Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Are We Pro- or Anti-Enlightenment? And Other "Anti-CRT" Questions

On the one hand, the Jewish Journal's latest screed against the "Cultural Marxism" of Critical Race Theory, embarrasses me as a Jew -- not the least because (((cultural Marxism))) is a well-known antisemitic dogwhistle. On the other hand, the screed also embarrasses me as a political theorist, since the column's treatment of the political theories and theorists it mentions is so scattered and incoherent one can hardly remember what the underlying argument is supposed to be.

Some of the puzzles I was left with:
  1. I thought Voltaire was a hero of free speech and Enlightenment liberalism. But here I'm told Voltaire actually is an evil harbinger of contemporary leftism.
  2. For that matter, is the Enlightenment a good thing? I thought the anti-CRT folks were casting themselves as last guardians of the dying Enlightenment tradition, but here the Enlightenment is presented as a utopian nightmare opposed to "individual rights" and "free expression."
  3. I thought CRT was bad because it supposedly presents biological race as an immutable and totalizing feature of the self. But here it's bad because it recognizes race is socially constructed?
  4. What the hell is a "collectivist belief system" in this context? Telling me it is just "other words" for saying that race is socially constructed, racism is endemic, and racial progress tends to occur when it is to the advantage of racially dominant groups is less illuminating than one might think. Is "the new antisemitism" also a "collectivist belief system"?
  5. When did Cheryl Harris promote the outright abolition of private property? Because it sure wasn't in her "Whiteness as Property" article. Is this just Christopher Rufo spreading lies again (all signs point to yes)?
  6. What is the relationship of "cultural" to "Marxism" in "cultural Marxism"?
  7. And what makes any of this non-class based activity "Marxist" in the first place? Is "Marxism"  now just any theory that claims a certain group is discriminated against and wants to change society so that it no longer is? Is Zionism "Jewish Marxism"? Was the American revolution "American Marxism"? (And if that is the definition then I still can't figure out what "cultural Marxism" could possibly mean)?
  8. How on earth can "tech-titans and corporate leaders" be pursuing a Marxist agenda? If it's their agenda, isn't that a pretty glaring hint that the agenda -- whatever else it is -- is not "Marxist"?
There are so, so many more, but enough is enough. We sure could use a bit more rigorous inquiry, though.

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