Freddie de Boer has a short critique of the New York Magazine profile of Judith Butler that makes a good point:
I find the author’s basic contention – that Butler and the type of academic leftism she has spearheaded have transformed the American cultural and political world – indisputable. In its obsession with language as the sole arbiter of all things, its sorting of all people into broad camps of good and bad based on the use of abstruse vocabulary and assorted virtue signaling, and its near-total silence on the economic foundations of injustice, I find the theories and ideas discussed in the profile to be entirely indicative of 21st century American liberalism….
This is the reality of capitalism: everything that is perceived to be a social good will be monetized, and everything that can be monetized will be distributed unequally. And so today we have these radical queer arguments and terms bandied about by the very people who perpetuate a world of entrenched and powerful inequality, Pride flags whipping in the breeze in front of Goldman Sachs, people in $3,000 suits dismissing the gender binary as they meet for cocktails in a hideously expensive DC hotel. Meanwhile, the grubby masses, lacking access to the kind of private liberal arts colleges where one learns these Byzantine codes, now can add political and moral poverty to their economic and social poverty. This is the next great project of the American elite: building a political system that ensures the winners in winner-take-all enjoy not just the fruits of material gain, but the certainty that their elevated station is deserved thanks to their elevated moral standing. Manhattan vocabulary for Manhattan people leading Manhattan lives, and all of it expressed in just the right terms.
Let’s back up and look at the subject of the fawning profile he’s critiquing, Judith Butler:
Gender Trouble, published in 1990, made Butler a star: It introduced “performativity,” the idea that gender isn’t something we are but something we continually do, opening the door for “cultural configurations of sex and gender [to] proliferate,” as she put it in the book’s conclusion, “confounding the very binarism of sex, and exposing its fundamental unnaturalness.” If not for Butler’s work, “you wouldn’t have the version of genderqueer-ness that we now have,” says Jack Halberstam, a gender-studies professor at Columbia. “She made it clear that the body is not a stable foundation for gender expression.”
For much of her career, Butler was known mostly within academia, in part because of the difficulty of her prose. And yet the work Butler demands of readers is of a kind that, more than ever, they are willing to do now — if not necessarily while reading theoretical texts, then in moving through their daily lives. People outside the academy question their assumptions; they wrestle with unfamiliar ideas and examine their own discomfort. “Don’t laugh,” read a recent headline in the Washington Post. “I have a serious reason for raising my cats gender neutral.” (The reason: as a reminder to use the right pronouns for nonbinary friends.) Theoryspeak, meanwhile, has infiltrated civilian vocabularies. Trope and problematic and heteronormative; even, in a not-quite-Butlerian sense, performative — the sort of words that rankled queer theory’s culture-wars critics — are right at home on Tumblr and Twitter. In a broad-stroke, vastly simplified version, the understanding of gender that Gender Trouble suggests is not only recognizable; it is pop.
Progressive implies progress — the moving forward toward a goal. But what is the goal of today’s intersectionalist, academic-influenced identity politics? Not a state where all individuals are treated equally under the law, and not a society where merit and competition determine who gets the resources to invest in the future wellbeing of everyone. No, it is more about the getting of resources — in the form of secure academic and government jobs — by showing oneself to be the virtuous defender of downtrodden people of color and alternative gender identity. Demonstrating “advanced” abilities to use the language of identitarian politics gives you access to advancement in academia and government, where reality testing in the form of having to produce satisfying products for customers isn’t a big factor in organizational survival.
Here’s a paragraph of her academic writing from her 1997 paper in the journal Diacritics:
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
Yes, that was very bad, wasn’t it? [Channeling Leonard Pinth-Garnell, played by Dan Aykroyd in early Saturday Night Live sketches about pretentious, bad art.]
Freddie is irritated because this upper-class SJW virtue-signalling has almost blotted out old-fashioned redistributive political movements. Class warfare, trade unions for industrial workers, soaking the rich — all lost their currency, and now the most-connected, most-privileged people of all colors and genders use their perfected command of identitarian language as just another way to bar the entry of the real downtrodden of all colors and genders. As he points out, one of the characteristics of free market capitalism is its ready co-optation of nearly every social movement — buy your hippie beads here, kids! — by not resisting but enveloping and adopting. The movement is defused and the power structure remains untouched, at the expense of the unwashed masses who vote and pay taxes. The Progressive Barack Obama typifies this strategy of distraction — while apparently offering a Progressive agenda, his administration was staffed by Wall Street finance types who were unlikely to disrupt the finance industry’s over-large share of the national income, and the revolving door between health insurance companies and his ACA implementors in HHS led to headlines like this in the New York Times: “Head of Obama’s Health Care Rollout to Lobby for Insurers”:
WASHINGTON — Marilyn B. Tavenner, the former Obama administration official in charge of the rollout of HealthCare.gov, was chosen on Wednesday to be the top lobbyist for the nation’s health insurance industry.
Ms. Tavenner, who stepped down from her federal job in February, will become president and chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group whose members include Aetna, Anthem, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and many Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.
The “stray voltage” issues put up by the Administration are designed to distract from their many failures in foreign policy and their crony-capitalist corruption in sending tax dollars and settlement money to political supporters. The issues of bathroom laws, gun control, and the (nonexistent) epidemic of campus rape are designed to be largely symbolic gestures generating conflict with the perceived enemies of Democratic client classes and have nothing to do with the really critical work of keeping money flowing into campaign coffers and providing high-paid sinecures for fellow travellers.
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations
[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]
The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.
Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”
Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.
More reading on other topics:
Update: California High-Speed Rail Nearly Dead
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour
On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:
Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism
Orlando and Elite Bigotry: Come Out as an American
Progressive Displacement and Social Media: Gun Control Edition
The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):
Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare
More reading on the military:
US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy