Critical Social Justice underpins the Black Live Matter movement, Antifa and ideas such as intersectionality. It aims at changing the moral landscape and has evolved from ‘illiberal’ elite academics, principally utilising postmodernism as its bedrock. In their enlightening article of 2018 Lindsay, Pluckrose and Boghossian coins the phrase “grievance studies” as an umbrella term to describe these theories. Previously, politicians, CEO’s and establishment members for decades have attempted to quell the masses by controlling the narrative regarding how the world works, using bogus theories such as trickle down economics or by suggesting the world is a meritocracy. Now, we have professors in elite universities pushing the idea of Critical Social Justice (CSJ) in an effort to regulate what we say, how we think and how we behave in society.
The rich have been repeating the fable that humans are inherently selfish since the late 70’s early 80’s, adding to the myth of greed being good, while claiming poverty is due to a lack of a strong work ethic and moral principles. In a similarly simplistic vein, academics in grievance studies have in recent times been announcing that all white people are inherently racist and complicit in maintaining a system of ‘whiteness‘. Everyday law abiding citizens are suddenly labelled oppressors due to immutable traits they cannot change, such as skin colour. Like the neoliberals, the identarian left are using a particular lens in which to view and explain human nature, as a justification for their radical actions and demands. This is nothing more than a calculated attempt to control society, in order to remake it in accordance with their deeply flawed worldview.
Kimberle Crenshaw is one of these inferred academics and major contributor towards Critical Social Justice Theory, creating an idea called intersectionality. Her seminal 1989 paper is titled; “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics” is still considered a vitally important paper within this ideology. The main argument presented by this black feminist is that an experience of a black woman cannot be totally understood simply in terms of being black, or a woman, but must be include interactions of the two.
Ms Crenshaw began academia at Cornell University obtaining her bachelors degree in Government and Africana studies. From there she attended Harvard Law School receiving her JD (Juris Doctor) and finally the University of Wisconsin Law School where she gained her LL.M (Master of Laws). While at Harvard Law she originated the term Critical Race Theory. Over her career she has taught at UCLA Law School and Columbia Law School, attending what are generally considered some of the best universities in America. Interestingly, her academic baby, intersectionality came from an idea called ‘invisible privilege’.
But what about Ms Crenshaw’s academic privilege? Ideas that constitute Critical Social Justice Theory state that privilege is not simply about finances. Indeed not, but with this in mind it’s worth pointing out that only a very small percentage of people would ever get the opportunity to attend one of these aforementioned prestigious academic institutions in any form, student or teacher. Yet, many leading proponents of Critical Social Justice Theory have had a similar privileged academic journeys and are now lecturing others who are less fortunate than themselves, that they are the oppressors and possess power purely due to skin colour.
Beliefs such as these have not only gained massive traction in western elite academic institutions, but are the backbone of societal movements such as BLM, while these egregious ideas are also permeating into the workplace. Young, middle class, university educated people, predominantly women have found Critical Social Justice Theory hugely appealing. It seems that this has created a major shift in the political debate for many people who see themselves on the left, a movement which once challenged issues concerning economic inequality, now almost exclusively concentrates on identity politics, particularly in the US.
I find this distraction technique fascinating, although adherents to this group claim they are pro equality, their focus is undeniably identity based. This has the effect of removing any moral responsibility from this group in relation to economic privileges which many may well have benefitted from, onto a group who can do nothing about their predicament. Under this particular lens the biggest transgressors in society are not the rich and powerful anymore, but generally people who are white and male. By effectively manipulating these ideas, a white working class man with limited education, power or money could be considered more privileged than Kimberle Crenshaw. That my friends is one clever mind trick.
Critical Social Justice Theory is especially pernicious, as it seeks to control language, not only changing the meaning of words such as racism, but also who can say what and when. A hierarchy of importance has been developed deciding whose ‘truths’ are of greater value, based not on reason or science, but identity and ‘lived experience‘. This is an important mechanism as it serves to silence dissenters, critics and free speech, creating an echo chamber of self congratulatory confirmation. Hate speech is now considered anything that challenges this moral orthodoxy and perpetrators are often on the receiving end of vicious attacks on their character, while losing forums in which to speak up.
Objectivity, logic and facts have now given way to subjectivity, lived experience and ‘my truths’ aka opinions. CSJ is inherently anti-science, thus cultivating a place whereby, lived experiences of a person deemed the most oppressed using this arbitrary hierarchy carries the most weight. Expertise in a certain area of study, objective evidence and the scientific method, are all considered irrelevant. Furthermore, science is generally thought of as construct of whiteness or colonialism. It’s of no surprise, therefore, how fake news and bipartisanism has grown exponentially in recent times. In a post truth world all that is required is a convincing story, conveyed to a receptive audience, et voila, “my truth” is born.
In the age of the internet and the creation of echo chambers complete with disciples willing to agree with any shaky narrative that appeals to them, the truth is suddenly whatever you chose it to be. It doesn’t require, knowledge, research, statistics, peer reviews or objective confirmation, all that is needed are feelings; “I feel this way, therefore, it must be true”. These significant changes in how we interpret the world can be witnessed in all political corners, such as; Trump denying the realities of an election result, through to BLM claiming all white people are racist.
Identity politics is marinated in this peculiar belief system and has proven to be a powerful weapon. An example of this would be the use of anti-Semitism to discredit and ultimately remove Jeremy Corbyn not only as the leader of the Labour Party but from the Labour Party entirely. However, the idea that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-Semitism is based on no objective evidence as found in the Chakrabarti Inquiry. Of course this is not to suggest racism as a whole which includes anti-Semitism is absent from the party, but that the extent to which it exists and the damage it causes has been highly exaggerated. Needless to say, this narrative has benefitted many powerful people who saw Corbyn as an existential threat to their ambitions and their way of life. Furthermore, it was also in the interest of the billionaire owned press and the Tory Party to wholeheartedly back this fairy-tale.
What Critical Social Justice Theory which includes Critical Race Theory serves to change is any current definition of a word that does not fit with their myopic radical viewpoint. Critical Social Justice Theory pressurises society to change language until it suits their narrative, thus, presenting as a worryingly Orwellian concept akin to Newspeak in the book 1984. In recent times Critical Race Theory has endeavoured to alter the definition of racism dramatically, shifting it from, conscious abuse that an individual or group inflicts on another party, to a system of power and oppression that has nothing to do with intent. In fact, by simply not admitting to your sins of being born white, you are perpetuating this proposed system of oppression and are therefore, racist.
To a large extent these ideas have been mirrored by the right side of the UK Labour Party throughout the anti-Semitism debate. By simply stating that anti-Semitism is not as prevalent as repeatedly claimed by those who oppose Corbyn, this is often more than enough to be labelled anti-Semitic. The CSJ strategy of redefining words has also been heavily utilised by the right of the Labour Party, in order to suit their agenda of purging the left. It appears anti-Semitism is not about hating Jews anymore, but now includes being opposed to Zionism and the Israeli government, particularly when discussing the treatment of Palestinians.
With this relatively recent arrival of fluid meanings, the absence of objectivity, the dismissal of rigorous enquiry, the rejection of science and the ascendancy of feelings over critical thinking will undoubtedly lead us to a very dangerous place. When everything or nothing is the truth, plus the only accepted social currency is your identity and the corresponding ranking within an arbitrary league table of oppression, chaos will ensue. What will occur, is that the truly rich and powerful within society will harness this destructive weapon to maintain the status quo. In the end poor people and the working class will continue to suffer, as the middle classes are hoodwinked into buying into the allure of identity politics in a vain effort to remain on the right side of history. For the sake of a cohesive functioning society we need to reject Critical Social Justice as soon as possible.