Example: “God” is responsible for everything: if good things happen, then praise “God” — however if bad things happen, “God” works in mysterious ways.
- Manichaeism, a worldview divided into absolute good and evil, denying moral nuances and ambiguities.
- Moralism, an obsession with personal morality, again neglecting moral complexities.
- Privileges for the faithful, thus opposing universalism.
- Cult of personality, i.e. worship of gods or goddesses, or deification of human leaders.
One example of a parareligion is authoritarian communism of the Stalinist, Maoist or North Korean variety, where dogmatism and the cult of personality are particularly obvious. Various pseudosciences (homeopathy, astrology, etc.) and some conspiracy theories can also be viewed as parareligions.
The Woke Parareligion
The woke parareligion displays most of the above characteristics (although not the cult of personality). It is extremely dogmatic, Manichaean and moralistic, and while it pretends to value “diversity” it is zealously opposed to intellectual debate and diversity. This is manifested by so-called cancel culture, basically social censorship of anyone who disagrees with the woke mentality or who is judged (summarily, without due process) to be morally dubious. The woke are obsessively hostile to those whom they consider to be privileged (whites, men, etc.) and the woke program is to privilege the other pole. Thus, racial and other minorities, even religious ones such as Muslims, are given special consideration, just as Judaism considered the Hebrews to be the chosen people. This implies the abandonment of universalism which values equality for all, regardless of race, sex, etc.
To be continued in Part II.