Monday 27 June 2011

Ideology versus expertise - Political correctness coming the full circle


There is a sense in which political correctness in The West is (merely) the return of a normal situation for historical human society: a situation in which all social functions are subject to 'ideology' (which was previously religion).

It is modern societies that are unusual in favouring expertise above ideology.


So, where it can be seen that over the past several decades there has been a progressive 'politicization' of the educational system, public administration, health services and so on - this is a case of 'normal service will shortly be resumed'.

The normal thing for most differentiated societies in the world and throughout history is to be ideological, not expert.


The move back towards a society unified by ideology  can be seen in terms of universal political influence expressed via laws and administrative regulations which mean that a university or school or business must be PC first, and fit educational objectives into that framework. Senior staff are screened for political correctness, and non-PC behaviour is grounds for employment sanctions including dismissal.

Ideology is mandatory, effectiveness is an optional extra. And this is the normal human situation (except, perhaps, in times of emergency such as war or famine).


Specified religious beliefs and behaviours were mandatory  among the ruling elite until relatively recently.

Such that the philosopher David Hume (the 'best'-ever British philosopher) was passed over for a Professorship at Edinburgh in favour of a nonentity, essentially for religious reasons.

Of course the same was seen in the Soviet Empire - all leadership positions went to loyal Party Members with competence as a secondary consideration.

This is normal usual natural - and applies to most societies: Ideology trumps expertise.


The past couple of hundred years in the West, with its ideas of the rule of 'the expert', is exceptional.

The idea that leaders should primarily be competent is unusual.

Modernity was that era when expertise trumped ideology; when science pursued scientific goals related to truth and was (at least in theory) ruled by the best scientists, the economy pursued profit, productivity and other economic imperative - and was ruled by those best at attaining these goals - and so on.

But with the advent of political correctness, Western society began to move back to its pre-modern default.

Since PC, The West is no longer even trying  to have its societal functions run by specialized experts.

The ideology of PC trumps expertise.


So, wind-ahead to when PC has displaced expertise with ideology; and in so doing has destroyed modernity.

This means that, under PC, the economy and technological capability of the West would subside to the level of pre-modern agrarian societies - so that The West would be equal in power to the societies that surround it...

(This is not my inference, but is an explicit ultimate goal among many elite Leftist intellectuals including the most powerful person on the planet.)


Okay - so then how does a society dominated by Leftist PC ideology line-up against the more traditional ideologies - religious and ethnic?

A nation dominated by a PC-elite versus a nation dominated by a religious elite?

A nation dominated by a PC-elite versus a nation dominated by nationalistic ideals?

To frame the question is to answer it.


This is the blind spot of Leftism, and always has been. If the Left gets the kind of society that they want, it will be destroyed by traditional societies?

This is why the Left is dishonest - structurally dishonest.

In practice Leftism is a fake - maybe it pursues modernity under disguise of Leftism (early Soviet Union, early Communist China); maybe the Left destroys modernity but disguises this with propaganda and spin (the current situation in the West); maybe it explicitly destroys modernity but pretends that this is sustainable (Green politics).

But an honest Leftism would need to be driven by some kind of spirituality - since it would have to acknowledge that in destroying modernity it would destroy itself - and would do so anyway because it was the right thing to do: perhaps because it regarded itself as evil and deserving of destruction, or perhaps in pursuit of some higher goal.

The nearest approach to this would be something like an absolute and unconditional pacifism which explicitly acknowledged that the pacifism it advocates will inevitably lead to defeat.


I have never seen anything explicitly of this kind - I mean advocacy of deliberate, ethical suicide - honestly and explicitly stated on the Left - but it is possible that the strength of political correctness may derive from an implicit desire of martyrdom which will some time soon become explicit.

That would be the ultimate triumph of ideology over expertise.


Conclusion: Modernity is finished, normal service has been resumed with ideology as primary.

Assumption: We will get ideology (whether we like it or not).

Question: Which ideology would you prefer?



JP said...

"Rule of the Expert" was simply a previous form of Political Correctness - the Leftism of the 18th Century, employed to undermine the Right of that time, which consisted of the Church and the Monarchy. Altar and Throne have been humbled into the dust, and now possess only limited symbolic power rather than their previous pervasive power over every aspect of daily life. But, the PC of the Age of Reason is now superfluous and can be superseded by the new incarnation of PC ideology which inexorably seeks to fill the vacuum left by the destruction of Altar and Throne.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - I agree.

But what what Leftism of an earlier era is nowadays the mainstream 'libertarian', 'meritocratic' or centrist Right.

This explains why the mainstream 'Right' has been totally unable to stop or reverse PC - they share too many assumptions.

S. F. Griffin said...

"I have never seen anything explicitly of this kind - I mean advocacy of deliberate, ethical suicide - honestly and explicitly stated on the Left"

Does this count?

Bruce Charlton said...

@SG... wow! Guess I'll need to revise that sentence.

Thursday said...

There is a fundamental conflict between modenrnists like Kant or Nozick who want to smuggle sacred values back into the mix and the utilitarians who reduce everything to how good everyone feels on a purely material level. The former are fundamentally religious, while the latter are not. PC is in some respects very much in the Kantian tradition, though what it absolutizes are certain aspects of the utilitarian view like super-niceness.

We humans can't help our selves; people want absolute values.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Thursday - yes. I think we now realize that being 'religious' in the kind of halfway-house style of K and N just doesn't work: it cannot hold a line.

CSL regarded the non-denomenationally 'religious' impulse as a *major* problem - it was one of the few times he 'lost his temper' in print when sounding-off against this in a letter to a nun correspondent (I was reading this letter in the Collected Letters volume 2, just a couple of days ago - and will probably transcribe it for the blog soon).

GFC said...

@JP - I agree with your comment there.

I believe the Left to be the child of Satan, and in this we see that the rotten apple doesn't fall far from the diabolic tree: the devil cannot create of his own accord but can only twist what has already been created into corrupted forms. Always the devil tries to ape the creation of God. The modern Western Left works its part in this by undermining and eating away at legitimate authority, but once that work is complete, attempts to set itself up in the only way it can: as a funhouse mirror image of what it worked so hard to destroy.

This is why the Left today doesn't try to destroy institutions like the Church outright but rather corrupt and subvert them. They don't wish to do away with authority per se, only usurp those rightfully in authority and rule in their place.

Bruce Charlton said...

@GFC - "the Left today doesn't try to destroy institutions like the Church outright but rather corrupt and subvert them. They don't wish to do away with authority per se, only usurp those rightfully in authority and rule in their place. "

Good point.

The Old Left tried to destroy whole institutions such as the cultured aristocracy, scholarly private schools, the serious orthodox Christian Churches - the New Left, as you shrewdly point-out - aim to preserve the hollowed-out shell of these institutions - and to fill these shells with inverted content (e.g. titled subvertionists, social engineering certificate-shops, this-worldly hedonism-sanctifiers etc.).

JP said...

the New Left, as you shrewdly point-out - aim to preserve the hollowed-out shell of these institutions - and to fill these shells with inverted content

Speaking of inverted content, I read today that Practising Christians 'will no longer get priority' at Church schools in admissions shake-up.

According to the story, the Church of England plans to discriminate against English Christians and in favor of the non-Christian, non-English "disadvantaged". Got that? The Church of England now actively favors those who are neither Christian nor English -- and specifically, Muslim immigrants!

If the Church of England is not for English Christians, who is for them?