An ideology without a name

An ideology without a name

Culture war? Political correctness? Cancel culture? Our intolerant era resists easy definition. Here are 12 theses to help make sense of it.

Frank Furedi

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In recent weeks, the Culture War has been widely discussed in the media. Yet there is a lack of clarity about what this conflict is about, who started it, and what are the issues at stake. Many activists targeting historical statues or calling into question the intellectual or moral legacy of human civilisation insist that they are not cultural warriors. Their Culture War Denialism coexists with the claim that it is the people who want to protect such statues from acts of vandalism who bear responsibility for unleashing a cultural conflict.

The most striking manifestation of Culture War Denialism is the claim that there is no such thing as cancel culture, and that those who argue otherwise are simply promoting a right-wing myth. An earlier version of Culture War Denialism, during the past decade, was promoted on university campuses by activists who asserted that there was no problem with free speech in higher education. They insisted that the free-speech crisis in universities was a fantasy invented by right-wing ideologues. During the 1980s and 1990s, Culture War Denialism was expressed through the claim that political correctness was a myth. Despite the steady rise in the policing of speech, the censoring of language, and the invention of an entirely new vocabulary of words, it was claimed that there was no truth to the charge of political correctness. Apparently, that, too, was a right-wing myth.

Back in the 1960s there was more clarity about the Culture War. This was the era of the counterculture, and those who supported it had no inhibition about acknowledging that they were vehemently opposed to their society’s culture. However, though supporters of the counterculture knew what they were against, they were far less certain about the culture they wished to endorse. At that time, and in the 1970s, the term counterculture was sometimes referred to as ‘adversarial culture’. Terms like counterculture and adversarial culture, as well terms used later, such as political correctness, lack clarity and precision. They all try to capture and render explicit a variety of implicit assumptions – an ideology without a name. The use of the term cancel culture is but the latest attempt to name a political phenomenon that usually refuses to acknowledge its very existence.

These 12 theses on the Culture War aim to provide a perspective on its genesis and current trajectory:

1) Today’s Culture War has evolved slowly, sometimes hesitatingly, from the 1940s onwards. Its targets were the settled cultural boundaries that distinguished people, nations, families, communities, and religions, in fact anything that distinguished people from one another. It sought to distance people from their cultural affiliations and previous ways of life. To this day, it attempts both to de-territorialise people and detach them from their past.

2) Animosity against cultural boundaries acquired a quasi-ideological quality in the 1940s. Opponents of Western culture and civilisation were particularly hostile to the nation, an institution they held responsible for two world wars. They looked to international institutions, global governance, to solve the problems facing humanity. The most forceful and coherent doctrinal expression of this standpoint can be found in Karl Popper’s book, The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper, along with a significant section of Western cosmopolitans, regarded closed societies – especially nations – as a source of conflict and destruction.

3) Cosmopolitans’ idea of the ‘open society’ was directly contrasted to closed ones. From their perspective, a closed society was one that possessed what they perceived as a tribalist mentality, one that excluded other people from a group. What was at issue was not simply nationality, but any form of private and non-political bonds between people – such as religion, family and community. These bonds were decried on the grounds that they were discriminatory. From the standpoint of the ideology of openness, even citizenship was portrayed as discriminatory. Citizenship violated the principle of openness on the grounds that it was not open to all, providing citizens with rights that were not available to all the people who inhabit the earth.

4) Cutting pre-political bonds between generations and members of a so-called closed community was seen as the pre-requisite for the rise of the modern person. For Popper, this modern individual was what he called an abstract person – someone detached from previous generations and other people, as well as from the past.

5) In reality, a human being cannot exist entirely as an abstraction. We need to possess an identity for ourselves, and indeed we can become peculiarly concerned with personal identity. So the ideology of openness, and the detachment of people from their closed and so-called tribalist existence, creates an unprecedented demand for identity. The subsequent explosion of new identities from the 1960s onwards has seamlessly led to the politicisation of identity. Inventing new identities, or making previously unimportant identities more and more political, is one of the main accomplishments of the imperative of openness.

6) According to the ideology of the open society, the value of openness trumps democracy. Popper was not fond of a democracy based on a closed group of citizens. He argued that democracy often worked to reinforce previously existing loyalties and attachments and resisted opening up society to new values. That is why, for him, the value of openness trumped that of democracy. Opening up communities to the ideology of openness was far more important than people’s democratic rights. That is why he advocated support for an interventionist form of ‘democratic imperialism’, in order to open up closed societies.

7) The transformation of openness into a fundamental cultural value has been one of the principal accomplishments of the ideology without a name. Almost imperceptibly, openness has become transformed into a hegemonic value in the Western world. Openness is now perceived as good in and of itself. However, its objective of detaching society from its previous culture is rarely made explicit as a value. And people’s discomfort with the ideology of openness has too often been silenced.

8) As a value, openness is anything but open. It is certainly not open to accepting democratic decision-making. It does not believe in the open exchange of ideas with individuals who apparently have a closed mentality, or with identities that steadfastly remain connected to their traditional culture.

9) It has taken four or five generations for the values associated with openness, for the ideology without a name, to become ascendant. During this time the old counterculture has become increasingly dominant. In recent years, the terrain of the Culture Wars – which was for a long time confined to educational and cultural institutions – has expanded to the private sector. The ease with which companies and other private institutions have internalised formerly countercultural norms shows that there are very few obstacles standing in the way of the triumph of the ideology without a name. The speed with which this new war on the past, this war on the legacy of Western culture, has accelerated this year illustrates this point.

10) It is only now that this ideology has finally acquired a recognisable form and a provisional name: cancel culture. We have had to wait around 80 years for this in many ways confusing term to emerge. However, unlike previous terms – counterculture, adversarial culture, etc – ‘cancel culture’ at least draws attention to the corrosive impact and hegemonic role of the ideology that previously had no name. Those in charge of ‘cancelling’ are not the contemporary equivalent of 1960s hippies and student radicals; the cancellers are the elites, they run many of the key institutions of society.

One reason why the term cancel culture has finally emerged is that, in recent times, the ideology that underpins it has become more explicit and clear about its objectives. For example, the 1619 Project of the New York Times constitutes an ambitious programme of de-legitimating the so-called American Way of Life – attempting to locate the nation’s birth not with the Declaration of Independence, but with the arrival of slaves. It does not merely demand the change of a name, or a pronoun – the 1619 Project demands a change in how Americans think about their nation and about history. Through waging a war against the legacy of the founding of America, and more widely of the legacy of human civilisation, opposition to Western culture has acquired a systematic ideological form.

11) Even now there is a reluctance to take the Culture War seriously. Advocates of opening up everything and calling into question all civilisational accomplishments insist that they are not fighting a Culture War. Like the Germans who, when they invaded Poland, argued that it was the Polish who started it, advocates of the ‘open society’ point the finger of blame at their opponents. They accuse Trump of stoking up the fire of the Culture War, and present themselves as the innocent victims of malicious right-wing culture warriors.

12) Despite their hegemonic status, proponents of this ideology are far from confident or secure. They do not understand why millions of people want to hold on to their cultural traditions and reject the globalist vision of an open world. The rise of populism in recent years has unnerved these new elites, which is why they have stepped up their efforts to cancel their opponents. They are determined to prevent a repetition of a setback like Brexit, and as far as they are concerned the Culture War is only beginning.

Unfortunately, their determination to press on is not matched by those who oppose cancel culture. It is necessary not simply to respond to and fight back against cancel culture, but to take the initiative and go on the offensive. What is at stake is the intellectual and cultural legacy of human civilisation. Surely this precious legacy is worth fighting for?

Frank Furedi’s Why Borders Matter: Why Humanity Must Relearn The Art of Drawing Boundaries is published by Routledge.

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Comments

Christopher Tyson

17th July 2020 at 10:28 pm

If you go to a pet shop you’ll see stuff like tall posts for your cat to scratch its nails on or wheels for your hamster, and so on, these simulation devices are outlets for their animal instincts. I think that conflict and confrontation are fundamentally part of the human experience and what drives people to get out of bed and do things. Apocalyptic visions are as old as human consciousness, but it seems to me just as scary to imagine a world of passive, apathetic people, people who don’t stand for anything or stand up for anything or don’t believe in anything. I’m sure that most would agree with me, if a friend or relative lost that spark we would be concerned.
I don’t believe that we have reached the end of politics, but we have reached a stage in history where we can imagine the end of politics, where we can imagine what that would look like. Many divisions remain, and on Frank Furedi’s theme; there this is an ideological divide, but more and less than that. In the words of Pink Floyd it’s ‘us and them’ or the haves and have nots, or an expression of, or a substitute for the need for clear distinction, a basis for understanding the word and ourselves.
So many of our disputes today, when we look behind the smoke and mirrors, seem trivial or concocted, the political narrative ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. There are genuine conflicts, and there may be terrible troubles ahead, there usually are, but I thing that existential ennui needs to be taken into account.

John Hurley

17th July 2020 at 9:07 am

That is brilliant. The Labour Government in NZ (1986) decided that “diversity had been of immense value in the past and would be even more so in the future” …… “it was some years before there was a recognition of just what this meant”. Then it was all on: “But Mr Brown, many of those Asians will have been born in New Zealand” (heated journalist interviewing Peter Brown of NZ First Party). Essentially resistance is racist. Defending a status quo – a nation with a common identity- is like defending pedophilia.

Graham Southern

16th July 2020 at 3:52 pm

The name of the ideology is Marxism, which in its modern form a manifestation of nihilism. ‘Counter culture’, or whatever else you want to call it, is just a tool to close down opposition.

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steve moxon

16th July 2020 at 2:39 pm

Frank Furedi is STILL, even now in denial about the Left origin — and it goes back to the 1920s, not the 1940s — and pretends he can’t tell the difference between ‘PC’ (the mode of enforcing conformity to the politics and the politics itself (which does have a name, ‘identity politics’, which it has had since the early 1970s).
SEE: THE ORIGIN OF ‘IDENTITY POLITICS’ & ‘POLITICAL CORRECTNESS’: Not Consideration for Minorities but Hatred Towards the Mass of Ordinary People; Specifically ‘the Workers’ — Tracing the Roots of Why and How it Arose and Developed Reveals the Greatest Political Fraud in History’.
SUMMARY:
‘Identity politics’ — often or even usually dubbed ‘political correctness’, though it’s not the same thing, having a different, parallel origin; PC is the mode of enforcement of ‘identity politics’, as in speech codes and cancel culture — is the result of a political-Left major backlash against the mass of ordinary people (in Europe and ‘the West’), beginning in the 1920s, in the wake of the persistent failure of Marxist theory to be realised in European ‘revolution’ or any real change through democracy. In shifting the blame away from Marxist theory and its adherents, and on to those the theory had prescribed and predicted would have been the beneficiaries — the workers (if only they had responded accordingly) — then the cognitive-dissonance within the political-left mindset caused by this crisis to an extent was salved. [It is NOT at all the same as what the Left mistakenly term ‘the politics of identity’ to tag the new movements against the elite, on the false assumption that they are essentially nationalistic and ‘white backlash’. Trump and Brexit triumphed because the general populace have come to realise that the government-media-education elite has an unwarranted profound contempt for if not hatred towards them; and, therefore hardly is liable to act in their interests.]
The intellectual rationalisation was to build on false notions of Engels (co-author with Marx of The Communist Manifesto) that ‘capitalism’ created the family and ‘false consciousness’, by theorising mechanisms of how ‘the workers’ were somehow prevented from revolting. This was by invoking Freud’s now comprehensively discredited notion of ‘repression’, first to attempt to explain a supposed impact on ‘the workers’ of ‘capitalism’ acting within the context of the family. With most workers (the group considered the principal ‘agents of social change’ in a ‘revolution’) being male, then the theoreticians had in mind the male as ‘head’ of the family. It was a simple extension in political-Left imagination for ‘the worker’ to change from being the putative conduit of the impact of ‘capitalism’ to its embodiment, leaving by default women to be deemed a replacement supposed ‘oppressed’ and ‘disadvantaged’ ‘group’. The false notion of ‘repression’ was also considered in a wider sense to produce ‘false consciousness’ in the ‘proletariat’, supposedly obscuring what was in their own best interests.
This implausible and unfalsifiable non-scientific nonsense mainly festered within academia until circa 1968 the New Left in the USA, spurred by, indeed aping the Chinese ‘cultural revolution’, co-opted a movement which, though having nothing do do with the Left, appeared to be akin to the revolutionary activity predicted by Marxism: US ‘civil rights’. This added to the ‘new oppressed’ another category, which like that of women could be envisaged as an inversion of a retrospective stereotype of ‘the worker’. In the wake of the similarly seeming revolutionary Stonewall riots of 1969, the ‘gay rights’ lobby also was co-opted (again, despite having had nothing to do with the Left) to further add by inversion to the abstract demonised aspects of ‘the worker’, thereafter retrospectively stereotyped as male plus ‘white’ plus heterosexual.
This prizing into the role of being emblematic of Marxist struggle naturally rendered the specific conflicts more generalisable, allowing expansion into more widely encompassing categories. US Afro-Americans, in being championed as the ‘ethnic minority’ supposed warriors of the Left thereby meant anyone generically of an ‘ethnic minority’ was deemed to belong to the club. Likewise, ‘gays’ became generic ‘homosexuals’. The problem thereby arose of false identification. The category non-white / ethnic minority includes such as migrant Indians and Chinese, who by no criteria are ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘oppressed’. Likewise lesbians drawn into the category homosexual. As for women, by objective, non-ideological analysis, women are privileged, as they are bound to be with the female being the limiting factor in reproduction. As has been regularly pointed out, Western middle-class women are the most privileged large ‘group’ in history. The ‘groups’ are far too heterogeneous to be in reality ‘oppressed’ or ‘disadvantaged’, providing a window on the sophistry and origin of this politics as other than it purports.
The strands of the ‘new oppressed’ naturally combined as a new (neo-Marxist) conceptualisation to account for these political shifts after the fact, which came to be termed identity politics (or more pejoratively though actually more accurately, cultural Marxism). The deemed ‘groups’ replacing ‘the workers’ subsequently were not only expanded in their scope but added to — by the disabled, the elderly, trans-sexuals, the obese … . Again, all are abstractions rather than groups per se. This relentless expansion and then the use and abuse of these mis-identifications of under-privilege by educated individuals belonging to one or more of the categories, has been dubbed ‘the oppression olympics’, making ‘identity politics’ a gravy train for the already privileged, serving actually to substantially increase inequality. Worse still, it is an instrument of oppression against the very ‘group’ perennially disadvantaged and the victim of prejudice, which formerly had been identified as worthy of the liberation Marxism promised: the vast majority of (necessarily lower-status) men — ‘the workers’. This was the whole point of the political development, of course.

Claire D

16th July 2020 at 2:34 pm

Throughout history Britain has always been divided in one way or another;

Yorkists vs Lancastrians
North vs South
Catholics vs Protestants
Protestants vs Dissenters
Royalists vs Roundheads
Tories vs Whigs
Conservatives vs Socialists

I think it is true that the aftershock of the two World Wars formed a generation of liberal idealists who were also dismissive of the previous generation’s values and traditions. A young male relative of mine, in the 1970s, told his parents he’d never fight in any war, they were kind enough not to point out that they had not been fortunate enough to have any choice in the matter.
People will always find something to fight about, unless they sedate themselves with decadent things like drugs, overeating and sex ual shenanigans. I would say that those things, amongst others, have worked for 70 odd years, but with the arrival of social media, not any more. Intolerance, prejudice and a staggering self-righteousness have developed amongst the so-called Left Liberal elite and their adherents when they lost the 2016 referendum, made worse by losing the December 2019 GE, and inflamed, if you’ll forgive the pun, by the COVID 19 crisis.
Welcome to 2020.

John Dixon

16th July 2020 at 2:33 pm

Popper would surely, as a champion of individual freedom, have had no truck with ‘cancel culture.’ And as the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out in its exposition of his political philosophy, he WAS somethging of a Burkeian traditionalist: ”Evidence of Popper’s conservatism can be found in his opposition to radical change. His critique of utopian engineering at times seems to echo Edmund Burke’s critique of the French Revolution. Burke depicted the bloodletting of the Terror as an object lesson in the dangers of sweeping aside all institutions and traditions overnight and replacing them with an abstract and untested social blueprint. Also like Burke and other traditional conservatives, Popper emphasized the importance of tradition for ensuring order, stability and well-functioning institutions. People have an inherent need for regularity and thus predictability in their social environment, Popper argued, which tradition is crucial for providing. However, there are important differences between Popper’s and Burke’s understanding of tradition. Popper included Burke, as well as the influential 20th-century conservative Michael Oakeshott, in the camp of the “anti-rationalists.” This is because “their attitude is to accept tradition as something just given”; that is, they “accept tradition uncritically” (Conjectures and Refutations, 120, 122, Popper’s emphasis). Such an attitude treats the values, beliefs and practices of a particular tradition as “taboo.” Popper, in contrast, advocated a “critical attitude” toward tradition (Ibid., Popper’s emphasis). “We free ourselves from the taboo if we think about it, and if we ask ourselves whether we should accept it or reject” (Ibid.). Popper emphasized that a critical attitude does not require stepping outside of all traditions, something Popper denied was possible. Just as criticism in the sciences always targets particular theories and also always takes place from the standpoint of some theory, so to for social criticism with respect to tradition. Social criticism necessarily focuses on particular traditions and does so from the standpoint of a tradition. In fact, the critical attitude toward tradition is itself a tradition — namely the scientific tradition — that dates back to the ancient Greeks of the 5th and 6th century B.C.E.”

Thomas Rainsborough

16th July 2020 at 12:38 pm

It is interesting that the philosophical target of the article is Karl Popper who in ‘The Open Society’ attacked the totalitarian and historicist political traditions which he identified with Plato and later Hegel and Marx. The first twowere advocates of a particular form of social identity – namely aristocratic Athens (as Plato thought it should be, not as it was) and the evolving Prussian state. Marx admittedly was an internationalist, but mainly because he saw a different form of identity – classes – as the foundation of historical progress.

The “Openness” of Popper’s society was a sort of Vienna-circle flavoured, Mill-influenced place where “open” referred to a sort of communal mental state where conflict and resolution through reason prevailed rather than a crude Marxist view of a global working class which was in part oppressed by national conflict fought in the interests of whichever version of the ruling class was in power at the time.

I would regard the current cancel culture as rather more neo-Maoist in its desire to instill constant guilt and subservience and in the complete lack of any coherent theme apart from anger and the desire for power. Its cult of youth is typical of most totalitarian enterprises, Hitler Youth, Lenin’s Young Pioneers, Mao’s Red Guards, the SNP, because young people are far more gullible and easily led than their seniors who have usually (Corbyn notwithstanding) gained a carapace of cynicism by their late 20s.

While I doubt if the “leadership” of this current cult (which if it is anywhere is in those academic areas where reason, evidence and coherence can be replaced by slogans and abuse of power and very narrow thinking) actually has any coherent ideas, the modus operandi is clear – Gain power by humiliating anyone who accepts or agrees with any traditional way of thinking (hence “Maths is racist” – no-one told poor old Ramanujan, Shimura and the rest) and invariably move rapidly from the arguably reasonable (removal of slave trader statue – although without any consideration of what else the man may have done) to the utterly unreasonable (removal of statues of Churchill, Lincoln, Gladstone or Alfred Douglass) and the demand for absolute agreement and subservience. Similarly, prioritize specific unusual and atypical instances (death of George Floyd) and ignore collateral damage to actual innocent people resulting directly from your own actions (huge rise in number of murdered black people in Chicago, New York and other US cities).

The objective is to make everyone guilty at all times, and publication of this guilt will result in a ruined life for the trsansgressor, their family and potentially friends. Unfortunately, the UK education system has substituted rote parotting of “correct answers” for critical thinking and evaluation of competing arguments so that the uneducated products of non-STEM courses at universities don’t even have the notion of assessing different points of view.

Mor Vir

16th July 2020 at 1:09 pm

“The “Openness” of Popper’s society was a sort of Vienna-circle flavoured, Mill-influenced place where “open” referred to a sort of communal mental state where conflict and resolution through reason prevailed”

Did Popper not preach an ‘intolerance of intolerance’? If so then he is talking about the forcible imposition of ‘open’ values not a polite exercise in reason, and ‘cancel culture’ and BLM are very much in line with both Popper’s ‘open’ project and with the forcible imposition of ‘openness’ that he advocated.

Btw, I disagree with the distinction between Colston and Churchill, as if the one and not the other can be criticised for ‘racism, imperialism, brutality’ or whatever. The only real difference is that Colston was a privateer and Churchill a PM, apart from that they are both entirely open to criticism and contempt according to modern standards, the one as much as the other. If anything, the standards of leaders is more important than those of privateers, and more symbolic of the standards of the society in which they lived, which is really the issue. If we are going to war with the past then that is what we are doing, no exceptions. Colston is an easy target, easy virtue-signalling on the part of the society – Churchill, Nelson and Cromwell are the ‘prize’ hits and it is only a matter of time. If Colston must fall then so must Churchill.

Btw. totally agree about the modern ‘guilt’ thing, it is quasi-religious and ludicrous. But it all comes back to Popper, and to forcible ‘intolerance of intolerance’ in its varied forms. Thanks.

christopher barnard

16th July 2020 at 12:18 pm

Political correctness, general ‘liberal’ intolerance and the cancel culture have grown greatly over a period when there has been a large transfer of better educated and more intelligent people from the private, wealth making sector to the public sector. Our universities, schools,councils and health service now employ a bigger proportion of the workforce than previously. Quangos, charities and the subsidised ‘arts’ now employ many taxpayer funded people too.

We have created a large new class of insular and politically and economically naive people who are convinced their opinions are especially important and they often have a low opinion of the rest of us and our opinions.

Mor Vir

16th July 2020 at 11:34 am

Interesting stuff. The trends that Frank has specified are undeniable; the trajectory is up for interpretation as to why it has happened. Frank describes its ideational genesis and progress without historical and materialist hermeneutic, as developments and combat in the realm of ideas. I will contribute that part, and introduce some skepticism about whether the development is ‘good or bad’ and what it ‘means’ if anything.

I have termed it post-imperialist bourgeois ideology, though ‘open’ also sheds light. The historical context post-1945 (the date that Frank specifies with the publication of The Open Society) is the end of European imperialism, especially the British Empire, and the military and ideological defeat of nationalist, imperialist National Socialism, which ideologically very much resembled the British Empire.

The world is reconfigured not just ideologically but materially post-WWII. The old imperialist powers become materially dependent on ‘openness’, inward m igration to expand the workforce and domestic markets. The old metropolic borders and delimitations of identity, culture and citizenship no longer facilitate the expansion of capital.

The West now imposes on itself the sort of population and cultural shift that it previously imposed on the rest of the world, when it facilitated the expansion of capital to do it to others. (The golden rule, karma?) Liberal capitalism is triumphant and the globe, and its metropoles, are post-imperialist spheres of capital accumulation. ‘UK Plc.’

The old national and imperialist material and ideological configuration was also historically located, not timeless; the national state is a 19th c. capitalist construct, along with national identity, culture and citizenship, which itself was destructive of local identity, culture and belonging; the land clearances, the growth of the urban centres.

The wider historical perspective is the development of capitalism out from feudalism, through nationalism and imperialism and into a post-imperialist, globalised and ‘open’ capitalism, and the constant remoulding of identity, culture and belonging as the material base goes through stages of capitalist development. That brief sketch will have to do for now.

But is that ideational development ‘good or bad’? If it is simply attendant to material development then it is a matter of ‘get over it’. This or that microscopic ideational development (eg. g ay marriage, t rans) can be contested but the overall trajectory is a given: the dissolution of the old identities and the emergence of newer, pliant and dispersed identities.

Moreover, each idea and value system – about identity, culture, belonging, whatever -, by which one might evaluate the development in its aspects, is itself attendant to a stage of historical, material development. One can criticise the present from the ideas and values of the past, or one can criticise the past from the ideas and values of the present. There is no ahistorical, detached, absolute or ‘meta’, ‘super’ perspective from which to evaluate the temporally delimited ideas and value systems.

Pre-1950’s, the attendant ideological configuration had also come to be, it was a temporally delimited set of ideas around identity, culture and belonging that could also be criticised from the perspective of former instances (eg. feudalism, romanticism), and the past could be criticised from that present instance. The 1940’s ideological configuration does not function as an absolute criterion of criticism; there is no such criterion, rather each instance presents itself as a temporally located and delimited criterion, the import of which is relative to its moment.

So, the broader historical situation in which the West finds itself, and increasingly the rest of the world, is one of intense flux, the constant instability and development of ideology – about identity, culture, belonging, whatever – as society economically develops. The ideational flux becomes apparent, even stark. It can take on existential connotations: the disintegration of ‘meaning, value and purpose’ as all criteria appear as superficial and transitional, even as ‘attendant’.

One might term it an existential ‘fin de millénaire’ as opposed to merely a pessimistic ‘fin de siècle’. Nietzsche warned that it was on the horizon, the ‘mad man’ in the market place (capitalist development). ‘Man is a tight rope, a going over, a going under, never a standing still.’ ‘Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.’

Graham Southern

16th July 2020 at 3:56 pm

Drop the 19th century Marxist dogma and the 21st century world will appear in a much clearer light.

Mor Vir

16th July 2020 at 4:17 pm

Sure, Jesus is coming back soooooooon……….

Do tell us what the ‘dogmas’ were.

Graham Southern

16th July 2020 at 4:54 pm

I’m not particularly up on Christian or Marxist dogma, I’m agnostic.

Mor Vir

16th July 2020 at 5:23 pm

Thanks for the chat.

Mor Vir

18th July 2020 at 4:00 pm

OK, in brief: was I dogmatic there?

It is an ironic charge as the import of the argument was skeptical, resting as it did on the discrepancy of opinion, nay on the relativity of temporally delimited idea and value systems to historical, material development. The criterion of evaluation is thus reduced to a participant to the dispute and the import of evaluation is delimited to the historical, material moment.

But is the historical materialism dogmatic? That is a charge worth considering. In defence I would argue that the attendance of ideological phenomena to the needs of the historically developing material base is empirically verifiable. That attendance is not ‘magical’, it is mediated through the economic state that is established precisely for that purpose. Thus there is nothing esoteric or dogmatic about it.

So my drift was skeptical and my argument was logical and it drew on empirical observation. I find the charge of dogmatism unproven.

Puddy Cat

16th July 2020 at 11:04 am

Blame it on jive talk, private affiliation and obscurity amongst the general melee. Today people have an urge to damn convention, appropriation, while having no problem with attaching. To belong is to conform. But it also demands that you have attributes and give of yourself. Public service is now anathema because somewhere down the path is the state.

The country of Liberia was stated to be a home for ex-slaves. That place has known as much upheaval and incontinence as any other place on earth. Coups, violence, mistrust and tyrants. To have been a slave, to be the same colour, as of itself, is no escape from dissonance.

The toleration of the use of country of origin in self identification, classification, as an identifier in an adopted land, seems to be the maintenance of an escape network rather than the fastness of cultural affiliation; it signifies a lack of commitment to the cause to which one has volunteered. Once you may have been wrenched from a culture of which you now have no direct understanding, an attachment to tribe and rite being about as useful in the modern world as speaking Welsh.

This otherness, this, I might stay if things go my way, is something that has to be disliked by the indigenous population who are here for the long term, have to make things work and have to have trust in the systems of state, the legislature and its functions. As it is a their own certain future that they support. Whereas, for some, it boils down to, i’ll see. If it goes my way…

The attributions to bullying, racism, so many incidentals of modern life are escape mechanisms for people who have lost the knack of finding their own way made all the more insidious by being a personal interpretation of feelings and therefore subject to something that the law cannot embody.

This is a curious turn. As the Red Wall voters aptly demonstrated. The idea of being supported cradle to grave, giving-over your identity for a peaceful life, has accidentally demonstrated that what makes people thrive is storm and stress. What makes people proud is looking back on their own achievements gained from the use of a historically engineered and totally supportive state which gains its fame, security, wealth from those who it has granted the concept of self-improvement and therefore, opportunity to.

Somewhere along the line we lost the idea of ambition and chose instead jealousy. Overwhelming people with state aid, state support, the minutia of individual life management aroused the idea of money for nothing and equality as of right. Touchy-feely conceptions that need the advocacy of a monarch in private conclave rather that state, civil service and judiciary. The granting of places at our top universities to people who do not meet what should be established criteria only shifts the moment of criticality. From being thought of as being deficient unsuited, to a later time. To be granted a place without the record of competence threatens indirect discrimination later in the inability to compete at the higher level or even to interact.

People once identified themselves with collar pins and wristbands. The catalogue of causes and the suggestion of provenance. Today society is pushing towards that age when, if asked, you showed an affiliation contrary to the questioner’s stance may have meant death. We see a transference of selfish sentiment in the campaigning for others.

The middle class activist, brought up in security, when faced with the real world, honestly believes that they are being in some way militated against and yearn for whatever it was their parents had. Yes, that must have been war, deprivation, the command economy, poor health and the Cold War. Little do they know. But being middle class and provided for, it is so easy to transmute your advantages by hiding behind the half digested and culturally inappropriate circumstances of strangers and a mass at that!

Paul MacDonnell

16th July 2020 at 10:54 am

‘Opponents of Western culture and civilisation were…hostile to the nation, an institution they held responsible for two world wars….The most forceful and coherent doctrinal expression of this standpoint can be found in Karl Popper’s book, The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper…regarded closed societies – especially nations – as a source of conflict and destruction.’

Huh? The author may be correct about the assault on Western civilisation but, in choosing Popper as a leading intellectual example of those responsible, he merely proves that not just ideological hostility but ignorance – in this case his own – is a big part of the problem.

Far from being an intellectual enemy of enlightenment values Popper is their principal intellectual defender since 1945. Here’s why:

1. His philosophy of science – that science is the business of positing theories and then seeking to refute them described better than anyone the process of rational enquiry that takes place when scientists work. Theories are never provable but a good theory is one that has withstood more attempts to disprove it which have failed.

2. His Open Society and it’s Enemies is a political corollary to this doctrine. By ‘Open Society’ Popper doesn’t mean, as Furedi implies, some kind of globalism. He means a society where the people can challenge orthodoxy at the ballot box and by free inquiry. Popper’s vision of falseifiability as a necessary attribute to any theory or, for that matter, political doctrine did not make him, as Furedi implies, a relativist. It made him a critical rationalist. As in science we have to allow experiments to be done and to fail so in politics we allow governments to advance programmes for government and to be removed by the ballot box.

Nobody who reads his book can take away the idea he blamed ‘nations’ for world war II. The Open Society is divided into two parts. The first part deals with Plato and his followers through the ages who, he argues, were the ultimate intellectual underpinnings of the fascist state. The second part deals with Hegel, Marx and addresses precisely the source of intellectual and moral confusion that has bedevilled the 20th century – the kind that Spiked is so interested in.

Principally, Popper attacks Hegel’s method of dialectical reasoning which by the way is the source code of ALL left-wing thought – from Marx to Robin diAngelo. Here’s a paraphrase of what he says about this on pages 27 and 28 of the book:

‘Hegel is the source of all contemporary historicism and he was a follower of Heraclitus, Plato, and Aristotle. His powerful dialectical methods ‘proved’ all sorts of things – e.g. that the planets must move according to Kepler’s laws. He deduced that there could be no planet between Mars and Jupiter (he hadn’t noticed that just such a planet had just been discovered)…That such a powerful philosophical method was taken seriously is a sign of the backwardness of German natural sciences in those days.

…It was dialectics’ universal applicability that ensured his success – it gave the impression of enabling access to deeper mysteries – the method that replaced ‘barren formal logic’….It was the beginning of the age of dishonesty and irresponsibility, of a new age controlled by magic-sounding jargon.

Popper defined Closed Societies those societies that were hostile to foreigners or trade with foreigners or which were run by priestly or warrior castes who were held to be the sole guardians of truth.

I have never seen such a misrepresentation of Popper. Speaking personally when I try to explain to people where the left has gone wrong it is always Popper I turn to first.

Finally Popper’s Open Society is an analogue to Hayek’s work. Hayek, likewise, believed in a doctrine of falsifiability, in this case the necessity for businesses to be allowed to fail. Both Popper an Hayek dedicated books to each other and, for what it’s worth, both thinkers are widely known to have been the intellectual basis for the Thatcher revolution launched by Thatcher, Keith Joseph, and the IEA, amongst others.

There may be sociologists who can present Popper in his proper light but they are not, for reasons that support Furedi’s broad analysis, the first part of academia I would turn to.

Gareth Roberts

16th July 2020 at 10:28 am

Interesting article. There is obviously a widespread, obsessive, belief among “progressives” that war is caused by nationalism. Every biologist knows that most animals are territorial, and will fight members of their own species for control of territory. Our ancestors were fighting each other for “lebensraum” before they were human.

One obvious question – why the obsession with repudiating Western culture, but not others? When are islam, bhuddism and voodoo going to be cancelled?

CJ Hawes

16th July 2020 at 9:40 am

There’s a lot of noise around all of this at present that gives the impression that the lunatics are running the asylum. They need keys for that and they are safely in the hands of the democratic system. It may gather momentum in the future and if by then the cause is defined and democratically accepted then so be it. I doubt this will happen but if you can pursuade the majority of the nation that it is mentally ill there is an opening.

George Whale

16th July 2020 at 12:19 pm

Culture precedes politics, and presently the anti-English left controls the media, education, NGOs, the public sector, and is now aggressively closing down dissenters. Spiked is one the few critical voices as yet ungagged.

Helen Star

16th July 2020 at 9:35 am

Comments under this article may vanish down the memory hole without trace leaving casual readers with the impression everyone agrees with Frank.

Brandy Cluster

16th July 2020 at 9:30 am

You are taking the left way too seriously. Most of them have the processing skills of a Commodore 64 computer from 1980.

George Whale

16th July 2020 at 12:22 pm

You’ll take them seriously too, when you get sacked from your job for crimespeak.

Jerry Owen

16th July 2020 at 8:53 am

We had the ‘long march through the institutions’ of the left, the Marxists.
Before the march they didn’t control of the institutions, now they do.
It’s ideology clearly had to change perspective from one of no control to one with unlimited control.
It is no longer a rebellious cause, socialism / Marxism is no longer a rebellion against the system .. it is the system. It is now the ‘rebel without a cause’.
It is inward looking, it is lost. It has power, and that power has corrupted the mighty theoretical ideals of socialism.. yet again !

George Whale

16th July 2020 at 8:38 am

I’m confused. Does Spiked still support communism, open borders and mass immigration, or not?

Gareth Edward KING

16th July 2020 at 8:32 am

Unfortunately, the ‘rise’ of populism has been far less aggressive than the grabs being advanced by ‘cancel culture’. Trump and Brexit are phenomena from 2016; in the Spanish press the ‘indignados’ from 2011 which formed the basis for Podemos, now a minority party in the PSOE-UP governmental debacle, are still described as ‘populist’ which they most certainly are not. In recent regional elections in Spain they plonked. But are Vox, as the ascendent ‘far right’, populists? For sure, they don’t support the cultural war, in fact, good on them that their stance on separatism in Spain (Catalonian and Basque regions) has earned them one seat in conservative Álava (Basque). The so-called ‘left’ is engaged in a big way with social engineering whether it’s their ‘war’ on drunk tourists (‘guerra’ is their term) in the Balearics, and so criticising their very source of income, or their aggressive insistence on the use of muzzles at all times and so ruining the very essence of ‘Madrid night life’: Clubs and discos are open without a dance floor! There are no music or comedy venues open. In Madrid! Vox has taken a very strong stand on ‘gender violence’ which is an attack on white, working class males; the press at the moment is frothing at the mouth over ONE group of four rapists who attacked a 19-year old girl. Anybody would think it was a general problem.

Jerry Owen

16th July 2020 at 8:26 am

They haven’t suffered the set back of Brexit yet…it’s still on going. I am leaning to the view it may well not happen or may in the not too distant future be reversed.
‘The ideology without a name is probably best described as cultural Marxism. It has morphed over the decades into something other than what it started out to be, possibly unrecognizably so, It has ‘modernised’ and found new agendas, but ultimately it has never persuaded public support, hence it’s bitter destructive rather than constructive ideology.
It is an ideology of punishment for those it never won support from in the past, ie the masses, and especially the white male working classes who they needed more than anyone else to build their Utopia.
I’m afraid this ideology has socialism stamped all over it, the people who support this ideology give the game away, we see them on the streets XR, BLM etc, ninety per cent will claim to be socialist or left leaning.
Socialism never ends well, this is another example in the making.
Conservatism (small C ) is the way forwards in that we keep everything and only replace it with upgrades and not downgrades which socialism has a record of repeating unfortunately.
Marxism/socialism needs to revise itself for the needs of the people of this era and not what it thinks the people need, this is why it will always fail.
Give the people what they want and your on a winner, socialist ideology needs to compromise, untill that time arises I’ll give it a miss.

Jerry Owen

16th July 2020 at 8:29 am

…socialist ideology needs to compromise.. * and more importantly it needs to listen to those it wishes to represent *.. etc.

Helen Star

16th July 2020 at 9:21 am

A statue of a wealthy slaver stands for 150 years.

One day it’s removed to make way for a new truck park as Brexit Britain is booming. Millions more trucks in the U.K. and lots of road building.

No one cares the statue is removed. Nothing to do with “cultural Marxism”. No one under 18 is asked if they want the statue removed.

Not one teenager in Ashford has been asked if they want a new lorry park, of course. ‘Like it or lump it”. No one outside Kent gives a monkeys.

Jerry Owen

16th July 2020 at 9:40 am

Helen
Clarify your post, i don’t understand what your point is.

Philip Humphrey

16th July 2020 at 10:00 am

I agree that “cultural Marxism ” is the most appropriate term. But mention it to a leftist and they’ll instantly dismiss the idea of “cultural Marxism” as a conspiracy theory. They have a little narrative meme to explain it away just as they do for everything else. Of course it isn’t a conspiracy theory, cultural Marxism is a set of evolving but incoherent and irrational beliefs that has developed over many decades.

George Whale

16th July 2020 at 12:24 pm

Or ‘myth’ – that’s the other term they apply to inconvenient reality.

Ellen Whitaker

16th July 2020 at 2:34 am

If I had read this article 5 years ago, I might have thought that it sounded far-fetched.

Jerry Owen

16th July 2020 at 8:59 am

It still is. not a mention of cultural Marxism anywhere !
Spiked is staffed by ‘socialists’ of one degree or another which is fair enough, but to erase the legacy of the ‘long march’ from all of this is somewhat disingenuous.

Philip Humphrey

16th July 2020 at 9:17 am

It was only four years ago I thought PC/”wokeness”/cancel culture had been roundly defeated with the brexit vote and with the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. How wrong I was. Objectively it has suffered further defeats most recently with the election of Boris Johnson. And yet we seem to be getting nowhere. I think the article is right, all who genuinely believe in liberty and free speech must go on the offensive. I think that involves taking on “woke” institutions like the BBC and many of the universities and “defunding” them of all licence payers and taxpayers money. And we must press for legislation on free speech, with any limits such as slander or direct incitement to violence very tightly defined so it cannot be abused by activist judges. I see it as a question of slowly draining the swamp to allow democracy to finally win.

Helen Star

16th July 2020 at 9:29 am

But you was alive 25 years ago and living in the U.K., right? Life then, with all its absurdities?

I can remember Section 28 but sometimes I google it to confirm I didn’t just imagine it.

I used to work in a newspaper distribution warehouse – day after day of exposure to middle England’s thinking. Before the Internet too, so a teenager who objected to the latest bit of moronic nonsense or lies from a middle class Mail or Sun journalist had no way to get their voice heard apart from writing a letter to the editor which had zero chance of being printed. What a big brother society that was – millions of voices had been cancelled without anyone even noticing. The average warehouse worker around me no more likely to pen a letter to the editor of the Mail or Evening Standard than fly to the moon.

Jerry Owen

16th July 2020 at 9:48 am

Helen Star
How many letters from people were ever printed in the press ?.. don’t play the down trodden victim. ‘Millions of voices cancelled’ what utter drivel. They only ever had a page given over to readers letters so the chances of anyone getting a letter published was virtually zero.
The masses had other forms of being heard.. the miners strike, Grunwick, the poll tax etc.. millions of voices heard all the time, way more powerful than getting a letter printed.

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Deplorables — a spiked film