Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Marxist academic describes liberal campus culture as insane, gets purged

I've been thinking for some time that liberalism has pushed the modernist project to a degree that Marxism never attempted, i.e. that liberalism is now to the "left" of Marxism.

For instance, I am not aware that Marx or Lenin or Trotsky or Stalin ever pushed the idea that whether we are male or female has little to do with our biological sex but depends instead on what we as individuals identify as. I doubt that parents in the USSR ever had state officials threatening to confiscate their children if the parents did not consent to them undergoing sex change procedures (as now happens in the UK). I suspect that Stalin would have choked on his cornflakes at the idea of this.

And to help confirm my belief that Marxism is now less radically modernist than liberalism comes the news that a Marxist academic at NYU, Michael Rectenwald, has been stood down for objecting to the liberal campus culture with its "safe spaces" and its "trigger warnings" and its attacks on people for being "cisgendered white males". Rectenwald wrote:
"Identity politics on campus have made an infirmary of the whole, damn campus. Let’s face it: every room is like a hospital ward. What are we supposed to do? I can’t deal with it—it’s insane.” And later still: “the crazier and crazier that this left gets, this version of the left, the more the alt-right is going to be laughing their asses off

Rectenwald also, understandably, felt alienated by the intersectional politics on campus which removes moral status/standing from white heterosexual men:
A cis, white, straight male like myself is guilty of something. I don’t know what. But I’m f... sure I’m guilty of it. And I am very f.... low on the ethical totem pole, you know.

For uttering these thought crimes Rectenwald found himself being condemned not by "The Workers' Collective Against the Running Lap Dogs of Imperialism" but by a similar sort of committee calling itself the "Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group".

This group claimed to fully support Professor Rectenwald's right to speak his mind but then declared him to be "guilty of illogic" and he was subsequently stood down.

We live in an ideological society. If you had been born in East Germany in 1950, then as a 25-year-old in 1975 an Eastern bloc style communism would have been all that you had ever experienced. It would have seemed normal to a degree. This is even truer of the Western liberal societies as liberalism has proceeded along more gradually and has chosen to mostly hide its ideological nature (instead making appeals to ideologically neutral sounding phrases like freedom or equality or social justice). But we are just the same as those East Germans. We live in an ideological society we have grown used to.

The answer is not to revert to a now less radical form of the same modernist project, such as Marxism, but to think outside of the whole project to something different. If we drop the modernist ideology altogether then what opens up to us? Can't we then begin to think again in terms of the virtues? Of deeper forms of communal identity? Of the spiritual aspect to our existence? Of the stability of family relationships? Can't we then begin to address the complex ordering of society that is needed to draw together the different aspects of the human experience (the natural, the social, the spiritual) - rather than trying to impose a cruder technological ordering based on the needs of the market or state bureaucracies?

Anyway, it seems as if liberals are going to crush the Marxists to their right. More room for us traditionalists to fill the void.


  1. "liberalism is now to the "left" of Marxism"

    That is a relevant observation! I actually did spend some time in East Germany in 1985 and can confirm that it was not crazy in the way that we can now observe on campuses in the west. Sure, there was oppression and sort of a gray, run down feel to the place but it was NOT crazy.

    But in some other ways, it fells like we have been converging with the old east block. They did have very systematic policies to break up families, that are being replicated in the West. If you go to Berlin and visit one of the excellent exhibitions on life in the DDR, you will be scared when you realize that a lot of the propaganda there was very similar to what we now call first and second wave feminism. They were VERY proud that all the women had jobs and all the kids were in daycare.

    The way they handled dissent was actually also similar to what we now have in the west. Everybody knew that you should not say certain things in public and if you did, the consequences were quite similar to what happens to a regular person in the west today that goes on record with non PC statements. In mild cases, you could no longer advance and in worse cases, you lost your job and nobody wanted to be associated with you. This actually seems to work much better that shooting people!

    Also remember that DDR means "The German Democratic Republic" and according to them, it was a multi-party democracy. It was just a small detail that all the parties wanted pretty much the same thing. That does sound a bit familiar, or what do you think.... Also, anybody with a fundamentally dissenting view was a fascist or a nazi, i.e. the same routine as in the west now.

    However, regarding schools and universities, they were very, very far from the insanity now spreading in the west. There it was very hard discipline and you had to preform to move on. The science education in the old east block was always top and still today the level in often far higher than in the west.

    My kids go to gymnasium (high school) in Switzerland and that school has a very active international exchange program. Based on this, it seems that all Anglo countries (UK, USA, Canada, Australia) are very, very weak in maths and science in relation to Switzerland and Germany but that the old east block (Romania, Russia, etc) are on the same or higher level.

    "Anyway, it seems as if liberals are going to crush the Marxists to their right. More room for us traditionalists to fill the void."

    I think that you are correct that there will be more room for traditionalists, but I am not sure that the space will be filled by western traditionalists. We will have to step up if we are going to compete against the muslim traditionalist....

    1. We will have to step up if we are going to compete against the muslim traditionalist....

      Yes, we're fortunate that the Muslims are so alien to us, it gives us a little more time to create our own alternative.

  2. Excellent post and first comment! But you said "Liberalism is now to the left of Marxism". You've made it clear that Liberalism/Traditionalism is not the core split between Left and Right. There are Right Liberals and, presumably, Left Traditionalists. So there is something logically askew in that statement I quoted.

  3. I've been thinking for some time that liberalism has pushed the modernist project to a degree that Marxism never attempted, i.e. that liberalism is now to the "left" of Marxism.

    It's definitely far more extreme.

    It almost seems like the old school communists, for all their faults, came to understand that modernism wasn't such a great idea. It's almost as if communist regimes were capable of learning from their mistakes. The Bolsheviks initially tried extreme social radicalism and it was a catastrophe so they pulled back from the brink.

    The Chinese communists took longer to learn the lesson but after the disaster of the Cultural Revolution they figured it out as well.

    Amazingly western liberals are entirely unable to learn from their mistakes. When their policies fail they just double down. Liberalism seems to destroy any ability to perceive reality. In that respect liberalism seems to function more like a secular religion than marxism.