20 February 2024

cultural Marxism's obsession with Language – part 5

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.


One of the most important strategies for an ideology is to control the meanings of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

Ideological power is at its most potent when it endows the possessor with the ability to induce feelings of guilt and shame in others; specifically, in those who fail to conform to the ideology, or who dare to question it. We can call this ‘moral power’.
   An even stronger power-enhancer is the ability to induce fear, such as the fear of being ostracised or despised, or the fear of losing your job.
   The word ‘morality’ tends to bring to mind the Christian concept of sin, and so may be thought to be out of date. Former UK prime minister David Cameron once claimed that we live in a ‘de-moralised society’, presumably referring to permissiveness. But morality is not just about labelling some acts as wicked, it is also about defining the meaning of ‘virtuous’. Engendering the belief that disseminators of the ideology are ‘good’, and that their critics are ‘bad’, is as important to ideological dominance as being able to control what is forbidden.
   The ability to demonise critics is a powerful tool in maintaining dominance. The demonising of dissent is achieved, for example, by convincing people that anyone who sounds sceptical of some element of the ideology should be assumed strongly to believe the opposite. A good illustration, in the current era, is the topic of inherited ability. The intellectual elite in the West has succeeded in making it seem reasonable that anyone who challenges the blank-slate doctrine can – and should – be presented in an unflattering light, by implying an association with eugenics and other unsavoury positions.
   By making critique of certain dogmas seem immoral, such critique can be marginalised and ultimately eliminated. The blank-slate doctrine is of course attractive to Marxists and other collectivists. It supports the desire to remake society, and to exercise power in the name of rationality, without the obstacle of having to take account of innate individual differences.

* * * * *

In the modern era, demonstrating that you support such things as anti-sexism and anti-racism – or that you at least pay lip service to those ideals – forms part of the prevailing moral ideology. Such activities demonstrate that you are a ‘good’ person. Failing to do so casts doubt on your virtuousness. Going so far as to express criticism of those ideals points towards you being a ‘bad’ person.
   The requirement to demonstrate opposition to sexism and racism means that definitions of the terms ‘sexism’ and ‘racism’ are required, which in turn calls for authorised ideological experts. This provides such experts, or the organisations for which they work, with power. All they need do is to convince people that their definitions of those bad forms of behaviour should be accepted. Holding a position of authority at a state-approved institution is one way of ensuring that people will give weight to your moral theories. Building a consensus for such theories within institutional spaces is another. The latter can be achieved by the simple method of eliminating dissenters from those spaces.
   The massive expansion of the universities over past decades has assisted in this process. Where previously there may have been two or three ‘experts’ on some aspect of morality, now there are ten or twenty, creating a misleading impression of objectivity through sheer weight of numbers.

* * * * *

The ability to shift definitions creates power. Consider, for example, the concept of ‘sexism’. The category of behaviour to be regarded as ‘sexist’ was expanded during the 1990s to include ‘benevolent sexism’ – which, so it is argued, is as bad as the non-benevolent kind. To understand the meaning of ‘benevolent sexism’, and avoid being categorised as un-virtuous, you may need to consult the writings of professors at such institutions as Princeton or UCLA.
   One way to gain spurious weight for moral ideology is to make it seem like science. Marxist theorising has long tried to assume the mantle of scientific investigation. Moral ideology about sexism masquerades as science by having supposed experts on the topic be located within a subject called ‘social psychology’. There may be some notional research involved, based largely on questionnaires (a notoriously unreliable methodology), but the crucial part of the conclusions has nothing to do with data. The conclusions depend on ideological assumptions, such as the increasingly popular dogma that:
to let your behaviour towards another person be influenced by that person’s gender is wrong.
   Academic papers in this area, including in prestigious journals such as Nature, give the impression that the aim is to completely rewrite relations between the sexes.* Such an aim is a perfectly legitimate object for thought or discussion. As to whether complete rewriting is the right thing to do, however, shouldn’t that be a matter for democratic decision-making? Preceded by an extensive period of public debate, in which strenuous efforts are made to include the views of ordinary people, not just those of humanities professors and activists? Instead, there seems to be a programme to introduce radical new social norms and simply have them take on the status of moral absolutes, without any discussion other than between like-minded academics. The new norms are given a superficial appearance of objectivity by coming out of an academic or pseudo-scientific context. It then becomes impossible to argue with them without the risk of being assigned a vague demonising label such as ‘sexist’ – the definition of which is to be decided by academics.

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Like anti-sexism, anti-racism has been gradually absorbed into the cultural-Marxist universe, and has taken on many of the same characteristics as traditional Marxism. Complex social and psychological theories are mixed together with a strong dose of moral indignation, to generate an ideology that it’s dangerous to question. The proletariat’s former role, of victims that need to be instructed by intellectuals on how to become emancipated, is now taken by women and ethnic minorities.
   As in the case of sexism, the meaning of ‘racism’ has been massively expanded, beyond the original meaning of ‘belief in the inferiority of ethnic groups other than one’s own’. Racism can now mean, among other things:
- the belief that different national or ethnic groups may exhibit different statistical averages on various psychological measures,
- failing to be sufficiently critical of the traditional culture of your own nation, given that it was developed with the tastes of the majority in mind, and is therefore bound to be at odds with the preferences of minorities.
   Redefining of morally charged words has been achieved by means of a Marxist (or crypto-Marxist) academic literature which, since the 1960s, has been growing into a convoluted theoretical edifice. The edifice is difficult, if not impossible, for critics to challenge without being forced to become familiar with its labyrinthine complexity. Although receiving the imprimatur of being academic, and peer-reviewed, such literature has as much to do with science as astrology or homeopathy. Little wonder that it is mostly concentrated in ‘soft’ subjects where, to succeed, you don’t need to measure your ideas against anything other than the opinions of like-minded colleagues.
   The overall effect is to generate one of the paradoxes of cultural Marxism: to avoid being branded ‘racist’ and regarded as a bad person, you may need to consult, strangely enough, the expertise of professors of Literature, or Cultural Studies.

* * * * *

The key point is not the precise content of the ideology, it’s who controls that content.
   Whenever you observe a moral theory being given an unfamiliar spin, particularly when delivered in an urgent tone that brooks no contradiction, you can be fairly sure you are in the presence of ideology.
   Ideology, once it becomes associated with an authorised class – whether the class consists of priests or intellectuals – provides that class with power.

* See for example a 2023 article in Nature Reviews Psychology, entitled ‘Benevolent and hostile sexism in a shifting global context’ (Volume 2, pp.98-111). I recommend reading this article – critically! – since it represents a good example of the techniques used, in the twenty-first century, to spin ideology into something that has the superficial appearance of sound logic. It also illustrates how cultural-Marxist approaches have been creeping out of the soft subjects into the sciences.

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)