Friday, October 3, 2014

Cultural Marxism, Cultural Conservatism and the Frankfurt School: Making Sense of Nonsense

This post is going to be a lot different from my other ones. It's going to be analytical, experimental, and probably very boring. If you're not interested in politics, philosophy or history, then I highly recommend you go back to whatever you were doing before you came across this post. Fair warning.

Introduction

I'm no stranger to the depths of the internet. It's a place where many perspectives can meet together and either have thoughtful discussion, or (more frequently) duke it out verbally over things they know they'll never come to agreement on. The internet is frequently described as the "free market place of ideas," and with good reason - on the internet, you're not very much restricted on what you can say or do. It's a place where even the smallest of voices can be heard, and be much louder than they ever would have been in "the real world." This can be good, because it can offer dissent and debate over things that would never have seen the light of day otherwise; it can serve as a floor that is conducive to open discussion over any topic, and in many ways, provide equal weight to all of them.

Yet this can also be very bad. Particularly, it makes sense out of nonsense, or at least gives nonsense the appearance of sense. Uninformed parties can also shout from the rooftops of the internet and convince the ignorant masses that what they say is true, or at the very least backed up by substantial evidence or reason. I use "ignorant" mildly here. There's nothing particularly wrong about being ignorant on any given subject, because different pieces of knowledge are useful for different things. Being ignorant has nothing to do with personal value, but merely with what a person has been exposed to and what they're familiar with, and it's very context specific.

I'll give the subject of this post as an example, which we'll further examine. The term "cultural Marxism" has recently gained a lot of popularity in usage among cultural conservatives. While I'll be discussing the "true" meaning of the term throughout this post, a very basic summary is that it is an easy-to-use description of leftism and its influence on culture, adherent to the principles of Marxism. Proponents of the term often claim that these things, starting as early as World War I, have slowly crept their way into Western culture in order to uproot its traditions and values, and is thus a real threat to our way of life.

Now, at an initial glance, this seems like it makes sense, but I'll spoil the surprise for you: it's nothing more than propaganda, utilizing a seldom understood "foreign" concept as a target through which cultural conservatives can mobilize their supporters against a narrative scapegoat. The use of this term, at least within academia, will ultimately never find favor due to its sheer ridiculousness (although proponents will argue that it's being avoided because of "political correctness"); however, this means that its most common occurrences are found within the works of published authors or the internet, and will gain much favor amongst the adhering public. Very few people are truly aware of what Marxism actually is, and so when they see the term, they don't immediately recognize its flaws. This is why it only shows itself at night: because only the ignorant masses, or the uninformed but generally educated public, will buy it.

It's actually kind of funny. Last year, I read a work by one published proponent of the term, Patrick Buchanan, specifically his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America for a project on how to recognize propaganda in rhetoric. This year, it seems Lex (the coauthor of this blog) has been getting hammered by fans of Kevin MacDonald, another author who has frequently used this term to describe a hypothetical Jewish group evolutionary strategy. Quickly we can see that its favor amongst cultural conservatives has led to its application to immigration, Jews (and most likely anti-Semitism), and in general the political left. Now I get to examine its implications and explain why it's of no value.

In this post, we'll first take a look at the meaning of the term "cultural Marxism," its history and usage, and its rising popularity in America. I'll then explain its association with the Frankfurt School and the related conspiracy theory. Next, in order to be able to make any sense of what I'll be talking about, I'll review a few fundamental tenets of Marxist theory. I'll then use the available information and critical analysis to pick apart the term and explain why it doesn't make sense. Likewise, I'll explain why it has nothing to do with the Frankfurt School. Finally, after dispelling all misinformation and propaganda surrounding the issue, I'll try to explain why this term has found common usage, and argue why it's preferable to keep it around instead of eradicating it from the public thesaurus with an atomic bomb.

By the end of this post, I plan on having accomplished the following:

1: Thoroughly examining and refuting the term "cultural Marxism."
2: Pissing off every ideologue that supports the use of this term.
3: Giving people a better understanding of Marxist theory and methodology.

However, I do not plan on accomplishing the following:

1: Convincing anyone who finds favor with this term that it's of no value.
2: Educating those who just want to argue with me.
3: Stopping the use of this term.

I am not here to debate those who are already convinced of their righteousness. I'm here to provide information for those individuals who are seeking it, and want to know more about Marxist theory/methodology without it being confounded by conspiracy theories and political dogma. This is a pedagogic discussion, not a platform for people to promote their ideologies.

Likewise, I don't expect that this will be the end of "cultural Marxism," nor do I want it to be. Although it's admittedly stupid, the use of the term serves as a very powerful and important political tool, and even if it were to be eradicated from the political lexicon, a new term paired with a new conspiracy theory (or the same one for that matter) would quickly replace it. It seems apparent to me that if any term were to find favor with radical conservatives, it's fortunate it was this.

History and Background

When I first looked at the term "cultural Marxism," I nearly spat out my water. First of all, what the heck does it mean? Secondly and lastly, where did it come from?

Perhaps the first popular use of the term "cultural Marxism" in its modern conception is found in an article entitled What is Political Correctness? by cultural conservative pundit William S. Lind. In an Accuracy in Academia (a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting against perceived liberal bias in education) conference, Lind explained:
"Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with classical Marxism the parallels are very obvious."
These are from around the turn of the century. Now, the term has found increasing favor with conservative movements such as the Tea Party movement in 2009. In his manifesto, Anders Behring Breivik placed a copy of Lind's 2004 pamphlet on the subject, further popularizing the term. Less dangerously, the term has been picked up in its extreme by white nationalist movements. If we look at Metapedia, which is basically an encyclopedia for racists, the definition of cultural Marxism begins as follows:
"Cultural Marxism or Cultural Bolshevism (degenerate culture) seeks to destroy everything good about a society, what holds it together, what helps it to advance, what promotes intelligence and beauty. It seeks to degenerate society and take it to a lower form where people are less intelligent and more animal. It's based on the Marxist lie that everything good about society is all a form of oppression."
In this definition, we can see the practice as being instrumental in some type of conspiracy, and even in promoting "degenerate culture-" a term which finds its roots in the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany, and refers to a lower quality of culture, specifically modern art. Of course, we now know that culture can't be seen as being part of a hierarchy or set of stages, but is instead plural and adaptive.

It's not fair, admittedly, to associate all found usage of the term "cultural Marxism" with these more radical (and admittedly uninformative) interpretations and applications. Given what we know, and what we can see on Wikipedia, cultural Marxism is essentially the application of Marxist theory to culture, and "conceives of culture as central to the legitimation of oppression, in addition to the economic factors that Karl Marx emphasized."

This was once, perhaps, a legitimate intellectual practice, but in its modern usage it not only doesn't make sense, but it probably doesn't exist. However, when something doesn't make sense, it's usually attributed to a contentious source, or a conspiracy theory. This incites not only a sense of legitimacy, but fear as well, and serves to mobilize people who are afraid of its lasting effects.

The Frankfurt School

The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory. It's actually not a physical school, but refers to any thinkers associated with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. The term was rarely used by the thinkers themselves. The Frankfurt School arose from dissident Marxists who thought that some of Marx's followers were narrowly interpreting his teachings. In addition, they thought these Marxists were spending too much time discussing the "base" of human society, and not enough time discussing how the "superstructure" functions to support it. We'll discuss what these two things mean in our overview of Marxist theory.

The foundations and teachings of the Frankfurt School, however, are seldom examined by those who use the term in question. A conspiracy theory has arisen around the Frankfurt School, suggesting that they "deliberately subverted traditional Western values through interventions into culture, leading to what is called political correctness." The critical theory of the Frankfurt School, then, is an intentional destruction (or deconstruction) of Western culture, values and traditions to those who buy into this conspiracy theory. Such groups include the Free Congress Foundation and, as mentioned, white nationalist organizations and movements.

While it has found popularity amongst those who, politically, can utilize its societal ramifications, this isn't the common scholarly understanding of the Frankfurt School. This understanding argues that while some individual thinkers from the Frankfurt School did engage in social critique in America, they had no unified theory, nor collective political agenda. This actually makes a lot of sense, given the tenets of Marxist theory and the scholarly foundations of the Frankfurt School.

The alternative interpretation served and continues to serve as an explanation for the idea of "political correctness," originally suggested by the Schiller Institute (a branch of the LaRouche Movement) in 1992, and further promoted in 1994. They charged that the Frankfurt School promoted modernism as a form of cultural pessimism, which contributed the counterculture of the 1960s. The counterculture was a counter mobilization effort primarily amongst proponents of the black civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and the anti-Vietnam student movement in America. Opposition to the counterculture, seeing it as trying to subvert and destroy the traditional values and foundations of America, is what eventually led to the election of the conservative president Richard Nixon. Already, we can see why the term "cultural Marxism" could be of political significance.

But before we look at any of that, we have to be able to make sense of all of these associations - by that I mean we have to look at fundamental tenets of Marxist theory to see why none of these associations make any sense at all.

Marxist Theory

In this section, we'll be discussing two important facets of Marxist theory in order to explain the relationship between culture and society that it envisions, and later apply it to the subject at hand. The first is the dichotomy of human society according to Marxist theory, base and superstructure. The second is the analytical framework and theoretical foundation of Marxism, called dialectical materialism (or, as we will refer to it, dimat).

According to Marxist theory, human society is divided into two parts: the base and the superstructure. The base of society consists of the means and relations of production. The means of production include the tools, factories, land, raw materials, etc. which are all instrumental in the substance of the society. The relations of production are the capital, commodities, private property, etc. which are the social relations and interactions within a mode of production.

The superstructure, or the phenomenon, on the other hand, consists of everything not directly to do with the production. This includes (but is not limited to) the law, media, education, religion, philosophy, and namely the culture. At the center of all of this is ideology, which provides the justification for it all - that is, after the superstructure interacts with the phenomenon. Marxist theory sees culture as being part of the phenomenon, and states that it comes into existence from the base, or the substance of society. It is then, after interacting with the base, justified by the ideology of the society in the superstructure, which also rises from the base. It is a spiral dialectic where the base is most often the domineering force in society.

Outside of this dialectic is the overarching analytical framework of Marxist theory - dialectical materialism. As the term implies, it is a combination of dialectics and materialism. Dialectics is the method of reasoning which aims to understand things concretely in all their movement, change and interconnection, with their opposite and contradictory sides in unity. It approaches things with static definition, and is informal in its mode of thought of ordinary understanding. It goes beyond the formal appearance of something and examines its essence.

Materialism emphasizes the material world as the foundation and determinant of thinking, especially concerning questions of the origin of knowledge. Simply put, it is the belief that at the end of the day, the material conditions' existence shape consciousness, not vice versa.

Dimat, then, is the combination of the two. It's a way of understanding reality by applying the informal mode of thought of ordinary understanding that is dialectics, along with the determinist approach of materialism, to make sense of everything, whether it be the material world, or thoughts and emotions. It is an overarching analytical framework, not a specific analytical framework.

These are fundamental to Marxist theory, and are key in understanding why "cultural Marxism" makes no sense. Learning these dialectics is important because it allows us to know when something can be "applied" or, when it does, if it makes sense. If we look at the fundamentals of Marxism, we see that "cultural Marxism" is a poorly framed interpretation of Marxist theory and is flawed in its conception.

Cultural Marxism

To reiterate, cultural Marxism can be considered the application of Marxist theory to culture. Immediately, knowing what we do, we can make sense of this nonsense and explain why the concept is flawed. It may not be obvious right now, but in a moment it'll make nonsensical sense.

Let's start with the Frankfurt School. As was stated, the Frankfurt School thought that the Marxists of the time were paying too much attention to the base, and not enough to how the ideology functions to support it. They, like the other Marxists, saw the ideology as rising from the base of society, and then justifying it in the superstructure, but sought to emphasize this. Dimat is materialism - the belief that material is the determinant of consciousness - and dialectics - an informal method of understanding things concretely - as an analytical framework for making sense of reality. Why, then, would the Frankfurt School apply the dialectics of Marxism to culture? They sought to emphasize how ideology functions to support the base, not the other way around. "Cultural Marxism" would be a contradiction to this purpose, because it places the same emphasis on culture as traditional Marxists (or the narrow-minded followers of Marx, from which the Frankfurt School dissented).

Moving on, however, the whole idea of "applying" Marxist theory/dimat to a specific facet of superstructure or base, such as culture, is fundamentally flawed. Dimat is an overarching analytical framework that serves as the base for Marxism. It's not a specific framework. Culture always has a place in the framework, as it's a part of superstructure in the relationship we've established above. You can't apply Marxist theory specifically to culture (as is proposed by cultural Marxism) because culture is already an element of Marxist dialectics, and is already examined via the theoretical framework.

Furthermore, even if we were to examine culture specifically using dimat, this is contradictory in nature. Marxist theory is deterministic, where Marx emphasized that ideas have no significant consequences. To examine culture deterministically would be a fundamental contradiction to Marxist theory - it would be a dialectic idealism, not a materialism.

The term "cultural Marxism," then, is either redundant, or self-contradictory in nature. Certainly the Frankfurt School would have nothing to do with such an application of dialectic materialism, but even if they were, they would quickly run into problems. Beyond the Frankfurt School, framing of the term "cultural Marxism" is inherently flawed because it fails to grasp a basic understanding of Marxist dialectics, and this is why it serves no position in scholarly debate, but in propagandizing.

Why is This Important?

Phew, that was a bit of a headache. Now we have to expand upon what was just said and ask the question: why did this flawed term gain so much popularity, and why is it important?

Simply put, I believe it's because it's a foreign concept. Not many people are familiar with Marxism, and the idea of it is seen as the antithesis of Western values, especially democracy. Using Marxism is an easy scapegoat because it incites anger and fear out of people; and then, when you tack "culture" onto "Marxism," it makes it seem like a very specific attack on the culture and traditions of Western society. It's an illustrated conspiracy theory intended to make people afraid of anything that seems to resemble critical theory. In reality, dialectic materialism is merely an analytical framework - it doesn't seek to "do" anything, merely analyze it.

But as flawed as the term is, I think it's important to keep it around. For one, it's very stupid, and thus it won't become too dangerous in its popular usage. More importantly, though, it serves as a method by which radical conservatives can mobilize and consolidate their interests, playing an important part in the political process. As we mentioned, such a rapid mobilization is what resulted in the election of Nixon and the ensuing election of several Republican presidents in the United States. This was a pretty important period for American history where a lot was done, and a lot of modern government operations are founded in that era. While it qualifies as propaganda, "cultural Marxist" fear may actually play enough significance in society that it warrants the very analysis it opposes.

Thank you everyone for reading, and I'll see you all next time!

45 comments:

  1. Your analysis here was solid. I always thought it was really redundant to say "cultural Marxist," but when you pick that apart, you just get Marxist, and is that really that better in the American lexicon?

    I do think you left out one important factor in this whole conspiracy theory, which is that one popular tenet of critical theory, i.e. cultural relativism, is often included in the umbrella of cultural Marxism as well; in fact, many people associate cultural Marxism with the prison writings of Gramsci. This isn't correct, because a cultural relativist approach would be at odds with Marxist stages of history, and is Hegelian, not Marxist in any way.

    This is how you tell the difference between an honest fool and a lying douche.

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    1. Yeah I think that's interesting as well. Marx explicitly believed that modes of production could only eventually lead to the creation of the socialist state, and that capitalism was a step in the right direction, but not sufficient. Cultural relativism believes the exact opposite, that nobody is headed in any direction (hence, culture is plural and adaptive). You'd think none of these people ever read a book on Marxist theory, huh?

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  2. In the conservative vernacular, Communism, Socialism, and Marxism are all parts of the same straw boogie man (i.e. "They're coming to install Communist governments, Socialist policies, and Marxist philosophy."). These words could all be described as shorthand for "The opposite of freedom."

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    1. When I was growing up (and already knew what communism was) and I heard someone object to something because it was "communist," I asked "so what?" Then I learned that it's important for us to have these boogie men in our society: it maintains cohesion because we're all operating towards the same goal (i.e. capitalist democracy). Nonetheless, it's still stupid, but it's a necessary stupidity. At least, that's how I see it.

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    2. What did you learn, specifically, that led you to this conclusion? You said you took at least one class on the topic, so I imagine you've given this matter some thought.

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    3. I guess it's a combination of things. I'm majoring in political sciences, so I like to think I'm more analytical when it comes to political and social movements. For example, I said that Nixon's response to the counterculture was an important moment in America's political history. I say that because while I don't agree with the fossil record of policy making from that time, I can acknowledge that that social mobility in the voting public was of great importance, and led to 28 years (with one exception, Carter) of Republican presidency. Much of the modern developments we've had in infrastructure were in response to domestic and international crises during this time, and we'd be living much differently if not for that era.

      So with that in mind, and the lessons I've gotten from anthropology, I can see how finding a boogie man in our society is what pushes the American dichotomy - the very thing that keeps our society together. Everything is left or right, nature or nurture, my team or your team in America, and this is just a radical reflection of that. Regardless of these differences, we all operate towards capitalist democracy; it's just a conglomeration of common values shared amongst the American public. But what works for us is the polarization with some (emphasis on some) compromise. If we got rid of every irrational polarization/propagandist tactic that was used by both the left and the right to push each other away, we'd be left with the sense that we're missing something.

      We need conflict and scapegoats. That's why we have state legislators in the first place.

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  3. Using pedantic semantics again? Nothing to say about the Culture of Critique, or are you terrified of being "Semitically incorrect"?

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    1. Ladies and gentleman, I now present to you one of the aforementioned fans of Kevin MacDonald that has been harassing Lex! Notice how deep his dogmatism is: he's so desperate to attack anyone who criticizes his ideological Grand Poobah that he failed to notice that Lex wasn't even the one to write this post.

      Sorry Simon, but these aren't "pedantic semantics" (love the alliteration by the way! Really clever). This is what we in the real world like to call "educated discussion." The term "cultural Marxism" makes absolutely no sense, and the use of it clearly displays a lack of knowledge of Marxist theory, of the Frankfurt School, or of the schools of thought that have been associated with it (ex. cultural relativism/Boasian anthropology). The fact that Kevin MacDonald relies on a flawed concept for his thesis is a pretty good representation of his quackery as a whole. And again, I don't expect to "convert" anyone, but the fact that you stand behind him and his use of the term, the availability of resources to critically examine it not withstanding, makes your ineptitude all the more apparent.

      But, if you must know, I saw that there's a post that's still in the draft stage on the blog menu: "Review of Kevin MacDonald's 'Culture of Critique,'" so no you haven't been forgotten. You've just been placed at the lower end of the priority list, and with good reason. You're an idiot, and you're creepy.

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  4. @Simon

    Aw, it's a shame I couldn't let your comment through. Unfortunately the rules change when you come to my posts. I only let in relevant comments with educated discussion. This post was about why "cultural Marxism" doesn't exist and can't exist, not about Kevin MacDonald. You keep pestering Lex about reading his book and commenting on it, so don't go ahead and then say "oh but these people already read it, and they said he's oh so smart." Wait for the review, or shut up. Likewise, try to defend against the points I made in this post, or shut up.

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  5. Oh dear, you're being an insufferable cunt. Not much I can do about that, and pointless for me to type out lengthy comments if I'm just going to be censored.

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    1. "Oh dear, you're being an insufferable cunt." Which part made me an insufferable cunt: the part where I demanded you remain relevant to the discussion on my post, or the part where I told you to defend your position or go away?

      "Not much I can do about that, and pointless for me to type out lengthy comments if I'm just going to be censored." Cool, bye.

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  6. Cultural Marxism is simply Marxist philosophy transferred from the economic to the cultural arena. You're being an insufferable cunt because any comment that isn't 100% correlated to your post is censored, no matter how much effort was put into the comment. You seem to be either dismissing or ignoring the fact that whether we're talking about Marxism, Jews, anthropology or biology, all these things are intricately interconnected... which you would be well aware of if you read the Culture of Critique.

    You'd be wise to research John Tooby's research on the SSSM (standard social science model), which you and Lex seem to rely on exclusively, but then again as university students you would of course have been "educated" using this very method, so thinking outside of it will be extremely challenging for you both.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_social_science_model

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    1. You can't just "transfer" Marxist philosophy from economics to culture. Marxist philosophy has a place for both of them, and to examine culture through a dialectic materialistic lens would actually be an oxymoron. You didn't even read the post, did you?

      You're not putting effort into your comments. You're rambling on and on about things that have already been responded to, and you're exclusively interested in a political discussion in which you rule supreme. I, for one, am only interested in scholarly discussions, not ones in which your political convictions cloud your reason. In this post, I explained thoroughly why the term "cultural Marxism" makes no sense. You couldn't even respond to any of the points I made - you just reiterated the definition of the term, which I already mentioned in the post.

      The thing about Marxism and anthropology is that the prevailing view in anthropology is cultural relativism, which isn't Marxism. As discussed, Marx believed that all societies would converge on socialism at some point or another. That's not what cultural relativism is about. In particular, Boas's teachings led to something called "historical particularism," which is also anti-Marxist. I can't blame you for not being aware of all of this, though. You're hell bent on proving that the establishment is trying to bring you down and that it's all run by Jews, and that Kevin MacDonald will save you in the rapture. You're not interested in anything else, really.

      And, as discussed, most (if not all) the people allegedly following the SSSM didn't believe in a tabula rasa. None of us do either. Once again, you've brought up something completely irrelevant. Let me put this between six asterisks, just so I'm abundantly clear:

      *** I will not accept any future comment from you that is not related to the term "cultural Marxism," in its connotations or denotations. You have spent enough time on this blog rambling incoherently about stuff that's already been debunked. Stay relevant, stay objective, or get the hell off my blog. ***

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    2. "You can't just "transfer" Marxist philosophy from economics to culture."

      Of course you can.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gnpCqsXE8g

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    3. Read the comment guidelines before posting again. Until you provide a substantial argument of your own, you're just denying the evidence.

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    4. So your claim is that it is impossible to intellectually manipulate elements of culture from superstructure to base by blurring the borders in our post-industrial society?

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    5. No, it's not. My claim is that cultural Marxism is a stupid term because it's contradictory both internally and externally.

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  7. This'll be a response to Simon (the Anon), as a general address. I'll look at some of the points he makes, but this is more of a statement of his behaviour on the blog.

    Yes, I'm in the process of reading Culture of Critique. I intend to make it a painful experience for both myself, my readers, and the people who look up to Kevin MacDonald as some kind of purveyor of truth. When that review comes, Simon will be more than welcome to join the discussion, provided he listens very carefully to what I'm saying right now.

    Simon, despite your preconceptions, we've been very kind in allowing you to continue replying on this blog. After looking at your input, about 90-95% of your comments here have been approved, even though many of them violate the rules we've set up. That being said, this is my blog, and Nick's as well. You don't have a right to comment here, you have a privilege. We're allowed to terminate your participation in the discussion at any point, and we'll receive no backlash for it. Keep this in mind as you continue to comment, because you seem to be forgetting who is in control here, and who is in the right.

    Your last comment simply pointed out what the definition of cultural Marxism was, as put forward by hard-right, culturally conservative pundits. Nick already discussed this in his post, and analytically explained why it makes no sense; therefore, your comment was pointless and didn't respond to anything in any substantial manner. This isn't acceptable. We've addressed every point you've ever brought up, sometimes multiple times over. You're obligated to do the same if you want to continue participating in these discussions.

    Furthermore, your comments are almost always filled with inane political propaganda and logical fallacies. We get it, you're afraid of the big bad Jews. We're not. If you want to discuss things, do so in an objective, cordial manner. Many dissenters have done so on my blog, and we've gotten along just fine. You have to follow the rules if you want to retain the privilege of commenting here - which clearly you do, because for the past month and a half, you've continuously returned to this blog to comment.

    I suggest, then, that if you want to keep things the way they've been, that you read this over one more time. This is your final warning (and please note, I've given you many "final" warnings). If you don't play nice, you're getting kicked out for good. End of story.

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  8. John Derbyshire discusses the SSSM, Marxism and it's influence in his review of Nicholas Wade's book. Don't dismiss this link, as you're so fond of doing. It's important for answering your question in how Marxism is involved in all this. Bit like asking whether your nose has anything to do with your breathing, but lefties will be lefties:

    http://www.vdare.com/articles/john-derbyshire-on-nicholas-wade-s-a-troublesome-inheritance-a-small-but-significant-step-f

    Cultural relativism IS tabula rasa/blank slate/cultural determinism, or whatever semantic hair you want to split over this. Relativism, in it's many forms, is the keystone of the left; that nothing can ever be established, that all moral assertions are arbitrary, that civilisation is baseless and no better than some cannibal tribe in Africa. Boas freely admits that he grew up in a home that espoused the ideals of the 1848 revolutions.

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    1. We only dismiss links if they're either irrelevant, or have already been refuted. Or, we dismiss them via our own refutation, as I'll be doing now. This is how debate works. Quotes from the link:

      "All journalists in the West—including all the conservative commentators you have ever heard of—and most other educated people cleave to the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) of human nature, which declares race to be a “social construct,” a sort of figment of our collective imagination." Derbyshire declares the SSSM to be some kind of unequivocal model that has been proven to be used in the social sciences, when it's actually only a proposed paradigm. He also claims that social constructs are figments of the imagination. Not quite.

      "There has, says the SSSM, been no significant evolutionary change in Homo sapiens since one group of us left Africa to begin the colonization of Eurasia and the Americas 50,000 years ago." Says who? If he means, for example, anthropologists, then this isn't true. Also, it requires context. What does "significant" mean here?

      "Even academic professionals in the “soft” human sciences like anthropology and sociology take the SSSM as gospel." Evidence for this? He just links to their reviews.

      I want to keep going, but the point is, John Derbyshire doesn't "discuss" the SSSM in that link. He asserts it as being true, and then points fingers at various scientists, claiming they all adhere to it. He even refers to the whole thing with Stephen Jay Gould, which has been refuted on this blog. He doesn't talk about Marxism either - he just says that the SSSM is a Marxist construct, and that S.J.G was a Marxist. That's not relevant to our discussion.

      Cultural relativism isn't a blank slate. We've been over this several times.

      "Relativism, in it's many forms, is the keystone of the left; that nothing can ever be established, that all moral assertions are arbitrary, that civilisation is baseless and no better than some cannibal tribe in Africa." Woa, woa, woa. Relativism doesn't say any of this. Relativism says that we'll always look at other societies and cultures with a biased perspective, because we'll inherently find our culture to be the best, and that there's actually nothing wrong with this. It's called ethnocentrism, and it's what keeps us cohesive. It also doesn't say that civilization is baseless. Where are you getting all of this from?

      Let me reiterate, Simon: address the substance of this post. We're discussing whether or not cultural Marxism makes any sense. If you can't defend the term, then you're gone. You have one last comment to address this subject. In your own words. Don't like to anyone else; just explain, in your own words, how cultural Marxism is a legitimate term (in a way that doesn't ignore the points I've made in this post). If you can't do that, then admit that you can't. If you can't do any of that, then you're gone.

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    2. No need to concern yourself with this, Nick. Simon's not coming back to this blog.

      But, we can all be satisfied with this experience. For example, let's look to a part of his previous comment:

      "Bit like asking whether your nose has anything to do with your breathing, but lefties will be lefties"

      And another:

      "Relativism, in it's many forms, is the keystone of the left"

      As we can see, Simon clearly displays exactly what you talked about in this post. The discussion around "cultural Marxism" and all the related BS is nothing but political rhetoric. Simon likes to think that he's been untouched by "political correctness," but in doing so he's merely subscribed to a different form of it: whenever you invoke cultural relativism, any criticism of his ideologies, or anything he perceives to be from the "left," he throws a tantrum. It's the same as the perceived notions he has of leftist political correctness, except now it's on the right.

      In his comments, Simon has clearly displayed that his convictions with us and the arguments we make are purely ideological and political. He cannot entertain an analytic or scientific discussion because he's simply too far to the right to see around the corner. He's unfamiliar with the subject material, whether it be population genetics, anthropology, or political philosophy/theory. For this reason, he'll be no longer permitted to comment on this blog.

      Simon: I gave you one last chance, and you failed. Sorry, but the time spent to respond to you can be used in much better ways. You're not worth the trouble.

      Now, go sit down and read your books. When I finish my review of Culture of Critique, you'll be welcome to read it, but unfortunately you've ruined your chances of responding to it. Sorry, but that's how things work around here.

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  9. Fucking lol, Simon is desperately trying to appeal to me being "a man" and standing up to this apparent tug of war we're having over comment moderation. Lex, do you see what I see? You're an insufferable bitch, and a scary one at that, and so Simon is hiding behind my back and whispering over my shoulder to retaliate against you. It's tempting, I'll give him that.

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    1. At least I'm a "Class A" bitch instead of an inferior class. I'd hate to let all my efforts settle for a sub-par final grade.

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  10. I don't understand. Nick and Lex keep referring to comments that "Simon" made, but I don't see some of them here. Are they from another post?

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    1. It's either that, or we're referring to unpublished comments that we saw in our emails. Sorry for the confusion, but it's tempting to respond to him sometimes even if it doesn't meet our commenting criteria.

      Speaking of which, I've just created and published a comment guidelines page. This should remove any confusion in the future. Don't be too concerned with the comment exchange with Simon (the Anon). It's not of particular importance.

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  11. Very nice post, you show a real knack for analytical discussion. I think Lex made an incredible decision in bringing you to this blog, and I look forward to more of your work.

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  12. According to Twitter stats, this

    http://destoryculturalmarxism.blogspot.com/2013/01/what-is-cultural-marxism.html

    is probably the most popular definition of Cultural Marxism on the net.

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    1. Thank you Chris. Unfortunately Nick is MIA, but I can tell you that I've already tweeted to the owner of that blog and commented on that page with a link to this article. Likewise someone has linked to this article on RationalWiki's page on Cultural Marxism. Thanks for your input, though! Now we at least know we're on the right track.

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  13. Thanks for putting up this superb, readable dissection of the inanity that is "cultural Marxism." There is an ongoing struggle within the egalitarian segment of the Men's Human Rights Movement to keep it from being yanked hard right, and the yankers at present are spamming most comments sections with references to the cultural Marxist boogeyman. The attempt to link carceral, authoritarian feminism with everything left is a common scare tactic, and the attempt to link everything on the left to cultural Marxism is part of that. I'll link to this page as a helpful antidote. Cheers and thanks. --Jack Strawb

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    1. I've always wondered how hard-righters react to left-leaning MRAs who, for all intents and purposes, have similar ideas as them (only insofar as that any men's rights movement can be seen as mirroring the feminist movement, regardless of whether or not it supports or opposes it). Strange to see that they just try to pigeonhole everything into cultural Marxism, as if it's some end-all-be-all category for all things the left supports. Well, not strange, just mildly unbelievable.

      Glad my article could be of some help. I hope you find success.

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    2. Anon,

      Feminism made a lot of enemies of the soft-left [Atheists, social democrat millennial who play video games, Mens Rights Activists]. I think a lot of those soft-left [Maybe the word "Humanist left" is better here] folks noticed that whenever they crossed paths with feminists, the largest news outlets that covered the events sided decisively with one side.

      Nick,

      MRAs talk about men being disposed of their children, their money, and in some cases their freedom [Not to get into whether or not, and if so, why this is happening] Other people within that proximity who agree, worry MRAs will only succeed in the getting laws which are used ostensibly on behalf of women to give those women the same treatment as men. This entails "equal treatment" but also means that, in divorce for example, both parents lose the child.

      I'm not left wing if you haven't already guessed, or even a humanist. I do sympathize with people who are left wing and who are humanists who typically argue in good faith and get treated like vile dissidents. I still agreed with the author on the main premise before I had even read it. Cultural Marxism isn't real in the sense that it's something that a choate group of people believe and self identify as such. [By the way, this is true of several terms out there]

      Though it is a term you *could* use to describe a phenomenon, or a vector, which is real. Vectors are nice for us because they take information and compress it, but they come at the cost of information. [Sometimes that cost is too high]

      So I've seen a bunch of soft leftists use the word Cultural Marxist now as a term of derision. They know it exists because *something* just hit them very hard and they don't have a word for it.

      Now I'll take a more dangerous leap, and this is where you're probably going to disagree:

      Every term, [Every "ism" especially] isn't "real", but almost all of them refer to something which possesses a reality outside the imagination of the speaker. Capitalism's a decent example here. And how real could capitalism be if it's used to describe so many different economies in different time periods? Perhaps for the same reason different left wing intellectuals have been headed under a particular vector? Then, would it be right or wrong to dismiss various groups of people complaining about capitalism by telling them that "capitalism is a boogie man invented by crack pot left wing intellectuals in frustration with economic and technological progress" ?



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    3. Hm, interesting reply. I'll see what I can do with it.

      I'm familiar with most of the tenets of MRA, but thanks for the clarifications. It's a nice, concise sum-up of the key points here. I was merely trying to draw attention to the fact that this issue exercises itself within ends of the political spectrum, not just between.

      "I'm not left wing if you haven't already guessed, or even a humanist."

      I guessed at you being somewhat of a moderate, if not slightly right-leaning. I'm not a leftist either (at least not self-declared), and I also don't like to think of myself necessarily as a humanist. My article (I'm the author) was not so focused on stating "nobody actually identifies as a cultural Marxist," but rather that people who use the phrase are actually hijacking terms and combining them as a scare tactic. Not only does nobody identify as a cultural Marxist, but it makes absolutely no sense from an etymological point of view, or even a Marxist one for that matter. It's less about whether or not it exists to whether or not it can meaningfully exist, even as a catch-all phrase for leftists by the hard-right.

      I suppose in part that gets to your suggestion that perhaps this term could exist, but I don't think I've sufficiently answered your concerns. I'll try to do that in regarrds to your more controversial paragraph.

      Every term does describe something real that exists outside the imagination of the speaker - I absolutely agree with that, because it's fundamental to understanding what language is. It's essentially humanity's attempt to pigeonhole all information they gather into categorical phrases and terms so as to convey more complex thoughts in a convenient manner for every day conversation. The difference is whether or not these terms are:

      A) Intuitive.
      B) Meaningful (or useful).
      C) Make any sense.

      Of course there has to be some balancing since not all terms are intuitive, but while I won't go into the etymology of "capitalism," it does have proper origins. Cultural Marxism, on the other hand, is literally a term/phrase invented to draw attention to some type of conspiratorial undermining of common culture using tenants of Marxism. If one is going to use a preexisting term (e.g. Marxism) and apply it with a more directed claim (i.e. it's Marxism but focusing on culture), they have to make sure their usage thereof makes even a lick of sense. As I illustrated in the article above, it doesn't.

      So, to summarize, yes most words are just abstract and plastic categories for real phenomena or concepts, but to use a preexisting term and apply it in such a way that makes no sense as is the case with cultural Marxism finds itself outside of what is a typically liberal understanding of what it means to "make language."

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  14. So, there's an out right dismissal of Cultural Marxism without reference to the writings of Adorno, Marcuse, two heavyweight Frankfurt School Intellectuals/American tenured PhDs who wrote on the concept of institutional subversion(societal institutions, art, culture, religion - not just rick and mortar), and are rock stars in the world of marxism- and Antonio Gramsci's "long March through the institutions" conceptualization.

    You also missed the mark entirely on what Cultural Marxism is, basically deconstructing society or the rather the cultural part of the superstructure, using the dialetic and finding opposing forces and agitating those forces to get the desired negation or sublimation. Basically you find the dialectics surrounding the most dominant force in society and agitate it's oppositions to achieve the result.

    Which is what they did... which is why the the USSR gave material support to the CPUSA to further support socialist and civil rights movements from the 1920s onward. Aside from the USSR's imperialism, they conspired to bring about revolutions in many nations through a strategy of demoralization. The cultural change was the desired achievement, not establishing some military bulwark or winning some votes. It is a theory of non-violent revolution that revolves entirely around Marxist theory and leftist progressivism.

    This arose out of the realization that Western workers were too pampered and wealthy to revolt as opposed to the Russian peasants. So they went after the academics and the culture. As the cryptic and verbose nature of Marxism appeals to those who wish to give off an air of being intelligent, weak academics took to Marxism and it's Critical Theory in spades.

    You haven't debunked anything. You just talked about dialectical materialism for a bit, and said Cultural Marxism is an oxymoron - it isn't. If you are using Marxist theory to bring about gradual, progressive cultural change, through media, education, religion or law(along with the requisite Marxist antipositivism that fact based reasoning only gives an "appearance" does not get to the "concrete", that it's okay to deny facts and appeal to emotion and propagandize to achieve that end) or support it, rather than say, violent revolution, you're a Cultural Marxist.

    TA-DA!

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    1. Anon,

      The Frankfurt School is largely irrelevant when discussing the concept of Cultural Marxism for reasons I explained in the post. Writers like Adorno, Marcuse, and Benjamin did not try to correct Marxist theory in how capitalism would fall or be overthrown, but rather they examined the ways in which institutional subversion had helped authoritarianism gain so much popularity in the 20th century. These have not, as far as I can tell, significantly influenced modern discussion of Marxist superstructure, which is why I didn't bother including them in my post. It's just a dead end.

      The quote you're referring about marching through the institutions of power was not Gramsci's, but Rudi Dutschke's in his interpretation of Gramsci's work, which he read decades after Gramsci's death and had little influence in academic discussion. If you're going to criticize my reading into the Frankfurt School you should at least take the 10 seconds to verify your own claims.

      "You also missed the mark entirely on what Cultural Marxism is, basically deconstructing society or the rather the cultural part of the superstructure, using the dialetic and finding opposing forces and agitating those forces to get the desired negation or sublimation. Basically you find the dialectics surrounding the most dominant force in society and agitate it's oppositions to achieve the result."

      This isn't terribly different from what I mentioned about the left attempting to subvert tradition and culture in western society, but your definition isn't exactly spot on either. Another commenter offered the most popular definition, and it has very little influence on the point of my post, which is to illustrate why the phrase "cultural Marxism" is nothing more than rabble rousing about Marxists and Communists, using a term that is contradictory in itself. As I stated, a person doesn't simply apply Marxist dialectics to subvert a culture as you're suggesting. The real question is whether or not the students of the Frankfurt School have had any practical influence on the way protests and the counterculture have influenced society today. As I've illustrated, probably not, because such an approach contradicts what the Marxist dissenters were concerned with. Why would they have any reason to believe that subverting the culture of society would have any effect on its base, when they sought to emphasize the fact that the superstructure only justifies the base and does not influence it directly? That'd be pointless and a waste of time.

      "If you are using Marxist theory to bring about gradual, progressive cultural change, through media, education, religion or law or support it, rather than say, violent revolution, you're a Cultural Marxist."

      So ignoring the Frankfurt School, what you're suggesting is that a Marxist would even bother to focus on changing the thoughts and ideas of society to influence the way it functions. Let's first discuss how Marxists would react to this: they would laugh. Marx taught that ideas are determined, not deterministic. What you're suggesting is largely Hegelian in nature. How would the idea that you could subvert culture to influence policy have any place in a materialistic dialectic? It wouldn't.

      Now, does Marxism offer an explanation as to what could bring about this change? Well when you look at it through actual dimat, it makes sense. The base of society desires a large number of workers to produce cheap labor to compete in the free labor market. As a result, we let in millions of immigrants and begin promoting multiculturalism to justify our policy. The ideas were determined, they were not deterministic; thus CAPITALISM is to blame for the subversion of western culture, not Marxism.

      TA-DA!

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    2. I would like to add to this with an example Anon may understand well. I wouldn't be surprised to find that Anon is critical of cultural anthropology as a discipline, but it perfectly illustrates my point. In cultural anthropology it's taught that the way a society operates, or functions, will often tell you a lot about its behaviour. For example, capitalist societies will promote a culture where people are competitive and aggressive, while hunter-gatherer societies promote a culture where people are cooperative and egalitarian. This would be a very good example of academia adhering to Marxist principles: The superstructure serving to uphold or justify the base of society. You can't have a capitalistic society without competition, so competition is a necessary consequence of capitalism. As a result, any course or teaching in cultural anthropology will tell you that you cannot simply change how a culture feels about things or sees things if it doesn't make sense within their operating system. You can't convince a capitalistic society to be overwhelmingly egalitarian without first or separately promoting socialized policies. People will gradually become more sympathetic to "equality" as the way the base functions changes.

      That's Marxism. What you're describing, subverting culture to change policy, Nick best described as Hegelianism, or dialectical idealism.

      Delete
  15. Domesticated Rambo, "cultural marxism" colloquially describes the a worldview which treats virtually all ideas, cultural practices behaviors and values, as if they are innately equal and legitimate. It's marxist egalitarian/classless philosophy applied to the spectrum of differing values and ideas exhibited by different communities, cultures, and subcultures, to the extent judgment is suspended in favor of a promoting a widespread tolerance of all said cultural practices, values, and ideas regardless of their nature.

    Some ideas and cultures are demonstrably superior to others, e.g. The idea that human beings cannot be owned by other human beings as property is superior to the idea that human beings can legitimately be enslaved.

    Or for example, the idea that people can own property and set rules for how that property is used and how others ay interact with said property is superior to the idea that one has some sort of right to go on someone else's property, behave like a self righteous jerk and completely ignore the requests and warnings of the owner to chill and engage more respectfully without facing any sort of consequences.

    Look no further than your own "Comment Guidelines."

    "Cultural marxism" as used by the theocratic fascist right wing lunatics is complete hogwash, and the conspiracy theory they advance a la the frankfurt school is merely smoke and mirrors.

    Look Domesticated Rambo, I think we got off on the wrong foot. I'm happy to continue our discussion provided you are willing. Being in that you are the one who blocked me, the ball is in your court. You know who this is.

    For the record Rambo, I ain't no conservative. I couldn't be further from it. I'm a free-market anarchist, an anarcho-capitalist, more commonly known as a libertarian, though the libertarian label has a lot of stigma attached to it.

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    1. Ask any modern anthropologist, I doubt any of them will tell you that they're totally okay with slavery and that we should stop trying to end human trafficking around the world because "it's their culture." The ideas that you're taking issue with don't exist. Slavery is an economic practice, not a cultural one, and depending on whether they're enslaving their own people or other society's people, they are either violating another culture or they are failing to confer benefit upon their own members of society, thus making it illegitimate even if it were a cultural practice.

      You've been unblocked on Google+. If you wish to discuss those events, privately message me there. This is not the appropriate place to do so.

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    2. You have been blocked once more, this time for good. Communication is for the receiver, so when I tell you I intend a meaning and don't intend another, I am explaining that for your sake, and you're obligated to accept my explanation. It's not a communication issue on my part if you refuse to accept my word on what I intended to tell you.

      You're so full of yourself you never realized that.

      Before I see you off, some tips for future reference:

      1: For someone who is so dedicated to scientific inquiry, you should know that NLP is pseudoscience and that transgenderism is not inherently a mental illness.

      2: Saying "now you have [clarified your intent]" implies I hadn't done that before. No, I specified my intent half a dozen times. You just didn't accept my explanations.

      3: "Writing skills" and "communication skills" are indistinguishable from one another online. Drawing a dichotomy there was laughably pointless.

      4: I have no issues with communication or writing. My career involves frequent engagement in both. I know my strengths and my weaknesses.

      Bye bye now.

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  16. Could the idiot creator of this post be anymore delusional?

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    1. Could the idiot creator of this comment be any more uninformative?

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  17. If I have to explain to one more person why 'cultural marxism' can't be marxist, I think I might kill myself, or them...

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  18. Uh-oh, the Far Left has been very thoroughly unmasked as having unabashedly Marxist characteristics, and the only thing they can do is spout a bunch of laughably false non-refutations of the theory of Cultural Marxism! And when it is pointed out to them that their arguments are provably false or at best red herrings and ignoratio elenchis, they devolve into profanity-laden tirades. It really is too bad for the Far Left that they no longer have the power to deceive the morally decent people the West with impunity. They have been exposed as Marxist activists who are working to destroy the West, the very thing the Communists wanted to do, and there is nothing they can do but spew profanity at their enemies. How delicious!

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    1. First and foremost, since you didn't reply to any comment string in particular I can't tell where you think you found a "profanity-laden tirade" in this comments section. I did a quick Ctrl+F for the words fuck, piss, cunt, ass, dick, douche, and bitch, and found no examples of a direct response to dissenters where anybody here used an excessive amount of cursing. One instance of saying "fucking lol" or sarcastically calling Lex a bitch isn't what I'd call "profanity laden." I have no idea where you got this from.

      Additionally, before I ever threw a curse word at any dissenter, one of them called me an "insufferable cunt." If you're going to make it a point to take issue with the profanity in this thread twice in the same comment, then why did the fact that BOTH sides cursed to a very limited extent not bother you?

      Second, you talk about how flawed the rebuttals are but make no attempt to actually elucidate what their flaws are or where we commit the logical fallacies you cited. Blindly throwing out these accusations doesn't amount to any evidence that the arguments are "provably false."

      Third, nobody here qualifies as Far Left. We have repeatedly denounced any affiliation with an ideological movement or party, so you're making things up as you go along here.

      Lastly, and this is the most important, you're blatantly wrong. There have only been two substantive attempts at rebuttals to this post, one by Simon and one by the person who ended their comment with "TA DA!" Both were thoroughly replied to and sufficiently rebutted. Nobody "spewed profanity" in substitution for a rebuttal here.

      I don't know what post or comment you think you're reading, but you're at odds with reality. If you reply again, you should be more specific and offer something valuable to the discussion so that people aren't just forced to take your word for it when you say there is some flaw to these arguments.

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    2. You rebutted precisely nothing. Your semantics, obfuscation, obscurantism, and all other manner of laughably specious and deceptive attempts to disprove the irrefutably proven fact that Cultural Marxism is completely real - and an ideology rigorously and loyally adhered to by the modern-day Left - are all duly noted. Mazeltov.

      Anybody, Marxist or otherwise, who claims that the ideology that bears his name can't be translated into cultural terms is lying, plain and simple. The historical record that includes the scribblings of such activists as Magnus Hirschfeld and Antonio Gramsci (in addition to the Frankfurters) is the smoking gun in conservatives' favor, and there is nothing you can do to explain it away. You're fooling NOBODY.

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    3. Hm, you sound awfully familiar. I wonder if all alt-righters argue from the same playbook, or derive their sentences from the same lexicon. Maybe we've just met before. Who knows? Anyway, I'm glad you've convinced yourself that your position is both proven and irrefutable. That is a very, very scientific way to approach this discussion, no doubt.

      I'm not lying to say that the concept of "cultural Marxism" is nonsensical and redundant. I'm being very honest, actually, for reasons explained at length above (reasons you've merely dismissed as semantics or obfuscation, without explanation). That "smoking gun" that can't be explained away kind of can: Gramsci was heavily influenced by Hegelian philosophy and thus is not an accurate representation of Marxist materialism, and Hirschfeld isn't even a household name in Marxist schools or its offshoots.

      As for the Frankfurt school, as I said in the article, even if cultural Marxism were a sensible and valuable term in and of itself, the Frankfurt school would have nothing to do with it, because it would've been precisely what they had dissented from when they broke off from the traditional Marxists in the first place.

      I should inform you at this point that repeating the same points ad nauseam and not taking any effort to try to substantiate your claims is something frowned upon on this blog. If your future comments don't adhere to the Comment Guidelines and you continue to merely argue by assertion, they won't be published.

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