01 February 2024

cultural Marxism's obsession with Language – part 3

The term ‘cultural Marxism’ is here used to mean:
the corpus of Marxist ideology excluding the parts that are overtly about economics or politics,
not the ‘Cultural Marxism’ conspiracy theory, usually spelt with a capital C.


Marxism is an ideology. That is to say, it is:
(a) a system of ideas which provides putative answers to important questions, and
(b) a set of values telling people how they should assign positive and negative evaluations.
   To give some examples, Marxism (a) offers explanations for why class structure exists, and theories about how we should expect history to unfold; and (b) tells its followers they should view capitalism as negative, and the abolition of religions (other than Marxism) as positive.
   In claiming to provide answers and values, an ideology seeks to acquire power over people’s hearts and minds.

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Marxism is a highly developed ideology, meaning it contains numerous elaborate ideas and theories about a range of topics. In this, it is comparable to other major ideologies such as Christianity and Islam.
   It is safe to assume that all ideologies, at least on some level, seek to become culturally dominant. Ideologies purport to offer ‘truth’, but truth is generally considered to be single-valued; that is to say, it is assumed there can be only one truth. The rewards of being the dominant arbiter of ‘truth’ can be extremely high; the competition to arrive at this position of arbiter can therefore be correspondingly ruthless. Looking at efforts to suppress rival ideologies in the histories of Christianity or Islam can give one an idea of how dirty such a war can get.
   Some ideologies, e.g. scientology, may seem to have little chance of ever becoming hegemonic within any society, and may seem to be contenting themselves with a position of limited influence. Yet it could be argued that, given the opportunity, and under the right conditions, a fringe ideology could always become a dominant ideology.
   Once within sight of dominance, an ideology is likely to seek increasing control over people’s thinking, and to be looking to get into a position that will ally it with the powers of the state.
   To achieve hegemony (ideological dominance) is no easy feat. And it has become a more challenging task in the scientific age – though not by any means impossible.

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Christian ideology was developed in the context of an intellectual environment very different from that of the modern era. The bulk of Christian ideology was hammered out during the 4th to 5th centuries AD, a relative low point for the West, intellectually speaking. By contrast, when Karl Marx published Das Kapital in 1867, the flowering of modern science and philosophy had in some respects already reached its peak. What worked in 500AD would not do in the late nineteenth and twentieth century.
   Christian ideology was subtle and sophisticated in its own way. It adapted to the intellectual changes of the Renaissance, and even to a good part of the subsequent scientific age. Marxist ideology, however, is a great deal more subtle and sophisticated. It is designed to be difficult to criticise. It appears to fit with established rules of intellectual discourse, but at many points subverts them for its own purposes.

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Suppression of dissent, and suppression of potential dissenters, are key planks in the process of acquiring and maintaining hegemony.
   To achieve dominance, an ideology must not only appeal to its audience in terms of the plausibility of the answers it offers. It must employ strategies, that is to say: intellectual devices, the primary purpose of which is not audience appeal but deflection of criticism and suppression of rivals.
   Many of the strategies employed by Marxism are sufficiently clever to have confounded the majority of its critics over many decades. There are traps, pretences, smoke screens, and a proliferation of ill-defined terms.
   One of the strategies employed by Marxism is to make pre-emptive strikes, in order to forestall criticism. For example, since it could be accused of being ideological, Marxism makes strenuous efforts to identify ideology in the statements of its opponents. This particular strategy has been so successful that, in some quarters, the term ‘ideology’ has come to mean simply: any way of thinking that is at odds with Marxism.
   One strategy of cultural Marxism has been to rebrand itself as ‘Critical Theory’ – a simple enough move, yet apparently successful at deceiving people into thinking they are dealing with objective analysis rather than ideological doctrine.

part 1: introduction
part 2: terminology
part 3: ‘ideology’
part 4: which ideology is dominant?
part 5: ‘good’ and ‘evil’
part 6: ‘culture is a social product’ (extract from my forthcoming book)
part 7: Language (extract from my forthcoming book)