Who’s doing politics?
Politics feel more cultural than political these days. And in the wealthier corners of the world, the culture around educated people involves a sort of pained, fretful play in which we problematize virtually everything. It’s not the best hobby, but it’s widespread enough that good liberals have decided “virtue signaling” suffered from right-wing capture but was perhaps in need of a suitable conceptual approximation because “forced allyship” is a manifestation of it, whatever you want to call it.
I’ve pointed to it in the past, but the Chomsky-Foucault debate really does strike me as a bellwether, Chomsky earnestly arguing there’s a point A, and a point B, and that the law or state may or may not be relevant to how you affix those points in your ethical charts, but they exist; Foucault averring a veritable Xeno’s paradox of morality that has since driven the progressive left into a kind of recursive, somehow-other-directed narcissism that undermines and sometimes destroys the things it most seeks to champion and ally itself with.
I’ve come at this idea through a bunch of different lenses in the past several weeks — Supreme Court rulings, the billionaire submarine, a friend’s tweet about an obtuse NYT column, Twitter, Lemmy, reddit, Bluesky — some of them written down, some diverted into tangents far away from this, some dying as drafts.
I think this essay brought it closer to a boil:
“Expect more antiracist action plans, more vaporous decolonization, more mandated training, more huckster consultants, more vacuous reports, more administrators whose jobs no one can explain, more sleazy land acknowledgments (‘Sorry I stole your house!’), more performative white self-flagellation, more tokenization of minority faculty members.”
Go ahead and place a bet with yourself on the likely cultural/political alignment of the author before clicking through.
We were in the streets, furious, three years ago. I’m not entirely sure what happened, exactly, but something went wrong or got lost, and the fingerprints of our conflation of politics and culture are all over it.