CSJ holds that knowledge is not objective but is culturally constructed to maintain oppressive power systems. This is believed to be achieved primarily by certain kinds of knowledge being legitimised by powerful forces in society, then being accepted by everyone and perpetuated by ways of talking about things – discourses.
While the manner in which Pluckrose differentiates this outlook from "liberalism" is tendentious at best (it boils down to "liberalism accepts anything that could be considered a reasonable CSJ insight, plus autonomy"), this is specific enough so we can at least track how the JILV's examples do or do not qualify as manifestations of CSJ (that is, flow from the notion that power systems are preserved via the legitimation of certain types of "knowledge" which are broadly accepted and built into the basic way we talk about things).
And applying that definition to JILV's examples, there is virtually no connection between the two whatsoever. The white paper gives seven examples of how CSJ allegedly fuels antisemitism. Start with the first: "the canard of Jewish privilege". Put aside the fact that their illustration of this practice -- the infamous flyers stating "ending White privilege starts with ending Jewish privilege" -- almost certainly emanated from the far-right, and was roundly repudiated by the very left-wing actors the white paper seeks to blame. The bigger question is: what on earth does this have to do with a belief that powerful actors successfully legitimate certain types of "knowledge" in order to prop up oppressive power systems, which is what Pluckrose says CSJ is? There's no attempt to posit a link here.
Go down the list, and the problem repeats. "Erasure of Jewish identity"? "Intersectionality and Antisemitism"? "Marginalizing Jews in Politics"? None of these clearly derive from, or even are claimed to derive from, a belief that power systems are preserved via the elevation and mainstreaming of certain forms of knowledge which become woven into the basic way we think about the world. At root, the JILV paper is most reminiscent of a conspiracy theory -- where others pin all the world's evils on "the Jews" or "the immigrants" or "the communists", for the JILV, anything bad it sees in the world, it attributes to "the crits." It is the explanation of first, middle, and last resort. There isn't need to actually establish that "critical social justice" is responsible for any of the ailments they bring up, because it's viewed as self-evident -- of course it's
the Jews' the immigrants' the reds' the crits' fault.
This speaks to a broader decay in the critical thinking abilities (and here I very much mean "critical thinking" in what Pluckrose would describe as its salutary, liberal form -- "looking for flaws of reasoning or unevidenced claims or unwarranted assumptions being made due to an ideologically biased interpretation of a situation") of certain segments of the Jewish community when the topic is "critical social justice", "intersectionality", "critical race theory", or any of the related bugaboos. While I know of no direct study measuring whether "critical social justice" ideologies generate antisemitism, the evidence we do have vis-a-vis the college campus environment strongly militates against the hypothesis. If there was such an effect, we'd expect college majors in areas more likely to have significant "CSJ" material to exhibit more antisemitism than majors which do not. Or alternatively, if our view is that CSJ ideology has completely suffused the collegiate experience, then we'd expect a growth in antisemitic attitudes from when students enter college to when they leave. As per Shenhav-Goldberg & Kopstein's outstanding 2020 paper, neither of these is the case. It is hard to square the theory that CSJ creates antisemites with the reality that heightened exposure to CSJ -- in precisely the forums where critics claim CSJ's power is at its apex -- doesn't seem to have any effect on antisemitism.
Nonetheless, has become an article of faith that CSJ and its cousins simply must contribute to antisemitism. Anyone who denies it is willfully blind, or beholden to ideological blinkers, and is in any event has placed themselves in opposition to "the fight against antisemitism" (because, again, it is simply a truism for this crowd that "the fight against antisemitism" is the fight against "critical social justice"). It is dogma -- the hypothesis cannot be falsified.
This is catastrophically dangerous to the fight against antisemitism. If you care about antisemitism, it is tremendously important to understand accurately what causes antisemitism -- not what you assume causes it, not what it would be politically convenient to believe causes it, but what actually causes it. If we devote huge chunks of our communal energy toward fighting "critical social justice", and it turns out "critical social justice" has little to do with rising antisemitism, then we've just wasted a ton of time and effort! To be sure, if what one actually cares about is not fighting antisemitism but fighting critical social justice, then it's not a waste at all -- it's mission accomplished. But then it's that campaign that's your actual mission. And the decision to continue to prioritize it as mission #1 necessarily means the fight against antisemitism goes on the backburner.
One final irony has to be mentioned. The JILV white paper is, as I've said, mostly reminiscent of a conspiracy. It sees "crits" behind every rock, branch, and tree, with little to no effort to explain why the parade of horribles it identifies is connected to the "critical social justice" theory it deplores. However, to the extent the JILV white paper has any cohesive methodology behind it at all that isn't just a conspiracy theory, that methodology is ... critical social justice.
Now, let's be clear: by and large, the JILV paper is nothing more than the latest instantiation of a longstanding trend, where reactionaries define the lefty term of the day ("intersectionality", "critical race theory", now "critical social justice") as "anything bad from a vaguely left-of-center orientation that has some sort of identity politics kick to it." There's really nothing more that ties it all together than that.
But if we were to try to do so, the JILV claim can be reconstructed as something like the following: there is a widespread ideology, which has become dominant if not taken-for-granted in many segments of our society, whose precepts are largely insulated from interrogation but act to exclude, marginalize, or otherwise injure Jews. So, for example, the idea of "Jewish Whiteness" is asserted to be simply taken as a given in many circles, and in doing so that idea naturalizes a bunch of presumptions about Jewish power and privilege and control that are both untrue and prejudicial. And precisely because these views are so embedded into the conventional wisdom, they're largely immune from challenge -- trying to critique them renders one a complaining gadfly at best, a pariah figure at worst. So we can see how this set of assumptions in how we talk about the world (about Jews, Whiteness, power, whatever) acts to significantly curtail Jewish equality and discourage Jewish political participation even without any official actor ever issuing some sort of formal decree effectuating a de jure antisemitic exclusion.
Which fits, to a T, what Pluckrose says critical social justice is.
Most of the JILV's complaints fit this model. They are alleging that some way of speaking about Jews (as privileged, as White, as powerful) has become so effectively hegemonic that it squeezes out Jewish counter-narratives and so perpetuates antisemitic oppression. Or, put differently, "certain kinds of knowledge about Jews (or power, or Whiteness), is legitimised by powerful forces in society, then accepted by everyone and further perpetuated by ways of talking about things," which acts to maintain an "oppressive antisemitic power system."
Overwhelmingly, Jewish "critics" of critical race theory, or critical social justice, or what have you, actually seem to want "critical race theory, but for Jews". That's not a bad thing to want, if the people who wanted it weren't so infuriatingly blind to what their methodology actually is. They are pointing to a mechanisms of antisemitic marginalization that do not make sense under a classical liberal vantage.
Nobody is legally forbidding Jews from advocating for their peoplehood or contesting their Whiteness or anything of the sort -- that sort of legal censorship right now is very much the domain of anti-CRT forces. The claim is that a way of speaking about Jews functionally silences Jews in public deliberation -- we're "marginalized", "ostracized", "ignored", accused of "oversensitivity" or "bad faith" (the liberal would call all of this "losing in the marketplace of ideas"). And the claim that the remedy (or a goodly part of it, anyway), is committing to take Jewish testimony seriously on the subject of antisemitism -- to credit what we say about ourselves over what others are saying about us -- likewise owes far more to "critical social justice" than it does to classical liberal models (Pluckrose indicts what she labels "positionality", the view that knowledge is "tied to identity and one’s perceived position in society in relation to power").
Sometimes I think these claims about Jewish marginalization and its proper remedy are off target, sometimes I think they're pointing to very real concerns -- but let's be clear about what they are. They are not complaints that can be made sense of within a classical liberal frame. They are a Jewish iteration of "critical social justice". And if one thinks that any of these claims have legs -- and I do -- then there is no way to resolve them except by developing a robust, vibrant, and rigorous CRT-style language that can account for the Jewish case. The JILV white paper doesn't understand that -- but then, it doesn't understand a lot of things.
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