Category Archives: Politics

Cosmopolitan provincialism

Marxism never did manage to establish international working class solidarity.

The working class of the early twentieth century was too widely dispersed and separated by physical distance and culture. Individual workers had no opportunities to form interpersonal relationships with workers from other nations. Interconnecting technologies were lacking. National identities turned out to be a much stronger social bond among workers than common economic interests, and this fact was exploited to extremes by the national socialist fascists of the mid-20th century.

But where the working class failed to form international solidarity, we, the international managerial class, have succeeded. We have formed a very strong international class with shared economic interests, our own globalist ideology, our own shared cosmopolitan culture, our own shared corporation-friendly values — and, most of all, techno-social networks of interpersonal relationships spanning national boundaries.

By strong, I mean two things. 1) We feel much stronger loyalty to fellow managerial class members who share our culture than other of different classes within our own nations. And as a class we are overwhelmingly strong — so strong, in fact, that we no longer feel any need to pretend to respect the beliefs or lifestyles of those of the lower classes. We invent who they are and what they think and why they are, and do and say and think. We despise their religions, their loyalties, their aesthetic values. We despise them as people.

Consequently, the working class hates us. They hate us the way all oppressed people hate their oppressors.

The international managerial class believes, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that we are leftist.

After all, leftism has always been international.

But what the international managerial class really seeks is international capitalist domination over all human life, micromanaged by the managerial class. It is an international class supremacist movement, the furthest possible thing from leftism — and from liberalism. We are the direct opposite of who we believe themselves to be.

To the managerial class, we ourselves are the We of “we the people” and the Our of “our democracy” We know what is required to survive climate change, domination of the powerless, managing our own runaway inventions (AI, automation, GMOs, etc).

We have the skills, expertise and ethics to take care of the problems of the world (again, problems we ourselves created) and so we should have the power requires to take care of these problems.

These problems, created across national boundaries, are too vast for nations to manage.

Nations stand in the way of this great global project.

Anyone within a nation who attempts to preserve or recover national sovereignty is a nationalist, which to a globalist is a close neighbor to fascism, if not covert fascism.

Any nation with a strong national identity of its own, ruled by people with greater loyalty to their own nation than to the international managerial class is fascist adjacent if not outright fascist.

Most progressivists I know are extremely authoritarian, uncritical, unreflective, conformist and naive realist. They believe otherwise, of course, because authority has told them that conformity to what everyone calls “critical thinking” makes them independent thinkers. When they use the ssme conceptual repertoire snd logic to independently come to exactly the same conclusions as each other, that is because the truth is the truth. Part of that truth is that people who don’t think like they do are naive realists, unaware of how social forces trick unthinking dummies to believe what is in their own interest. Since they are not subject to such things, they deserve to have all the power and benevolently dominate society for its own good.

I’ve come to call this metanaivity. Metanaive managerial classers are naive realists who believe in everyone else’s naive realism, but believe their own belief in naive realism immunizes them against succumbing to it themselves, which, of course, guarantees their hopeless succumbing.

When I try to explain any of the above to people who have internalized their class identity, they become hostile and morally suspicious. They more or less say “I don’t know what you mean, but I know I don’t like it.”

This is cosmopolitan provincialism.

Agonism overview

From Chantal Mouffe’s Agonistics:

Let me briefly recall the argument I elaborated in The Democratic Paradox. I asserted that when we acknowledge the dimension of ‘the political’, we begin to realize that one of the main challenges for pluralist liberal democratic politics consists in trying to defuse the potential antagonism that exists in human relations. In my view, the fundamental question is not how to arrive at a consensus reached without exclusion, because this would require the construction of an ‘us’ that would not have a corresponding ‘them’. This is impossible because, as I have just noted, the very condition for the constitution of an ‘us’ is the demarcation of a ‘them’. The crucial issue then is how to establish this us/them distinction, which is constitutive of politics, in a way that is compatible with the recognition of pluralism.

Conflict in liberal democratic societies cannot and should not be eradicated, since the specificity of pluralist democracy is precisely the recognition and the legitimation of conflict. What liberal democratic politics requires is that the others are not seen as enemies to be destroyed, but as adversaries whose ideas might be fought, even fiercely, but whose right to defend those ideas is not to be questioned. To put it in another way, what is important is that conflict does not take the form of an ‘antagonism’ (struggle between enemies) but the form of an ‘agonism’ (struggle between adversaries).

For the agonistic perspective, the central category of democratic politics is the category of the ‘adversary’, the opponent with whom one shares a common allegiance to the democratic principles of ‘liberty and equality for all’, while disagreeing about their interpretation. Adversaries fight against each other because they want their interpretation of the principles to become hegemonic, but they do not put into question the legitimacy of their opponent’s right to fight for the victory of their position. This confrontation between adversaries is what constitutes the ‘agonistic struggle’ that is the very condition of a vibrant democracy.

A well-functioning democracy calls for a confrontation of democratic political positions. If this is missing, there is always the danger that this democratic confrontation will be replaced by a confrontation between non-negotiable moral values or essentialist forms of identifications. Too much emphasis on consensus, together with aversion towards confrontations, leads to apathy and to a disaffection with political participation. This is why a liberal democratic society requires a debate about possible alternatives. It must provide political forms of identifications around clearly differentiated democratic positions.

While consensus is no doubt necessary, it must be accompanied by dissent. Consensus is needed on the institutions that are constitutive of liberal democracy and on the ethico-political values that should inform political association. But there will always be disagreement concerning the meaning of those values and the way they should be implemented. This consensus will therefore always be a ‘conflictual consensus’.

In a pluralist democracy, disagreements about how to interpret the shared ethico-political principles are not only legitimate but also necessary. They allow for different forms of citizenship identification and are the stuff of democratic politics. When the agonistic dynamics of pluralism are hindered because of a lack of democratic forms of identifications, then passions cannot be given a democratic outlet. The ground is therefore laid for various forms of politics articulated around essentialist identities of a nationalist, religious or ethnic type, and for the multiplication of confrontations over non-negotiable moral values, with all the manifestations of violence that such confrontations entail.

In order to avoid any misunderstanding, let me stress once again that this notion of ‘the adversary’ needs to be distinguished sharply from the understanding of that term found in liberal discourse. According to the understanding of ‘adversary’ proposed here, and contrary to the liberal view, the presence of antagonism is not eliminated, but ‘sublimated’. In fact, what liberals call an ‘adversary’ is merely a ‘competitor’. Liberal theorists envisage the field of politics as a neutral terrain in which different groups compete to occupy the positions of power, their objective being to dislodge others in order to occupy their place, without putting into question the dominant hegemony and profoundly transforming the relations of power. It is simply a competition among elites.

In an agonistic politics, however, the antagonistic dimension is always present, since what is at stake is the struggle between opposing hegemonic projects which can never be reconciled rationally, one of them needing to be defeated. It is a real confrontation, but one that is played out under conditions regulated by a set of democratic procedures accepted by the adversaries.

I contend that it is only when we acknowledge ‘the political’ in its antagonistic dimension that can we pose the central question for democratic politics. This question, pace liberal theorists, is not how to negotiate a compromise among competing interests, nor is it how to reach a ‘rational’, i.e. fully inclusive, consensus without any exclusion. Despite what many liberals want to believe, the specificity of democratic politics is not the overcoming of the we/they opposition, but the different way in which it is established. The prime task of democratic politics is not to eliminate passions or to relegate them to the private sphere in order to establish a rational consensus in the public sphere. Rather, it is to ‘sublimate’ those passions by mobilizing them towards democratic designs, by creating collective forms of identification around democratic objectives.

Against Post-liberalism

Below is a letter I wrote to a Christian friend of mine who sometimes exhibits signs of Christian nihilism — an attitude toward the world that would prefer Christian dominion, were that real possibility, but it isn’t because the world is Fallen; so nothing will turn out okay in this world, but that is okay, because the God’s Kingdom will come, so consider the lilies and birds, etc.

This whole interview is great, but this part jumped out at me as something I’ve said to you:

The strange thing about contemporary post-liberals is that they come from very small minorities within our society and they are arguing for the elimination of the protection of minorities in our society. They’re saying, the fact that we don’t all have one integrated view of the common good is why we can’t succeed. But the fact is, if we decided to live by a single integrated view of the common good, I guarantee you that it would not be traditionalist Catholicism. There’s no way that that’s what it would be. 


…and the alternative to that is force. The alternative to that is coercion. And I think that’s a lot of what is left unsaid in the post-liberal argument. That ultimately, there are certainly downsides to a society that doesn’t say with one voice what it takes the good to be. But the alternative to that society is oppression. And we have to see that sometimes in life, it is really a matter of balancing out alternatives. And if we want our family and our community to live a better life, we have to work within this society because we really don’t have the alternative of overthrowing this society. 

And one other thing I’d say is a lot of the arguments that you find among post-liberals on the right are framed as we used to be able to live in this way. Here’s the community that I grew up in, and now that’s impossible. And they never stop to think, where did that community come from? How did that happen in the 1960s or ‘70s? How could you have grown up in that world? That community was the product of the liberal society, the product of a lot of dynamism, a lot of choices made by a lot of people in a lot of ways, and to channel our nostalgia for our own childhood through an argument that says the West took a wrong turn in the 17th century is a very strange way to think about what we’re trying to protect for our own children. And so I think the liberal society just has much greater moral potential than they tend to give it credit for. And we have to begin by seeing that and working to realize it.

In case you don’t recognize his name, Yuval Levin wrote the book on Burke vs Paine that dramatically deepened my respect for conservatism, and made me feel some real affinity for some of conservatism’s core principles .

It is important to note that this is a conversation between two Jews. This bit stands out as a key insight into why Jews tend to be among the most committed liberals: “If we want our family and our community to live a better life, we have to work within this society because we really don’t have the alternative of overthrowing this society.”

If we are a permanent minority who wants to live what we believe to be the good life, and we do not believe there is an eternal afterlife — only this life in the here and now — we will work to create and preserve a liberal order that supports our existence — an existence we love and want to pass down, as it was passed down to us. It isn’t a sneaky, manipulative scheme to pull the strings of the world stage, etc. for eventual domination. It is simply wanting the conditions to continue flourishing as a minority — a few among the many. That it is so hard to believe any people could want this, and no more than this, says more about the suspectors than the suspects. 

Voegelin on students (1973)

From Eric Voegelin’s Autobiographical Reflections:

I am frequently asked about my experiences regarding the difference between European and American students. There are marked differences but not of such a nature that I should say that one type is preferable to the other. They have their peculiarities. With the Germans, I found a very high degree of background knowledge that facilitated their progress to independent work in science. The people whom I admitted to my seminars, and especially the ones who became assistants and conducted their own seminars, had a knowledge of at least one Classical language and of course were able to read German, French, and English fluently. Some of them had additional knowledge of languages in their particular field. The Islamists, for instance, had under the regulations of the university to have a good knowledge of Arabic and Turkish; the students dealing with Far Eastern affairs had to know Chinese and Japanese in addition to the Western languages. That made for a group of highly educated, intellectually alert young people who certainly helped each other in the sharp contest of competitive debate of problems. One of their favorite games, of course, was to catch me out on some technical mistake, but unfortunately I could offer them the pleasure only rarely.

The American students belonged to widely different types. In Louisiana there was a considerable cultural background provided by the Catholic parochial schools. I had students in my courses who knew Latin and who took courses in Thomist philosophy with the Catholic chaplain at Louisiana State University. That of course helped. The average students, I should say, did not have the background knowledge one would expect of European students, but they had instead something that the European, especially the German, students usually lack—a tradition of common-sense culture. In the South especially, the problem of ideological corruption among young people was negligible. The students were open-minded and had little contact with ideological sectarian movements. My experiences in the East were less favorable. The ideological corruption of the East Coast has affected the student mind profoundly, and occasionally these students betray the behavioral characteristics of totalitarian aggressiveness. A great number of students simply will not tolerate information that is not in agreement with their ideological prejudices. I frequently had difficulties with students of this type. Still, on the whole, even the so-called radical students, short of the hard-core militants, can be handled by swamping them with mountains of information. They still have enough common sense to be aware that their own ideas must bear some relation to the reality surrounding them; and when it is brought home to them that their picture of reality is badly distorted, they do not become easy converts but at least they begin to have second thoughts. I cannot say the same of radical students in Germany, who simply start shouting and rioting if any serious attempt is made to bring into discussion facts that are incompatible with their preconceptions.

Wrongheaded anti-Islamophobia

Post-9/11, I was on the side of the anti-Islamophobes.

My argument was, and still is, that peaceful and liberal Muslims should not be forced into the same category with violent, theocratic, totalitarian Islamists.

Islamophobes ignorantly and unfairly suspected all Muslims of being covert violent, theocratic, totalitarian Islamists. because the category “Muslim” was more immediately real to them than actual, living Muslims in all their variety.

Essentially, I was making a “not all Muslims” argument. I suppose some bigot could have invented a “not all Muslims” meme and ridiculed me for being a decent liberal who points out the inadequacies of stereotypes, but that kind of nonsense only works on fellow bigots.

But to condemn openly violent, theocratic, totalitarian Islamists is not Islamophobia. Far from it. When we condemn them, we do not condemn them as Muslims, but as violent, theocratic, totalitarians.

And to excuse or celebrate openly violent, theocratic, totalitarian Islamists is not anti-Islamophobia. It is betraying liberalism 1) by supporting its enemies, and 2) by indulging in eubigotry, which is every bit as dehumanizing as dysbigotry.

In bigotry — whether negative dysbigotry or positive eubigotry — we reduce a person to our own mental category and our beliefs about what categorization means, and allow our own understanding to eclipse who they are and how they understand themselves. We do not afford them the dignity of transcendent reality. We approach them in the attitude of I-It as objects, not in the attitude of I-Thou as fellow subjects capable of joining us in first-person plural.

What she said

Here is some common sense from the future: “Taking back the Democratic party from the bullies” by Anuradha Pandey. This article makes a lot of points I’ve tried to make, but much more clearly and calmly. Pandey’s entire Substack “Radically Pragmatic” is excellent. I’m going to start checking her articles before writing anything to see if she’s already nailed the topic.

Of course, I don’t expect any progressivists to read this article. They are far more comfortable dishing out critiques than taking them, from a perch of unacknowledged and unnamed power.

But once this mass delusion passes, and little by little the ideological hold weakens, dissolves and dispels, former progressivists will finally see the movement from a perspectives other than its own, and Pandey’s verdict on progressivism will become self-evident, and nobody will even see why it needed saying in the first place. But it does! As Orwell said “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

Misnorms abound

A few times I’ve watched right-wing friends take a sudden and obsessive interest in a scientific controversy.

Two big ones are climate change and covid. They decide to do their own research, and dive into the literature. By “dive”, I mean they will read one papers or maybe two, and massive heaps of skeptical articles about those papers.

Then, having done their own research, they will confidently announce that this body of work is irregular, suspicious, and clearly unscientific.

My response to them is something like this: “How do you know what is scientific? To what are you comparing this work? Can you show me some examples of work you’ve examined that does conform to your understanding of scientific norms?” Invariably, the answer is “no” but never confessed directly but, rather thickly coated in longwinded, convoluted, hydra head-sprouting reasons why it doesn’t matter.

If I were a better person, I’d leave it there. But I am not a better person, and I turn nasty and sarcastic, and make accusations: “You have absolutely no interest at all in science, and you never followed any scientific program until this one, which is an object of political obsession. So why are you so confident that you even know what is normal in science?” … “You’re a classic case of Dunning-Kruger.”

And please understand, I don’t make this attack merely skeptically. I have a much better idea than they do what science looks like close-up. For one thing, I’ve studied norms of scientific practice. And, further, when I was young I worked in a laboratory. While I was there I made the same mistake my right-wing friends make. My laboratory was obviously the sketchiest, most reckless laboratory in the world. But after reading up on the matter, it turns out it was all pretty damn normal. It was my own imagined norms that were sketchy and reckless.

You might wonder why was I reading about science and what scientific practice looks like when observed close-up.

The main reason was that my own profession, human-centered design, suffers from the same problem. All too often, non-designers expect design to happen in some vaguely methodical, unmessy way that has little to do with how design work gets done — and they get extremely uptight and resistant when they witness real design work close-up. This causes endless problems, especially when we need them to participate in design processes, as happens on almost all service design projects,

I made up a name for this kind of ignorant, semi-fantastical notion of how something probably, vaguely, ought to happen. I call them “misnorms”.

Lately, I’ve found a new and especially vicious form of misnorm, this time among progressives. It infects even reasonable people, and especially compassionate, reasonable people. They all judge Israel’s war in Gaza by misnorms of war.

They have never looked at war close-up. They do not know what lawful, responsible conduct of war is and how it compares to actual genocide. They hear “proportional response” and think they get the gist of what that means. They think they can plug war statistics into a spreadsheet and make objective moral calculations. And they haven’t looked into the realities of war in any detail at all. They know it mainly through video clips of WWII or the Vietnam War or Desert Storm, all of which were controlled or supervised by the United States military. This war is the first one filmed on camera phones and controlled by a government other than the USA.

We think this war is different and worse than all other wars, when in fact this war is just filmed differently and for different purposes to serve the interests of different group. Some of these interests are those of foreign powers. (Hamas cannot annihilate Israel through military force. But it can through manipulation of gullible, sentimental, and self-loathing Western elites.) Others are domestic power interests — namely, those of our own professional class, aka yours. Some of them are petty careerist interests (like playing nice with Hamas in order to continue enjoying the same access to Gaza as one’s rival reporters). Some are commercial. (Subscription journalism must supply the kind of morally-gratifying product that its consumers demand. They’re not paying to have their views challenged.)

It would be different if they were pacifists and unconditionally condemned all war. But they don’t. These people, according to themselves, are radicals. These are not limp-dick liberals. Radicals believe in violent revolution. As long as an underdog is doing the killing, and those killed are categorizable as powerful oppressors, it’s all perfectly fine. Punch up as savagely, sadistically and hatefully all you want. (This is the sacred double-standard of Progressivism, which applies to all groups except Progressivists themselves, who not only morally permitted but morally obligated to punch down with devastating force in defense of all the defenseless. If you are a Progressivist, you don’t even need to be warned not to reflect on this condition. You feel it in your gut that, I don’t know… there’s just something wrong with this criticism.)

Fact is: War is hell. It always is. We have always been shielded from the worst of it. Now we are being shown the worst of it on purpose. No population is ever fully responsible for what its government does, but in modern warfare the population suffers the consequences. There are always significant innocent or even dissident casualties. To require political unanimity as a condition for military attack means an end to all war. Again, pacifism is fine. But to support terrorism against innocent civilians — or to claim no civilian of an “occupying” or “colonizing” power can ever be innocent is blatant hypocrisy. Proportional response is not a matter of casualty count. It is a matter of military value of targets relative to civilian casualties. Hamas intentionally conducts its war in a way that kills as many of its own people as possible when Israel make proportional responses. Don’t use words if you don’t fucking know what they mean.

Until Progressives make some minimal attempt to understand norms of war, their opinions on the normality or abnormality of this particular war are as ignorant and worthless as the QAnon opinions on science. And I am unwilling to discuss worthless opinions with ignorant blowhards.

And the same goes for political norms. I’m not listening to another ignorant right-wing or left-wing opinion on what is a normal liberal-democratic view and what is “hard right” or a obviously a nefarious left-wing conspiracy (‘coz how else can you explain it?). People toss around accusations of nazism and fascism without ever having bothered to inform themselves on the history or beliefs of real right-wing authoritarians. Gists do not work, and they are just artifacts of simplistic ideological misnorms.

. . .

I will, however, continue to discuss these matters with people who have informed themselves, and are able to bring new disruptive facts or perspectives to the table. This kind of informed argument can actually change my mind.

And I will also converse with people who are curious, who are aware of how much they do not know, and who might change their minds or even form an initial opinion.

Basically, if the possibility of changing minds exists, I’m ready to talk.

Thank you for the behaviors

I’m positively on the edge of my seat waiting to see if any of my ultra-empathetic friends/acquaintances/frenemies come forward to support Hezbollah, and what logics they use to justify it.

My hypothesis is that the issue won’t catch in the coarse weave of their conceptual nets. They’ll be unable to wrap their heads and hearts around it in a morally self-gratifying way, and it’ll just become background noise, like all the other uninteresting atrocities going on all over the world all the time.

But who can even know anymore what people can believe and get all passionately worked up about? It has been fascinating to observe human nature for the last 12 years, especially since October 7th. Such unexpected twists and turns and inversions and contortions! Apparently people can be brought to believe or disbelieve or support or condemn just about anything, if everyone else around them does the same.

Designing our world(s)

Most of our personal being is bound up in wordless, intuitive participation. Our easiest words are part of our social participation. Explicit thought enters the scene mostly where intuitive participation fails.

We see this very vividly in the field of design. When we craft an artifact that really works, people take the artifact up into their intuitive social participation and act through it use it without fully perceiving it or thinking about it.

So, if explicit thought is primarily a response to intuition failure, why would we imagine it desirable, or even possible to dismantle a functioning organically developed system, and replace it with an explicitly thought out, manually constructed social order? This is like trying to grow a body from wound tissue and scars.

Here it is time to trot out the finest quote Yogi Berry never uttered, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.” We imagine we can engineer a better world, until we are faced with the urgent need to actually do it.

God forbid we are ever faced with a dismantled, or otherwise destroyed social order. Then we will realize that most of the kinds of people who have strong political opinions do not even understand what a political problem essentially is, namely a problem of e pluribus unum — a problem of aligning a diverse plurality around a unified understanding and course of action.

Technocrats think politics is figuring out what ought to be done and then doing it. Dissent and resistance, to them, is an obstacle to political problem-solving. They may be top-notch policy engineers, but as politicians, they very literally do not know what they are doing.

Take it from a designer, if your job is to persuade and inspire and win broad-based assent — that requires serious, arduous learning.

You must learn how people experience their lives, what is on their minds, what is important to them, what disturbs them, what they fear and what they hope for. You must know what a person’s world is like. Where do they live? Where do they work? With what people do they interact everyday? What tools do they use? By what media is the wider world beyond their environment given? How is their time spent? Where do they have control of things? Where are things out of control? Where do they feel controlled? Where do they feel empowered and respected? Where do they feel oppressed and humiliated? What do they experience as beautiful and good? What do they experience and ugly and bad?

We could call this a “worldview”, and many people do, but it is more than a view, both literally and metaphorically. It is a kind of involvement and a participation. Some have called it “lifeworld”, but, at least to my ears, this seems too biological, too passively received, too uncreative. People shape and reshape their physical and social environments, and they shape and reshape their understandings of reality. Received learning can change understandings, but so can one’s own trials, errors and successes. And only some of the understandings are explicit. Many more understanding are entirely intuitive, habitual and tacit. These understandings live in our bodies and souls, and never concern our heads. By this understanding, selves are not body-shaped. Selves stream out into the world through tendrils of action, influence, perception, communication, concern and they weave together into complex and sometimes chaotic meshes of being. The word I like best to designate this inseparable person-context hybrid is “enworldment”.

Even in simple design problems, this never involves fewer than two enworldments. There is always an enworldment of the provider of a design and the enworldment of the recipient, and normally there are many more than two.

When we finally understand an enworldment we can speak into it with respect and generosity. We are better able to persuade and win assent. In fact, we can invite people to collaborate with us to actively shape whatever solution we seek to win assent for. This is politics.

When I talk with young designers about politics, I recommend that they stop thinking about politics in the way they were taught to think politically, and instead to approach politics as a designer.

I cannot emphasize this enough: if you find yourself slapping your forehead and asking “how can those people believe this?” Or if you find yourself exasperatedly exclaiming “I just don’t understand why those people feel this way…” or do this action, or care about this thing or that, or have this or that passionate aversion… Understand that you are confessing ignorance!

People who are very, very clever and who made high marks in school and who are accustomed to understanding things effortlessly it is easy to succumb to a foolishness that afflicts smart people: the fallacy of argument from incredulity, which assumes that what is beyond their comprehension is incomprehensible nonsense. Instead of seeking comprehension, it diagnoses why someone espouses nonsense or delusion.

Who in their right mind would ever consent to be led by people who disrespect them, refuse to hear them and understand them?

We must relearn how to learn! And we must relearn how to respect others. Our liberal democracy depends on it.

Hermeneutic sclerosis

The chief affliction of ideologues is something I’m calling hermeneutic sclerosis, a hardening of interpretive schema. An ideologue has lost control of her gestalt formations, and her world of meanings becomes fixed and inflexible.

This matter is on my mind today because I just finished Nellie Bowles’s The Morning After the Revolution, a tour of the excesses of the world since 2020. This book casts harsh light on how both “antiracism” and in trans activism employ the same move to resolve deep conflicts within its own ideals.

Both movements appear entirely unable to avoid stereotyped understandings of the world. “Antiracists” and trans activists view black people and women in especially stereotyped ways, which, by normal standards necessarily result in bigotry. But progressivism condemns bigotry. Fortunately, according to itself, bigotry is only problematic if that bigotry involves an oppressor identity imposing negative stereotypes on an oppressed identity. The reverse case — bigotry against an oppressor — is not only permissible bigotry, but a laudable form of activism, which helps to re-balance the cultural prestige books by humiliating oppressor identities who have become too uppity, and puts them in their proper place. After enough humiliating oppression at the hands of the oppressed, equality will be restored, and no further humiliation of anyone will be required. But until then it is important to express generalized hatred of masculinity and whiteness and heteronormativity. (And now, of course, Israel.)

(How the oppressed are able to impose their will so effortlessly and why oppressors are powerless to stop the humiliation is a question progressivists work tirelessly to avoid asking. If your ideology is against power per se, and believes the that true sources of an oppressor’s power and even their true identity must be unnamed and concealed, discovering that you, yourself, possess overwhelming societal power and that you are very much viewed as the oppressor class by an underclass who resents you, not because they are vicious bigots, but simply because they resent you, their oppressor — to see this clearly for once, would spell total moral collapse. So, they employ a combo punch of argument from incredulity and argumentum ad hominem: “La la la la la! I don’t understand how anyone could possibly reject our gospel of social justice! Those who reject it must be dupes of foreign propaganda! They be in denial and unconsciously want to preserve their own power! La la la la! They must be totalitarians who want to abuse their voices and votes to subvert Our Democracy! La la la la!”)

The redefinition of bigotry to encourage categorical hatred against oppressor groups, is fortunate, for it affords a possibility for escaping damning labels like “racist” or “sexist” or “transphobe”, even when escape from seeing in stereotype is impossible.

Or perhaps this redefinition was established out of the necessity of breaking out of this otherwise impossible condition.

Either way, here is the move: The progressivist gives up on the hopeless project of willful refusal to acknowledge their authentic stereotyped perceptions, and gives over to them entirely. But they reverse the value judgments of each stereotyped perception. What, before, was assigned a negative value and called vice is now reversed into a positive value and celebrated as virtue. And what was extolled as virtue is reversed and condemned or mocked as vice.

The activist who sees exclusively in racist stereotypes find liberation in reversed valuation, pretending that what was bad is good, and what was good is bad.

The chapter on Tema Okun is revealing:

Born in 1952, the daughter of a well-known progressive professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tema rebelled against what she saw as an overly intellectual family life.

She went to Oberlin and majored in physical education. “I knew it would freak my father out if I was a P.E. major, because it was anti-intellectual. So those three things kind of converged, and I became a P.E. major,” she said of the choice. She started a graduate degree in sports medicine at Chapel Hill but failed the training exam and never finished her degree. (Later, she went on to complete a PhD at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, with a thesis titled “The Emperor Has No Clothes: Teaching About Race and Racism to People Who Don’t Want to Know.”)

After a breakup, she moved to Seattle, worked as an aquatic and fitness director for a local YMCA, and got into the clogging scene, joining a group called the Duwamps Cloggers. She started working in the anti-racism world, and she liked it, eventually partnering with anti-racist educator Kenneth Jones.

When they worked together, Tema was often in charge of details like plane reservations. Kenneth didn’t care much about details. She would get upset and feel resentment, creating what she described as a relationship of “belovedness and tension.”

But Tema always stayed a little different from the others in that alphabet soup. They were all too focused on formal nonprofit structures and minutiae, she thought. They were focused on just what was right in front of them.

Tema was having a spiritual experience. One night, after a frustrating day seeing a lot of bad white behavior, Tema sat down and something “came through her.”

“I operated mostly as a vessel and the words came through me rather than from me,” she wrote in 2021, in a self-published retrospective about the list. “The original article was my one and only experience of producing something that came through me.”

The document was so simple. The list was so clear. It did not ask those white women to learn about Puerto Rican political figures. It did not tell them to phone bank and mail letters to their congressmen or get on a plane. It told them to release their perfectionism. It told them that urgency itself was white supremacy.

Under Tema, the anti-racism movement could shift from a political movement grounded in facts to an emotional and spiritual one. The battle did not need to be about structural realities and governments. It could be about ourselves. Objectivity — facts — it’s all racist. Whiteness is a virus that kills.

“The purpose of white supremacy and racism is to disconnect us from each other,” Tema said one day during a talk with a reverend. “To disconnect each of us from spirit, source, creativity or whatever you name the energy that connects all of us. White supremacy and racism are designed to disconnect us from the earth, the water, the wind, the sky, the sun.”

The goal of Tema’s work is not necessarily to raise up black and brown people but to take down the white supremacist system. It is not to add more diverse faces at the boardroom table but to dismantle the table.

“The underlying assumption is that this white world is the default world, the normal world that we should all aspire to,” is how she put it to a crowd at a conference once. “This white world is in deep trouble. What we need is an entirely new table or perhaps no table at all.”

This is what made Tema different from the rest of those Bay Area anti-racists. It’s why it was so powerful.

“An assumption of racial equity work in the past was that racial justice was to the benefit of people of color, and we’re going to lift people of color into the white world, and that’s the goal,” Tema says, in a keynote address to a data science conference called JupyterCon. “And what I see changing, which is really, really critical, is that more and more white people understanding that that’s not the goal. This is not about simply including people into the white world. It’s about questioning the world.” She has a lean face and long gray hair. She speaks slowly, carefully. Sometimes she holds her hands together as if in prayer.

Whiteness, to Tema, is like the serpent. She calls it a “constant invitation” that has to be turned down.

She often talks about anti-racism in openly religious terms.

And the new anti-racism has been embraced by a liberal Christian world that articulates whiteness as a sort of satanic possession — an original sin. The anti-racist movement grew, and the scenes were familiar Christian scenes. In June 2020, white police and activists in Cary, North Carolina, washed the feet of black protestors and asked for forgiveness.

Some anti-racist training programs are semireligious organizations, sometimes explicitly. One diversity training program with four locations around the country was called Crossroads Ministry. They’ve since rebranded as Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training.

Tema makes appearances to religious bodies. She appeared with the Reverend Tami Forte Logan, a preacher with the African

Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The event is put on by Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, North Carolina. The event began with the audience being asked to breathe deeply together.

In the recording, Tema comes on in a purple blouse, a gray sweater over it. There’s children’s artwork behind her. The room is dark but she is lit, which is how she styles most of her appearances.

The Reverend Tami, who is black and younger than Tema, says when white people are exhibiting the traits of whiteness, they seem crazed.

“From the outside looking in, I’ve observed that often unfortunately it almost looks like a possession, like something just takes over white people,” the reverend says.

Also there is Pastor Marcia, who is white and with Grace Church. She agrees.

“What is it that makes whiteness so seductive?” Pastor Marcia says. “It internalizes itself in white bodies but also black, indigenous, and brown bodies. It gets into our cells. It changes the way our bodies work. What is it about this that is so seductive that we literally eat it and drink it and let it seep into our bones?”

Whiteness seeps inside her. She’s drawn to it, and she hates it.

When someone gives in to that temptation for whiteness, they die, Tema says. Anyone can drink of whiteness. Anyone can die of it.

“People from different ethnic communities that end up giving up their ethnicity in order to join whiteness, it is death. It is completely death and the actual suicide, addiction, depression, all those rates are much higher in the white community, and I think there’s a direct connection,” Tema said. “We have this sense that we are involved with something that is so wrong and bad.”

Freedom from the traits of whiteness is the goal. Freedom from the urgency, freedom from the written word, freedom from perfectionism. These are white values, and we can be better and happier without them.

“This isn’t about helping others,” Tema says. “It’s about how my life, my happiness, my belonging depends on helping to enact racial justice in our world.” Pastor Marcia agrees.

“Tema, I want to say hallelujah,” Pastor Marcia says. “I see white people being set free from their own bondage.”

The chapter on trans activism does the exact same move with female stereotypes.

My own diagnosis of this painful and pain-inflicting condition is to “flip the script” as some new agers like to say, and claim that the problem is one of far too much reliance on emotions. Progressivists try to achieve with pure willful emotional manipulation what can only be achieved with thought — specifically philosophical thought — thought with provides us new modes of interpretation, and with these new modes of interpretation, now experiential givens with new valuative valences.

This is why I’ve coined this term hermeneutic sclerosis, or if you want to avoid being a presumptuous blowhard, “interpretive hardening” or hardening of the understanding. Today’s huge-hearted, hot-blooded political sentimentalists are so sure that thinking is a cold, logic-bound, argumentative, aggressive force (something belonging to the world of those detestable creeps, the white men) that they subscribe to a notion of justice that knows only compassion, forgiveness and forbearing and excludes all rational judgment, limits, discipline.

We can see this very clearly in Brene Brown’s mangling of the definition of empathy. Empathy has (until its recent ideological capture, deformation and fetishization) meant the effort to understand the experiences of another person when such understanding is not immediately accessible. It is a function of coordinated thought and feeling. Sympathy is spontaneous feeling-with another person.

But in Brene Brown’s hands, “empathy” means double-plus sympathy. It means really, really feeling in an involved way instead of not really feeling in a distant, uninvolved, phony way.

There is no trace of hermeneutical thinking in Brown’s definition. And most young people I’ve talked to about it see no problem, because they share her prejudiced blindness toward thought, and fail to recognize thought’s indispensable role in human understanding and justice.

They have no method of understanding the experiences of other people except to listen carefully to their testimony, paying very close attention to the emotions they report having, to assign truth status to that testimony and to have the most intense and expansive emotions of their own about the fact that the other had such feelings.

“Empathy” among progressivists is not empathy. It is a mixture of political sympathy — the natural feeling-with their like-minded ideologues, usually of resentment, rage and hatred — plus imaginative pathos of the kind people enjoy when reading a novel. It is, again, an exercise of hypertrophied sentimentality and atrophied intellect that knows only one mode of interpretation, the unbiased, objective one that all benevolent, intelligent and educated people agree is the truth.

Until this prejudice against philosophical hermeneutic genuinely empathetic thinking is overcome, I fear things will get worse and worse, stupider and stupider and more and more evil.

Not all leftists

Expressing disdain toward another person’s indignation will never reduce that indignation. And if we’re honest, we’ll admit it isn’t meant to. It is meant to add insult to injury. It says “I can injure your pride with impunity, and ridicule your protests with impunity. I do not have to care what you think or feel, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

The “not all men” meme is an example of such disdain. The “white fragility” diagnosis of attempted arguments to “antiracist” doctrine is another. These are not arguments. They are speech acts that demonstrate profound disrespect and refusal to respond to appeals to reason.

When progressivism passes out of favor, which this is happening very rapidly — and when more moderate and reasonable leftists try to dissociate themselves from the excesses they tolerated, downplayed or ignored — and when they find their attempts at reason summarily rejected with “not all liberals” or “woke fragility”, I hope at least a few decent souls will remember that I tried to warn them.

If you want to make appeals to liberal principles, you must also honor liberal appeals when they are made to you.

Everybody is a liberal when they are weak. But when they are strong enough to oppress, they suddenly become critiques of liberalism and see it as an impediment to progress.

In the next few years, the left is going to lose power. It has been contemptuous and abusive to ordinary Americans and proven itself unfit for leadership in a liberal-democratic society. And the right, which has been championing liberal values for the last decade will throw off its sheep’s clothing and show its true wolfish, illiberal nature.

And when chastened leftists try to protest and appeal to liberal principles, I’m going to remind them that they renounced those principles.

I wish people would just stop pretending to be principled. I can count the number of principled people I know on my two hands.

You can be unprincipled and good, at least to some small degree.

And good to a small degree is good enough.

Trying to be more moral than you really are does more damage than good.

OK, Reboomers

When I was a young parent, I was repelled by the content of children’s media. What I saw on Nickelodeon and Disney was strange moral dramas starring spirited, plucky, sassy, perceptive children living in a world of ignorant, dull-witted, convention-bound adults.

The adults were in charge, but they were easily outwitted and manipulated by the children, who were not yet encumbered with adult formatting.

The children were rendered realistically, with real weaknesses and strengths, but the strengths always more than redeemed the weaknesses.

And the strengths were the virtues of romanticism — defiance, irreverence, curiosity, wit, compassion, enthusiasm, authenticity, etc.

The weaknesses were always the virtues valued by tradition — integrity, honesty, loyalty, respect, bravery, obedience, gratitude, etc.

In these moral dramas, the children would face some conflict or dilemma. They would be torn between behaving in a traditionally virtuous way or being a free spirit. They would behave contemptibly, telling a lie or betraying a friend. The clueless adults would bumble about, ineffectually trying to manage a situation they barely perceived. Then the contemptible child would get busted or collapse under their own conscience and come clean. Their abject contrition would be met with immediate forgiveness, because these weaknesses were no big deal, really. It was all easily forgiven as, you know, just human. The dumb adults would act like retarded Jesuses dispensing hugs and nonjudgments, and generally benevolating all over everyone. And next week everyone would repeat the same shitty behavior, the same sheepish qualms, the same washing away of responsibility.

It all made me want to throw up. Even in my youth, I realized that these dramas all had some pretty questionable morals.

  • It trained children to feel superior to adults, and to see maturity as a degradation of, not an improvement to personhood.
  • It encouraged children to feel contempt for traditional, pro-social virtues, and to to overvalue romantic, anti-social personality characteristics.
  • It taught children to see rules and institutions as impediments to spirited living.
  • It taught kids that traditional decency was too much to ask and that being a modern child full of sass and spirit more than made up for bad character.

In other words, 90s children’s media was how Boomers transmitted their youth-worshipping, maturity-avoiding ethos to the younger generations who passively consumed it.

That is why today’s young adults are all casually revolutionary and automatically (uncritically) critical of pretty much anything that permits a society to function. They spent their childhoods imbibing and internalizing vulgar and insipid pop-Romantic propaganda and now they are vulgar, insipid Romantics, just as previous generations were vulgar insipid traditionalists. They are little trained monkeys, raised to gratify Boomers.

And this is as true for hard-right children as hard-left. They are all pale shadows of Boomers — less full-bloodedly vicious and almost entirely unoriginal. They, however, believe they bring a fresh new perspective to the world, because they were trained to believe that is how young people automatically are. The young are always the ones who know better. Aren’t youth rebellions always justified in hindsight? Shouldn’t we automatically assume youth are right ad hominem, by virtue of their youth? Yeah, but this is not how youth who turned out to be right ever thought. This is more like brainless Jesus Camp youth, but with all values reversed.

It is not their fault that they are the way they are. But this is real life, not a Nickelodeon show. They don’t get to say “oh, my bad” and get their shittiness washed away with a baptism in understanding for free at the end of the episode.

They will have to actually question what they were trained to believe. No — not question what they were trained to question (authority, convention, capitalism, race, gender, history, science, morality). They will have to question that training itself, and then take responsibility for re-training themselves to be more than what they are.

Until then, all I have to say is this: OK, Reboomers.

Left, right, liberal, conservative

I think I learned this from Francis Fukuyama: The hard left and hard right are both revolutionary. One wants to destroy the present to make way for a utopian future that has never been. The other wants to destroy the present to restore an idealized past that never was.

Liberalism and conservatism want to both conserve and reform the present. Their disagreement is mainly concerning degree and rate of change. Both know that politics develops organically and must be cultivated. Political orders cannot be dismantled, reengineered and reassembled.

Revolutions are disasters. The only people who want them are those who should never be in charge of anything.

Progressivist imputations

Progressivists replace all stated intentions with their own imputed ones.

Progressivists are unconcerned when their enemies claim very different motives than those Progressivists claim they have.

Now we’re seeing the same tendency, but reversed. When their allies clearly state the worst intentions, they ignore them.

There is nothing left to say. Progressivism is mass solipsism.

What made me want to be Jewish was the realization that Martin Buber had located the very core of the Jewish faith in the I-Thou relationship. Judaism is anti-solipsism.

Whatever is solipsistic from the heart must eventually become antisemitic.

However much you try to replace the real God of whom each of us is merely a part with an ideoidol fashioned from your own paltry imagination, you will not eliminate what you want to close out. The reality of Jews only make it worse.

Voegelin on ideologues

Below is very extensive passage from Voegelin’s Autobiographical Reflections. I have lots to say, relating Voegelin’s time to our own, so expect frequent interruptions of Voegelin’s passage with my own commentary.

…As the anecdotes just related show, my personal attitude in politics, and especially with regard to National Socialism, is frequently misunderstood, because entirely too many people who express themselves in public cannot understand that resistance to National Socialism can have other reasons than partisan motives. My reasons for hating National Socialism from the time I first got acquainted with it in the 1920s can be reduced to very elementary reactions.

There was in the first place the influence of Max Weber. One of the virtues that he demanded of a scholar was “intellektuelle Rechtschaffenheit,” which can be translated as intellectual honesty. I cannot see any reason why anybody should work in the social sciences, and generally in the sciences of man, unless he honestly wants to explore the structure of reality. Ideologies, whether positivist, or Marxist, or National Socialist, indulge in constructions that are intellectually not tenable.

First comment: Design research is an applied social science, especially when the design discipline in question is service design, which works the material of society (of organizations). Service designers truly do reassemble the social, and this becomes even clearer when we understand, with Latour, that the social is not a mental ether that haunts the physicality of our built world, but is the whole enchilada — physical, mental, virtual, and even natural. It’s all social. And for service designers, all this moldable social stuff is on the table.

I would hope design researchers would be drawn to the field out of desire for deeper and more substantial understanding of social reality. Certainly this field offers incredible opportunities for grounding our understanding of the human condition in close, concrete observation. Instead I find mostly ideologues looking to inform their efforts to transform the world into something conforming to an abstract pre-fab ideal.

That raises the question of why people who otherwise are not quite stupid, and who have the secondary virtues of being quite honest in their daily affairs, indulge in intellectual dishonesty as soon as they touch science. That ideology is a phenomenon of intellectual dishonesty is beyond a doubt, because the various ideologies after all have been submitted to criticism, and anybody who is willing to read the literature knows that they are not tenable, and why. If one adheres to them nevertheless, the prima facie assumption must be that he is intellectually dishonest. The overt phenomenon of intellectual dishonesty then raises the question of why a man will indulge in it. That is a general problem that in my later years required complicated research to ascertain the nature, causes, and persistence of states of alienation. More immediately, on the overt level that imposed itself, it caused my opposition to any ideologies — Marxist, Fascist, National Socialist, what you will — because they were incompatible with science in the rational sense of critical analysis. I again refer back to Max Weber as the great thinker who brought that problem to my attention; and I still maintain today that nobody who is an ideologist can be a competent social scientist.

…Or designer! I see the deterioration of design quality — especially of UX — as a direct result of ideological stuntedness. That is the pervasive epic insult added to the petty injuries of usability problems that swarm us like mosquitos. Ideologues are incapable of empathy, only ideological sympathies. They have political emotions toward conceptualize peoples, not understandings of persons.

As a consequence, partisan problems are of secondary importance; they come under the head of ideologists fighting each other. That, however, is not an entirely new phenomenon. I had to note the same problem in my studies on the intellectual battles in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. There I summarized the problem in the formula that there are intellectual situations where everybody is so wrong that it is enough to maintain the opposite in order to be at least partially right. The exploration of these structures helps to understand the meaning of “public opinion,” but these structures certainly have nothing to do with science.

Because of this attitude I have been called every conceivable name by partisans of this or that ideology. I have in my files documents labeling me a Communist, a Fascist, a National Socialist, an old liberal, a new liberal, a Jew, a Catholic, a Protestant, a Platonist, a neo-Augustinian, a Thomist, and of course a Hegelian — not to forget that I was supposedly strongly influenced by Huey Long. This list I consider of some importance, because the various characterizations of course always name the pet bête noire of the respective critic and give, therefore, a very good picture of the intellectual destruction and corruption that characterize the contemporary academic world. Understandably, I have never answered such criticisms; critics of this type can become objects of inquiry, but they cannot be partners in a discussion.

This has been a core idea in my own personal myth. That if we are to be intellectually independent, and exercise our own moral snd intellectual consciences, we must be prepared to be misunderstood and anathematized by ideologues.

My left-leaning friends see me as MAGA-adjacent, and entertaining the validity of dangerous ideas that ought to be treated as contagious diseases. My right-leaning friends see me as the victim of progressivist (or Jewish!) brainwashing. None of them have put anywhere near the effort into understanding what is going on, yet they are all confident they have a better grip on this political time than I do. But they sort of just intuitively, aesthetically, mystically, and commonsensically … know the true truth. They can’t say it, but this only proves how profoundly true it is, see?

A further reason for my hatred of National Socialism and other ideologies is quite a primitive one. I have an aversion to killing people for the fun of it. What the fun is, I did not quite understand at the time, but in the intervening years the ample exploration of revolutionary consciousness has cast some light on this matter.

This is key.

Hamas left ample audio-video evidence that their October 7th pogrom was fun for them. They killed civilians on purpose, as sadistically as possible, and took pleasure in that sadism.

That so many progressivists are undisturbed by this is disturbing to me.

And then progressivists and MAGA folks see no difference between these sadistic murders and the IDF’s accidental civilians casualties. The well-documented efforts to prevent these casualties are cynically dismissed as Jew propaganda, as are the well-documented efforts by Hamas to undermine all prevention measures.

They just can’t really know, they claim.How can anyone really know? They seem almost desperate to not be able to know. Knowing has consequences.

Both extremes of the political horseshoe bend toward not distinguishing between sadistic killing for fun, and killing to prevent sadistic killing for fun. They want to blur it all into an impenetrable moral relativist mystery.

I find that despicable, and I am having more and more trouble ignoring or forgiving it.

The fun consists in gaining a pseudo-identity through asserting one’s power, optimally by killing somebody — a pseudo- identity that serves as a substitute for the human self that has been lost.

This. Alienated humanity, caught up in linguistic concepts that are the only thing that hold people together. Collective, narcissistic solipsism.

Some of these problems I touched upon in my study on the “Eclipse of Reality,” published in 1970. A good example of the type of self that has to kill other people in order to regain in an Ersatzform what it has lost is the famous Louis Antoine Leon Saint-Juste, who says that Brutus either has to kill other people or kill himself. The matter has been explored by Albert Camus, and the murderous equanimity of the intellectuals who have lost their self and try to regain it by becoming pimps for this or that murderous totalitarian power is excellently exemplified by Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Humanisme et Terreur (1947). I have no sympathy whatsoever with such characters and have never hesitated to characterize them as murderous swine.

“Pimps for this or that murderous totalitarian power.”

Last century, those pimps pimped for the USSR.

This century, so far, they pimp for Hamas.

Are they unconcerned that these powers are totalitarian? Or is that part of the appeal?

The third motif that I can ascertain in my hatred against ideologies is that of a man who likes to keep his language clean. If anything is characteristic of ideologies and ideological thinkers, it is the destruction of language, sometimes on the level of intellectual jargon of a high level of complication, sometimes on a vulgarian level.

Note the infestation of academic jargon in business and entertainment media.

These words substitute for thoughts. Snap the words together into sentences to make truths that will be accepted by other subscribers to the jargon.

From my personal experience with various ideologists of a Hegelian or Marxist type, I have the impression that a good number of men of considerable intellectual energy who otherwise would be Marxists prefer to be Hegelians because Hegel is so much more complicated. This is a difference not of any profound conviction but of what I would compare to the taste of a man who prefers chess to pinochle. Hegel is more complicated, and one can easily spend a lifetime exploring the possibilities of interpreting reality from this or that corner of the Hegelian system, without of course ever touching on the premises that are wrong — and perhaps without ever finding out that there are premises that are wrong. In conversations with Hegelians, I have quite regularly found that as soon as one touches on Hegelian premises the Hegelian refuses to enter into the argument and assures you that you cannot understand Hegel unless you accept his premises. That, of course, is perfectly true — but if the premises are wrong, everything that follows from them is wrong, too, and a good ideologist therefore has to prevent their discussion. In the case of Hegel, that is comparatively easy, because Hegel was a first-rate thinker and knew the history of philosophy. Hence, if one wants to attack Hegel’s premises one has to know their background in Plotinus and the neo-Platonic mysticism of the seventeenth century. Since very few people who pontificate about Hegel have any knowledge of philosophy comparable to his, the premises can easily be kept in the dark, and sometimes need not even be kept in the dark because they are, anyway, in the darkness of the ignorance of those who talk about him.

In the Marxian case, the falseness of the premises is more obvious. When Marx writes about Hegel he distorts him so badly that his honest editors cannot help being aware of the fact and expressing themselves cautiously on their findings. The editors of the Frühschriften of Karl Marx (Kröner, 1955), especially Siegfried Landshut, say regarding Marx’s study of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law: “Marx, if one may express oneself in this manner, by misun- derstanding Hegel as it were deliberately, conceives all concepts of Hegel which are meant as predicates of the idea as statements about facts” (pp. xxv–xxvi). In my uncivilized manner as a man who does not like to murder people for the purpose of supplying intellectuals with fun, I flatly state that Marx was consciously an intellectual swindler for the purpose of maintaining an ideology that would permit him to support violent action against human beings with a show of moral indignation. I stated the problem explicitly in my inaugural lecture in Munich in 1958, Science, Politics, and Gnosticism,2 and explored on that occasion the men- tal disturbance that lies behind such action. Marx, however, con- ducted his arguments on a very high intellectual level, and the surprise (with repercussions in the daily press) caused by my flat statement that he was engaged in an intellectual swindle can easily be explained in the same way as the darkness that surrounds the premises of Hegel. The Marxian swindle concerns the flat refusal to enter into the etiological argument of Aristotle — that is, on the problem that man does not exist out of himself but out of the divine ground of all reality. Again, as distinguished from our contemporaries who pontificate on Marx, Marx himself had a very good philosophical education. He knew that the problem of etiology in human existence was the central problem of a philosophy of man; and if he wanted to destroy man’s humanity by making him a “socialist man,” he had to refuse to enter into the etiological problem. On this point he was, one must admit, considerably more honest than Hegel, who never quoted the arguments into which he refused to enter. But the effect is the same as in the case of Hegel, because contemporary critics, of course, know about Aristotle and the etiological argument just as much as they know about Hegel’s neo-Platonic background — which is to say, exactly nothing. The general deculturation of the academic and intellectual world in Western civilization furnishes the background for the social dominance of opinions that would have been laughed out of court in the late Middle Ages or the Renaissance.

When we advance beyond Marx to the ideological epigones of the late nineteenth and of the twentieth century, we are already far below the intellectual level that formed the background even of Marx. And here comes in my particular hatred of ideologists because they vulgarize the intellectual debate and give to public discussion the distinctly ochlocratic coloring that today has reached the point of considering as fascist or authoritarian even a reference to the facts of political and intellectual history that must be known if one wants to discuss the problems that come up in political debate.

The radical condemnation of historical and philosophical knowledge must be recognized as an important factor in the social environment, because it is dominated by persons who cannot even be called intellectual crooks because their level of consciousness is much too low to be aware of their objective crookedness, but who must rather be characterized as functional illiterates with a strong desire for personal aggrandizement.

These observations then bring us down to the level of National Socialism. It is extremely difficult to engage in a critical discussion of National Socialist ideas, as I found out when I gave my semester course on “Hitler and the Germans” in 1964 in Munich, because in National Socialist and related documents we are still further below the level on which rational argument is possible than in the case of Hegel and Marx. In order to deal with rhetoric of this type, one must first develop a philosophy of language, going into the problems of symbolization on the basis of the philosophers’ experience of humanity and of the perversion of such symbols on the vulgarian level by people who are utterly unable to read a philosopher’s work. A person on this level — which I characterize as the vulgarian and, so far as it becomes socially relevant, as the ochlocratic level — again, is not admissible to the position of a partner in discussion but can only be an object of scientific research.

I had to look up “ochlocratic”. It means mob rule.

I wonder what digital mob rule might look like.

These vulgarian and ochlocratic problems must not be taken lightly; one cannot simply not take notice of them. They are serious problems of life and death because the vulgarians create and dominate the intellectual climate in which the rise to power of figures like Hitler is possible.

We are ripe for an ochlocratic leader. At this s progressivist will automatically bump out “Trump!”

If Trump is elected, I fully expect brutal and bloody authoritarianism.

But if Biden is elected, I fully expect him to die early in his term. His replacement is likely to be an elite and bloodless totalitarian.

It isn’t about the specific politicians. It is about the vulgarians of our time who have created and now dominate the intellectual climate. It is our business leaders, our news-entertainment media, the social norms we all impose on one another and enforce.

We are so much inside this condition now, and have so little access to any other intellectual climate, we cannot even assess how much things have deteriorated.

Plus, most of us find the reality we are immerse too terrifying to look at and acknowledge.

And shrugging, ignoring, withdrawing, insulating and being content singing la-la-la to ourselves resembles spiritual wisdom. Change your posture from the fetal ball to half-lotus, and instead of la-la-la, sing ohm-ohm-ohm.

I would say, therefore, that in the German case the destroyers of the German language on the literary and journalistic level, characterized and analyzed over more than thirty years by Karl Kraus in the volumes of Die Fackel, were the true criminals who were guilty of the National Socialist atrocities, which were possible only when the social environment had been so destroyed by the vulgarians that a person who was truly representative of this vulgarian spirit could rise to power.

And our academic class — people responsible for molding our youth, who have never known a life outside academia, who are mostly products of 60s youth culture who never outgrew youthful omniscience — are criminals of this time. And so are the university bureaucrats who turned the academy into a modern industry, cranking ideological product into the workplace.

These motivations were perfectly clear to me at the time, but clarity about their direction did not mean clarity about the implications in detail. The intellectual apparatus for dealing with the highly complex phenomena of intellectual deformation, perversion, crookedness, and vulgarization did not yet exist, and studies to create this apparatus were required. Into this context belong the studies that I published under the title Die politischen Religionen in 1938. When I spoke of the politischen Religionen, I conformed to the usage of a literature that interpreted ideological movements as a variety of religions. Representative for this literature was Louis Rougier’s successful volume on Les Mystiques politiques. The interpretation is not all wrong, but I would no longer use the term religions because it is too vague and already deforms the real problem of experiences by mixing them with the further problem of dogma or doctrine.

These are not political religions, because they are neither political nor are they religious.

They are fundamentalisms. They are ideologies. They are solipsisms.

Categorical coimperative

Where some conceive principles as unconditional rules of behavior, I am conceiving principles as unconditional rules of relationship with those who share them. One must conduct oneself liberally with liberals, peacefully with the peaceful, respectfully with the respectful.

And the best way to know who shares your principles is to go first. Approach others as liberal, peaceful and respectful and offer them the chance to reciprocate.

If they do not reciprocate, different principles are appropriate — for instance, passive resistance, which is not at all the same as unconditionally peaceful behavior.