Lately, I’ve once again become interested in the strange thought-animating power of ideology.
I was interested in this subject back in the early 2000s when supporters of the Iraq invasion all began using eerily similar language and logic to express what they believed to be personal opinions. I felt I was watching chattering dummies operated by a dull and malicious divine ventriloquist.
I now have that feeling again, but this time listening to progressivists dittoing out their convictions. If the topic is political, individuality vanishes. They immediately start cranking out progressivist thoughts and passions, expressed in standard jargon and speech patterns, as if stamped out by a machine. If you confront them they respond with the same objections, in matching tones of indignation. For those with qualifying identities, adult tantrums are not only permitted but expected, especially when directed at uppity oppressors who fail to read the room and presume to opine.
I find it all creepy, but also fascinating.
I believe that this loss of intellectual agency is the price of identifying (however unconsciously) with a dominant power and using its dominant ideology to generate one’s political opinions. One gains collective power at the small cost of personal nullification. I know a perspective is supposed to be worth 80 IQ points, but these mass political perspectives subtract 80 points.
Anyway, this renewed interest led me to poke around in Zizek’s first book The Sublime Object of Ideology. Zizek’s discussion of Hegel sent me to Kojeve’s seminal lectures, where I saw this in the foreword, where Aime Patri, a critic of Kojeve, is quoted:
Kojeve is the unknown Superior whose dogma is revered, often unawares, by that important subdivision of the “animal kingdom of the spirit” in the contemporary world — the progressivist intellectuals. In the years preceding the second world war in France, the transmission was effected by means of oral initiation to a group of persons who in turn took the responsibility of instructing others, and so on… M. Kojeve is, so far as we know, the first… to have attempted to constitute the intellectual and moral menage a trois of Hegel, Marx and Heidegger which has since that time been such a great success.
Hegel, Marx and Heidegger — the genetic coding of contemporary progressivist intellectualism?
This might help account for why I’m having so much trouble understanding whether Progressivism is a hard-left equality movement — or a hard-right class supremacist movement seeking total power to administer “equity” among the identities defined in Progressivism’s social taxonomy — a schema which conveniently underplays class, and treats class inequality as a matter of course, perfectly acceptable as long as each class has proportional identity representation. It also excludes from its resource redistribution considerations, equal distribution of political judgment. No, the question of judgment is settled: Progressivism’s judgment is expert consensus, as opposed to the manipulated opinions of an ignorant and degraded public. Of course the entire point of liberal-democracy is to distribute political judgment, but according to emerging Progressivist consensus, when this distribution of judgment threatens liberal-democracy, the responsible thing to do is save liberal-democracy by any effective means — paradoxically, even illiberal and undemocratic means. How paradoxical life is.
Once you view progressivism as a sublation of Marxism and Heideggerianism, though, the left-right ambiguity starts making more sense.