Saturday 9 July 2011

The PC turn


It seems that political correctness represents a 'turn' in Leftism.

Leftism can be seen, for most of its history, as a reaction against Christianity; a denial of the reality of God and a compensatory deification of the human.

But PC has turned against the human, and is now a deification of the system.


Now the cutting edge of the Left is not about gratifying individual preferences, nor about self-development: these must be subordinated to abstract systems for allocating 'goods' to ensure 'fair' outcomes.

In this sense, administrative systems of group preferences ('affirmative action') are the epitome of modern PC Leftism; monitoring and regulatory guidelines becoming ever more numerous, interactive; concerning smaller units; and penetrating ever-deeper into the capillary level of human life, the interstices of human interaction.

The modern Leftist hero is no longer a spontaneous, self-validating spirit of godlike autonomy but an expert and obedient functionary who has internalized all the rules such as to satisfy all the quotas simultaneously.  


What counts as 'fair' is necessarily very uncertain, given that humans don't really matter anymore; but if the PC Left is unsure about what counts as fair, it is very sure about how fairness should be achieved: fairness is an outcome of abstract process (laws, rules, regulations) that over-ride individual choice.


The Left is no longer about a society based on equally free humans all of whose needs are satisfied - since the PC turn the Left is now about humans being an unfortunate (but perhaps temporary) impediment to the smooth running of impartial administrative systems (which systems currently involve humans, but perhaps temporarily).

It is no longer the job of The System to fit around human desire, as for the sixties radicals; but the job of humans to fit into and support The System.


Something analogous is, of course, also axiomatic in the Gaia worshipping Green Left. The system is Gaia, and humans function mainly to damage this system. What is required from humans is at least support of the Gaian system - but ideally mass suicide.


Th strange thing is that this U-turn is hardly noticed on the Left, even among those (such as the Baby Boomer generation) whose own lives have described the trajectory from valorizing individual freedom, impulse and happiness down to the anti-human abstract impersonality of PC.

In the space of forty years the Leftist Utopia has gone from being a hippy commune of free love, dreamy drugs and idleness; to a politically correct society in which every thought, word and deed are monitored and regulated by bureaucracies that are assumed (on the Left) to be intrinsically benign.

The difference is not subtle: you'd have thought they might have noticed...



Alex said...

Leftism can be seen, for most of its history, as a reaction against Christianity; a denial of the reality of God and a compensatory deification of the human.

Assuming its central principle is egalitarianism, at what date did 'leftism' begin? With the Jacobins of the French Revolution? Or much earlier, let's say with John Ball the Lollard who is associated with the rhyme:

When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?

Was Spartacus a 'lefty' revolutionary? Haven't lefty sentiments been with us since antiquity? Even the tribal societies who existed before the dawn of recorded history have been romanticised as ancient communes.

If my conjectures are correct, 'leftism' pre-dates Christianity by many centuries.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex - in this context I was meaning modern Leftism - post-Rousseau.

The Crow said...

Mass suicide? Indeed. That's the first time I've seen it identified. When survival is so taken for granted, it finally becomes incidental.
I've always been primarily focused on survival, like Noah, taking as many denizens as I can along with me.
While most others lose sight of it completely.
I watch, astonished, at the approaching Grand Guignol.

Uland said...

I wonder if it's possible to describe the change in Leftism from personal liberation to P.C. in terms of the aging process of the boomers who engaged in bringing about 60's radicalism; as they age and are forced to consider their own mortality, the realization that their utopianist designs were faulty has panicked them into eschewing the personal-bent ( it helps that they can't really use it anymore, as they've long ago passed their sexual prime) and has them placing faith in abstract systems.
Their fully indoctrinated children ( who get to enjoy free-sex, and relative wealth as long as they keep the faith) are essentially enforcers.
In the temporal and fleshy idea-space these aging boomers use as their spiritual home, it's impossible to imagine the world going on without them (they really believe only they can save the world), hence the apocalyptic "environmentalism" we're all treated to, as well as fantasies of "social justice".
I don't think we'll ever see a generation pass on with less grace and wisdom than this "liberated" one.

Alex said...

There are some - admittedly none of them thinkers of the first rank - who base their theories of socialism on Christian principles. Here's a very short list.

Robert Owen, the industrialist and one of the founders of the co-operative movement, was one such; R H Tawney, the economic historian, another. Donald Soper, the prominent Methodist, could be described as a leftist spokesman and minister. I understand that Tony Benn, who can be insufferable, calls himself a Christian socialist.

Christian Socialists believe that laws and institutions should be inspired by the values of Christian teaching, and reflect the idea that the Kingdom of God finds its political expression in the policies of socialism. (I paraphrase from the Movement's mission statement.)

While 'lefty-liberalism', mainly by injecting political correctness into the bloodstream of intellectual life, is doubtless the cause of much woe, misdirection, and evil in the modern world, there is a possible case for a marriage of Christian and Socialist principles that is worth investigating, I think.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex - Thanks for reminding me - I am intending to blog on the massive errors of Christian socialism.

I cover some of this in the forthcoming book - I've forgotten, whether I sent you a draft copy? Just e-mail if you want one.

The Crow said...

..."there is a possible case for a marriage of Christian and Socialist principles that is worth investigating, I think..."

Do you really think so? I can't see it.
As a taoist, I see the western idea of taoism almost completely taken over by leftists, using the philosophy (somehow) as a justification for their extreme socialist views. Thus completely bypassing the core concept of balance.
There is even a "Taoist Reform Church", so-called, that takes the teachings of Lao Tzu and changes them to make them "correct". This being done by interpreting what he meant to say, for the plebs who are unable to come up with the "correct" interpretation.
Religion re-written by politics is a very shaky prospect. Whereas politics re-written by religion might well have something going for it.

Anonymous said...

The left thought itself Christian, rather than anti Christian, until sometime in the 1940s or so.

The war on patriarchy started around 1830 or so. Since the old and new testament mandate patriarchy and unequal marriage, this caused a certain amount of stress. After 1940 or so, the stress was resolved as the left became more unitarian universalist: supposedly Christ died for our organic carrots, and all religions, properly understood are equally ways to salvation.

baduin said...

The answer is quite simple: free love etc were the external propaganda, the happy face of the New Left movement.

It proved useful in taking over the left in 1968 - although riots and terrorizing of the opponents were more useful.

However, now the New Left is in control, and naturally it wants to have as much control and possible.

Very often, when a small progressive group strenuously protests against some practice of the ruling Right government, it means that they will implement it with much greater severity - when they themselves are in control.

And this can be usually foreseen based on their beliefs: eg If the drug-using hippies believed that the Consensual Reality could be changed by changing Consensus, it is only natural that the New Left uses all tools in its disposal to change Consensus.

In other words: visions of Utopias are one thing, and actual tools used to construct them - or even to pretend to construct them - another. The tool is always some kind of Machine or System - because there is no other tool in modern civilisation to do anything.

But there is one more problem: both hippy heaven and PC hell are mass beliefs; not what the intellectual leaders of the New Left are thinking.

I do not believe that the intellectual leaders put the PC dogma into motion intended the System or Machine to function. As Heidegger noticed, the easiest way to destroy a powerful Machine is from inside, by building it up until it collapses under its own weight.

For example, Left is explicitly racist: they consider the Community to be the important thing, with one exception of course: white Non-Jewish community.

Obama in his book made some remarks on the value of community in Indonesia - that people there are poor, but function much better thanks to their communitarian spirit. The expression is purely conventional, of course - but it means that this is considered to be obvious on the Left.

Constant attacks on the Whites, together with supporting the communal spirit in all other communities, can have only one effect: gradual growth of White Nationalism. This is of course foreseen: the Left is speaking constantly about Cornpone Nazis or in other ways explaining to White Americans that they are supposed to be Nazi.

The task is difficult, since of course white Americans intensely dislike Nazism, and are inveterate anti-racists. No other tactics could have succeeded - but the present policy of the Left is certain to achieve their aim, since it continually escalates the penalisation of whites, immigration etc.

One can say that this is merely unforeseen consequence: but how can be it unforeseen when the New Left constantly harps on this topic since 1968, when it gained power.

The Social Pathologist said...
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Bruce Charlton said...
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Bruce Charlton said...

@baduin - I'm sorry I don't folow your point; could you re-phrase it perhaps?

baduin said...

"@baduin - I'm sorry I don't follow your point; could you re-phrase it perhaps?"

The second point is that New Left which gained power since 1968 are Hidden Nazis who follow their Nazi Guru Heidegger (except that they consider not Jews, but Whites to be the devil-race - for reasons actually analogous to discussions on this blog).

This can seem a bit unbelievable, I agree. Obviously, this is a topic for a book, not for a comment.

The first, and more relevant point is much simpler:

Revolutionaries when they begin and are in minority usually accuse the rulers of cruelty and propose universal benevolence. Robespierre started his career with an essay arguing against the death penalty.

Robespierre 1791
On the Death Penalty
Speech at the Constituent Assembly, June 22, 1791.

"I come to ask, not the gods, but legislators — who should be the organs and the interpreters of the eternal laws that the divinity dictated to men — to erase from the code of the French the blood laws that command judicial murders, and that their morals and their new constitution reject. I want to prove to them: 1- that the death penalty is essentially unjust and, 2- that it isn’t the most repressive of penalties and that it multiplies crimes more than it prevents them."

"After having completed his law studies, Robespierre was admitted to the Arras bar. The Bishop of Arras, Louis François Marc Hilaire de Conzié, appointed him criminal judge in the Diocese of Arras in March 1782. This appointment, which he soon resigned to avoid pronouncing a sentence of death, did not prevent his practicing at the bar."

"The legend of the ascetic revolutionary, who suffers so much because he hates to cause suffering but believes that this is the only way to a world where no suffering exists, was perhaps begun by Robespierre."

When they are in power, however, they use specifically those method of oppression they railed against, and with much greater intensity that it was the case under the Ancient Regime.

This is connected with modern belief that Good is essentially impotent, and only Evil can give practical results - see Alinsky.

Similarly to death penalty and Robespierre, New Left starts with Antonio Gramsci accusing Capitalists of mind-control through mass-media and culture, and ends with New Class Leftists practicing this themselves.

See Sean Gabb, Cultural Revolution

Anonymous said...

I would say liberalism predates Christianity. Liberalism is like the original sin in the Biblical Genesis story and is the rebellious, sinful fallen nature of humanity. Traditional conservatism is what God or a higher power has ordained (e.g. follow his commadnments). Just as sin seems liberating in the end it leads nothing but slavery and death in the end in the same vein liberalism acts as such.

Anonymous said...

In the space of forty years ... from being a hippy commune ... to a politically correct society in which every thought, word and deed are monitored and regulated by bureaucracies...

Is this surprising?

Hippy: someone who lives-by-rejection of father's values for a sense of 'freedom' where they have no freedom.

Socialist: a rescuer of Rejectors to gain their own sense of 'love' where they have no love.

Communist - a rescuer of Do-gooders to gain a sense of 'truth' where they have no truth.

The end game is the ruling of a society of 'hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil'. Everyone looking away from the other.

Enter stage Right:

Fascist/Islamist - enraged fathers who are no longer fathers but pretend they can be if they only had more rights over women.

Everyone pretending.

Brett Stevens said...

It seems to me that this is a result of anti-hierarchy bias inherent to leftist.

If you do not want a hierarchy, you need an impartial and impersonal system to treat everyone equally.

That makes it a handy substitute for God, culture and family (since leftism essentially trashes the family).