The soft bigotry of low expectations

“Identity and power structure” type courses are ubiquitous across universities these days. It has fed the “activism masquerading as inquiry” expansion of the university underwritten by bureaucraps, mutually reinforcing each other and attracting students who prefer to regurgitate some off-the-peg easily digestible worldview to do their “teacher’s” bidding in the absence of critical thinking and evidence-based theorizing. Now I’m not at all saying that a Marxist lens has no value but in the hands of career grievance mongers (yes, that psychological disposition really is their shtick — they will never be satiated), one has the distinct sense that (a) their grip on Marx is weak or even vulgarized (they ain’t no Jerry Cohen or Croicks); (b) their invocation of “identity talk” is oblivious to the logic of sortals (yes, of course it is extremely tricky to extrapolate to social identity, vitiated by weasel words such as “multiculturalism” — I think it is Glenn that rightly says something like identity is a matrix); and (c) more often than not, the use of these terms intended as end-of-“discussion” slap-downs have been emptied of meaning and, as a consequence, effectiveness through conceptual creep: surely one must have a clearing of some distinctive conceptual space. That is, a given concept must display logical independence and not be analyzable in terms that presuppose that very concept. It must have extensional and intensional adequacy — in other words, it should enable one to pick out and identify all and only the things to which the concept applies. Lastly, one should question the functional adequacy of a given concept, i. e. why would we need a given concept — what work or role would a given concept have to fulfill? The upshot of these points is that you’d do far better intellectually by listening to the nuanced, finessed, subtle, credible, intellectually honest, and insightful discussion from people such as Glenn Lowry and John McWhorter and also a terrific discussion featuring Lowry and Sam Harris. If you’re tired of the bullshit that the mainstream media peddles and the knee-jerk idiocy of your social media contacts, I’d urge you to listen to both shows. In the last segment of The Glenn Show, they briefly discuss J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis which has been getting a lot a press recently, two of the best pieces by Rod Dreher found here and here. (Both Glenn and John assent to the idea that it used to be the case that those of a Marxist sensibility had a reasonable claim to be interested in the underclass — they had empathy — but through the simplistic perversity and as a consequence the illiberality of identity politics, The Intellectual Yet Idiot now looks down on them as the disgusting enemy. This is shameful behavior on any religious or ethical outlook and is now coming back to bite them).