I found this interesting, challenging and engaging. I largely agree about the "intellectual masturbation" of much of the self-prescribed progressives - a label that I myself am attached to. There is seemingly no cohesive leftist movement that challenges the Neoliberal landscape and I think that's a huge issue. Which ironically has allowed the Right to continue winning the legislative battle. If we give up, they just run up the score.

One thing I would like to challenge is that it seems (correct me if I'm wrong) that you don't see any value in any of this critical theory or gender theory concepts. Is it that, or is your main critique that since these ideas seem to dominate the leftist landscape and lead to no real change? This I do agree with. I don't think it can lead Leftist policy goals, but I do think it should be included. Understanding the legacy of racism and sexism is very important in my opinion and before these ideas became more mainstream, the narrative seemed to be one of us living in a world where racism/sexism was defeated.

Gender theory exists whether some snooty liberal is lecturing it at you or not. I was informally taught gender theory as a young boy by being conditioned on how to be a "man". This usually was quite sexist. Objectifying women was celebrated. Being emotionless, or "stoic" as the term emotionally unavailable men like to hide their fear of vulnerability behind (I know actual stoicism is real), was also celebrated. Being genuinely loving, sweet, and openly emotional was socially sanctioned by peers and even adults. This usually ended up with being labelled some sort of homophobic slur. These were lessons that women even reinforced. Is this not all a form of gender theory? Just with a different curriculum and from taught different teachers? The legacy of patriarchy has its own gender theory we've been taught, no? Because when I learned what people call "gender theory" now, I was honestly liberated from these lessons that were engrained in me after my initial resistance wore off. I'm also aware of how smug plenty of these uni-folks are too, so yeah it's a mixed bag. And I do agree that too often, the language policing tactic has been used. But I think understanding the concept and history of gender is very useful. Otherwise, I would have probably just repeated the same behaviours my Father did because "that's what being a man was."

I also see a huge issue in these folks selling out because that's just how powerful the magnetic pull of capital is in our system. BLM is a great example. Started grassroots and then was co-opted and consumed by American corporations to eventually become hollow and perform liberal placation (to mostly middle-class white folks). Feminism is similar. It was quite anti-capitalist from its origins, but now mainstream "Girl-Boss Feminism" is when there's a Woman CEO? And it's fine when she union busts? That's not feminism. That's just capitalism co-opting feminism for its own goals.

Both of these movements should, at their core be pushing for the organizing of labour and toward a much more leftwing political landscape and I think that's the largest failure here. I think understanding history through the lens of minorities, women and queer folks is really important. I just also think the foundational policy pursuits should still be affordable/accessible housing for all, universal healthcare, equal access to education etc. etc. Because yes, although I do use the term unhoused 😂, that literally does nothing for those folks unless our housing policies meaningfully change and housing isn't solely a private commodity for people to build wealth. And using more progressive terminology does too often result in the only thing a self-proclaimed "progressive" does, while they still call themselves "radical."

All in all, I'm wondering your thoughts on this and how to navigate addressing real issues of the legacy and persistence of racism, sexism, queerphobia etc. while still having Leftist material goals still be the foundation of political pursuits.

Always appreciate your thoughts and the effort you put into sharing them here. 🍻

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Thanks for your very considered reading of the essay, and your reponse here, Dylan. Very much appreciated!

The first point to clarify is between criticism of an academic theory and to the social cause or issue to which that relates. I tried to be very specific about highlighting this distinction in the piece, but it goes to your point about an upcoming steeped in gender norms, some of them rather regressive (as I think many men in our societies may be exposed to).

What I was taking aim at was academic theory, informed as it is by postmodern thought; what you are describing are gender norms. Those norms are influenced by social, cultural, religious, etc. etc., environments in which we are born into and raised, and exist on a spectrum. And we should discuss those norms, openly and with an effective framework within which to have that discussion. My point is that the postmodern academic theories related to this subject (gender norms) are not such an effective or useful framework. In fact, in many respects they end up reinforcing "masculinity" and "femininity" as caricatures and stereotypes.

This disinction between academic theory vs. norms is important, because the former is what has seeped out into the general conversation about these topics, whether people often realise it or not, they are speaking in this language. And these academic theories have been very effective, like the neoliberal model they serve to uphold (hyper-individualism), at positioning themselves as the only way to talk about these issues. I tried to highlight that these issues, whether related to race, sex and gender, or sexuality, are important; but let's talk about them in material terms that can actually form part of a progressive social critique that is actionable in policy terms.

The Left, for me, has always been about creating conditions in society where people who are more vulnerable than others are taken care of, be that in an economic context or on matters pertaining to their identity. Fo example, I'm an Atheist, but I want a religiously pluralistic society, as much as I want an open society where someone can live, with safety and dignity, as whomever they are.

And I agree with your salient point that these movements all end up hijacked by capitalism, but the crucial point here is how much this adds to the sense of alienation of the working class. So now you have a bunch of college-educated kids talking in their gibberish-sounding verbiage, while also having the material comforts of working in BigTech, and sneering at people in communities decimated by offshoring and late-stage financialised and tech-driven capitalism that they're a bunch of "deplorables" and xenophobes. And these people call themselves "the Left"? It's a sick joke.

My fundamental point is that we can, and should, be thinking about how to bring these issues forward in line with Leftist aims for a more egalitarian society, but I reject that we are forced into thinking about them through these language-based modes of social critique.

To bring this around to the 'how', for me if you really look at trends in voting and the disintegration of the Left as a political force, it is because they abandoned class politics in favour of identity politics. This was a shortsighted miscalculation, because class unifies on identity. So the first and most important step, in my opinion, is to reshape the focus on class.

As it relates to other elements, just teach history. I'm fascinated by the dialogue over 'CRT' in the States, and how misplaced it is. If you want to teach kids in school about the slave trade, racism, etc., just teach history; trust me, it is ugly enough. Teach history as it is. That is enough.

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Thanks for taking the time to respond!

You're right. You did make the distinction. I think I just didn't pick up on it as clearly and the academic theory vs. norms framework makes a lot of sense.

Lots to think about here. Appreciate your thoughts and engagement.

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My pleasure! Glad the distinction is clear.

I'm grateful for you engagement and thoughts.

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May 24, 2023Liked by Alan Flanagan

This is a terrific piece of writing. Thanks so much. Glad I clicked on the link from Rob Henderson.

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Thank you, I really appreciate that! I'm glad he shared the piece, and that you found your way here.

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May 23, 2023·edited May 23, 2023Liked by Alan Flanagan

This was an excellent and comprehensive summary of the ghastly takeover of our entire culture by the postmodernist cabal who set out to prove there's no such thing as Truth but instead proved that there is such a thing as liars.

You hinted at one of the many ironies here of the Bourgeois Bolshevik Cultural Revolution led from the ivory tower supposedly on behalf of "the marginalized": postmodern gurus like St. Foucault and Derrida were obviously amoral Mephistopheles wannabes, willing to do or say anything to épater les bourgeois, posing more as De Sade than Marx, but their acolytes have led a deeply moral movement, with in fact a sharp-edged morality as the weapon they wield first: we are the Official Defenders of the Oppressed™ thus even the slightest disagreement with us is the moral equivalent of punching a child.

And thus we proceed from amoral Parisian wordplay transformed into American Calvinist morality: Battling power relations and their discriminatory effects must be the central focus of all human endeavor (God is always watching!), be it intellectual, moral, civic, or artistic. Those who resist this focus, or even evidence insufficient adherence to it, must be sharply condemned, deprived of influence, and ostracized.

And now, sadly and scarily, these radical onanists blessed with "critical consciousness" have strapped themselves into their Deconstruction Machine that has no brakes and OFF switch, and which only operates under the principle of Who/Whom: lord only knows what will be left standing after they're done ruthlessly criticizing, denouncing and dismantling, all that exists.

Thanks again!

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This comment was a pleasure to read, thank you :)

"....amoral Parisian wordplay transformed into American Calvinist morality" floored me with laughter. The distinctly American Protestant evangelism that permeates through this morality-based crusade to seek purification with ostentatious displays of personal virture, is often overlooked.

The Left has always had a God problem; disavowing religion in its organised form, but still seeking to fill the void of belief and, thus searching, finding their way to the false prophets of postmodernism, reifying words, and deifying identities as sacred.

And blind to the religiosity of their crusade, they'll tear down anyone and anything - institutions in particular - deemed heretics.

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May 25, 2023Liked by Alan Flanagan

Wait, sorry, is early here in California and I'm not properly caffeinated yet. I didn't notice that you were also the author!

Cheers for your excellent piece, I really enjoyed it (even if it raised my blood pressure at moments).

Much appreciated!

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Hahah, no worries at all - I'm in the same boat after the bank holiday weekend here!

I'm glad you really enjoyed the essay, and I can certainly empathise with the blood pressure because it rose to dangerous levels in writing it.

I certainly think there are Marxist elements, although I've increasingly come to see it as more distinctly neoliberal than Marxist; the hyper-individualism, the disdain of the working class ("angry old White men" tropes come to mind), the knee-bending and Pride flag waving by corporate monopolies, and the emphasis on negative freedoms (e.g., "freedom from...").

Certainly the Puritan Protestantism and the evangelical zeal to convert the heretics is distinct, and makes it quite particularly American in flavour. Its a form of cultural imperialism.

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I think of it like a rom-com: one day global corporate capitalism and identity-based Leftism looked at each other and said: "Hey, maybe we have a lot more in common than we thought! I'd bet we'd make a great couple!"

And thus was born Social Justice Inc., the new ruling dispensation of the Anglosphere.


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Hey thanks, and i wish this didn't ring so true: "blind to the religiosity of their crusade, they'll tear down anyone and anything - institutions in particular - deemed heretics."

I think of Social Justice as Marxist epistemology crossed with Protestant morality, which really combines 2 species of fundamentalist intolerance in one highly memetic package.

Good luck surviving the Cultural Revolution!

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May 23, 2023Liked by Alan Flanagan

Excellent, elsewhere I am replying to "Intelligence is a social construct." As well as giving me ideas you have also demolished my fallacious arguments, sparing me embarrassment.

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Thanks, Michael! When it comes to the "everything is a social construct" postmodern lens, I'm reminded of the phrase that when all one has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Glad the essay gave you some ideas - as well, of course, as saving embarrassment :)

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Apr 9, 2023Liked by Alan Flanagan

Always wanted a clear description of how this crap evolved. Now all we need is a description on how to move on from it though having a good understanding of how it operates its defenses is a good start.

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Thanks Troy, I'm glad it helped. And you've given me some food for thought on a follow-up essay on how to move on from it!

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Fantastic critique of this very creepy Orwellian policing of language and thought by the Woke mob

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