Sunday 30 January 2011

The essence of my concept of political correctness...


...and of how it differs from most other people's ideas, is that I see PC as underpinned by psychology: specifically by hereditary psychology, specifically by the abstracting ability and tendency to abstract.


In other words, I regard purely cultural theories of PC (i.e. everyone else's ideas of PC!) as fundamentally deficient since they neglect that most people in the history of the world have been biologically incapable of political correctness.

In yet other words, I see PC as a by-product of high general intelligence (roughly, high IQ).


It is high IQ which sustains the thought processes which characterize political correctness and its related forms of nihilism (such as Liberalism, scientism, vitalism, socialism and communism, anarchism and so on).

These types of thought are not possible to the majority of people in the world due to relatively low IQ - or at least they are so alien and unspontaneous as to be merely temporary or a pretence.

Almost anyone will go-along with PC when it is expedient; but PC could not be established and dominant in a society unless

1. there were a lot of people of high IQ/ abstracting tendency and

2. the ruling class is (more or less) composed of such people.


This required, in the first place, societies in which IQ was selectively advantaged across an evolutionary timescale. Then the evolution of these societies such that the most intelligent, by and large, became the rulers of society. 

So, PC has become dominant as the ruling classes became more-and-more IQ meritocracies (instead of military meritocracies, or religious meritocracies).

And this domination happened as a by-product of modernity (increasing productivity per capita, due to the technological breakthroughs mostly created by the high IQ elite; continual increase in functional specialization etc.).


Therefore (like Greg Clark in Farewell to Alms, or Cochran and Harpending in the 10000 year revolution) I see the rise of modernity as depending on the prior rise in intelligence (and the taming of personality) resulting from certain types of selection pressure in extreme latitude and then agricultural societies where spontaneous violence is suppressed for many generations.

And I see this same increased intelligence and tamed-personality as being the underlying (permissive) cause of political correctness.


High (abstracting) IQ and a tamed personality have set in process  a series of evolutionary societal changes which first led to modernity, but are now leading to the destruction of modernity.

At first this process was constrained by religion - specifically by Christianity in the context of a divinely ordained monarchy. Under such a system intelligence is constrained by religion, held in check, must work within that context.

But the abstracting tendency of the high IQ elite has progressively dismantled these constraints (in order to 'liberate' the intellect - a process first unambiguously seen in the prideful genius of Peter Abelard - 1079-1142).


The autonomy of abstracting intelligence is not, in principle, irreversible - since there is always a possibility of repentance and restoration of divinely-ordained monarchy. But, in the West, the process has not in fact been reversed - except locally or temporarily, once the process had begun.

The evolution of intellectuals, then Western domination by intellectuals; and the pride of intellectuals (their assertion of freedom from the constraints of religion, their resulting sense of their own omniscience and omnipotence) was therefore the root of the rise of modernity; and it is now the root of its rapidly accelerating destruction by political correctness (among other related factors).



FuturePundit said...

Bruce, But IQ by itself (or combined with affluence due to technology) isn't sufficient to cause PC. I'm not politically correct. Neither are you. Okay, we aren't intellectual slouches either. So why aren't we PC?

Some personality or cognitive trait (or traits) make some people more or less immune to PC thinking. It is not clear to me what exactly those traits are.

I suspect that some form of independence of mind, a reduced need to get along with others, makes people more immune to PC.

Bruce Charlton said...

Well, I do keep saying that high IQ *by itself* is not sufficient to cause PC.

But high IQ *is* necessary to being PC

(and I mean *being* PC; rather than simply following the rules set by PC rulers, when following these rules is expedient - ie when you are rewarded for following the rules and/or punished for breaking them. Anybody can do that - and most people usually will do that).

Most intellectuals in the modern world are PC - only some (e.g. Democrats) are more PC than others (e.g. Republicans).

There are very few non-PC intellectuals. And those who are will be extreme (by modern standards) reactionaries - usually religiously orthodox in some way or another; or else very extreme Nihilists of a Nietzschian type - those who embrace an ethic of selfishness, conflict, chaos etc.

I have always been independent minded (or, rather, bloody minded/ awkward/ self-willed), but never was really non-PC until I became an orthodox Christian (being a liberal Christian was - obviously - not enough).

When I was in earlier years, or so I supposed myself, a Nietzschian kind of nihilist/ relativist/ subjectivist - I was *in practice* just a mushy Liberal who fancied himself a bit of a secret rebel!

Steve Nicoloso said...

This etiology doesn't explain the content of PC, nor how this content changes (radicalizes at least) over time. I'll grant that it is a high-IQ phenomenon; I'd go further and guess that it could only arise in high-IQ enclaves, untouched by the harsh realities of... well, reality. But whither PC? And why is it so maladaptive? Brahmins ruled India for millenia (arguably still do) and never came up with a philosophy so obviously false to facts and so obviously dangerous to society as PC.

The ruling class will always develop some sort of group-think and secret handshakes or wink words to show membership in the club. PC is no doubt just such a complex; but not all such signaling equates to PC. Why PC? Why now?

Bruce Charlton said...

SN - my answer has been the main subject of this blog since about November last.

I'll see if I can summarize.

PC is atheistic and this worldly - but is trying to be good.

For PC the ultimate evil is selfishness - therefore the highest good it can conceive is unselfishness: i.e. altruism.

This worldly atruism is operationalized in terms of the allocation of 'goods' (money, power, status etc).

But PC sees humans as innately selfish - therefor the allocation of goods must be done impersonally - in practice, by rules and bureaucracies.


What governs the principles of PC? Reaction, rejection. The past is tainted. There must be a fresh start. The good is the opposite of what people used to believe. Hence moral inversion.

The fact that all this is anti-spontaneous, anti-natural, alien, scary - is actually taken as a sign of its virtuousness. The truly altruistic must sacrifice themselves.


The mass media is essential to this since it fills our minds everyday, continually displacing the past - so whatever is in the mass media is reality.


Atheism leads to this-worldliness, and to relativism, and to the working rule that the inversion of the traditional is virtuous.

Reinforcement for this tendency comes from population growth, meritocracy, division of labour, prosperity and the mass media.

Dirichlet said...

I agree with most of your critique of PC, but there is a small detail that I still haven't grasped: how and why PC contains the seeds of its own destruction.

I know it sounds silly, but I have no reason not to believe it is self-perpetuating.


FuturePundit said...

Bruce, But religious belief is not necessary to make someone non-PC. I think some intellectual traits are necessary.

Independent minded is probably a key trait for someone to not be PC. I know people who are closet non-PC and they are smart and angry at the PC ruling class. Many are not at all religious.

Bruce Charlton said...

D - the usual stuff of the Right blogosphere - unlimited mass immigration then favouring immigrants over natives, damaging economic productivity by taking from the productive and giving to the unproductive (in order to generate dependency), enforcing laws with zero-tolerance against the well-behaved while being soft on bad people, foreign policy which attacks allies and builds up enemies, attacking normal sexuality and the family and allocating status to everything else - all the usual stuff.

FP - the trait is probably what Eysenck termed Psychoticism - which is a combination of low conscientiousness, low agreeableness and high associative creativity. This is higher in men.

JP said...

"how and why PC contains the seeds of its own destruction"

Ultimately, how can a regime that is not merely based on lies, but on the energetic suppression of the truth, not self-destruct?

Bruce Charlton said...

JP - yes of course it will self-destruct, is self-destructing. The problem is, how much damage will it do first, then what replaces it?

Thursday said...

Yes, high IQ leads to people wanting to have everything abstract and rationalizable, at least in areas that don't directly hurt them.

chris said...

"The truly altruistic must sacrifice themselves. "

The best way to sum up modern leftism, in my opinion, is as an ideology of self-immolation.