Cultural Marxism: One of Those Legitimising Ideologies that Come and Go Reply

Totalitarian humanism is only the latest manifestation of a more traditional enemy. Ultimately, our enemy is not any one ideology but the state itself, as Albert Jay Nock pointed out.

By Sean Gabb

Last month, I wrote a defence of Charlie Elphicke, my Member of Parliament. He had been suspended from the Conservative Party while the Police investigated him for an alleged sexual assault. He has still not been arrested or charged. He has still not been told the nature of the complaint against him. It may be that he is about to be unmasked as a serial sex-murderer. More likely, the sinister clowns who direct law enforcement in this country have found nothing that even they regard as an assault worth prosecuting. But, if the former of these possibilities might embarrass me, the general reflections I made on his case stand by themselves. What I wish now to do is to elaborate on these reflections.

I begin by granting that ideologies are in themselves important. They are sets of propositions about the world that are true or false in much the same way as a scientific hypothesis is true or false. They are true or false regardless of what motives people may have for adopting them. This being granted, every person is born with a set of dispositions that draws him to accepting a particular ideology. Some of us are born with a dislike of pushing others around. This will not invariably make us into free market libertarians. But it will incline us to less intrusive formulations of whatever ideology is accepted. There are liberal Catholics and liberal Moslems. There have even been liberal Marxists. Others are born with a will to dominate. These will gather round the most fashionable intolerant ideology on offer.

Last month, I used the examples of Calvinism and Cultural Marxism. These were and are legitimising ideologies. Each has different formal propositions. Each has different enemies. Each has different effects on the character. But their essential function, so far as they can be made hegemonic, is to justify the gaining and use of power by an authoritarian élite – or by “The Puritans.”

If you want to see this case made at greater length, I refer you to my earlier essay. The case briefly stated, I turn to what may follow from it.

This is to suggest that direct argument with the Puritans is of limited value. Our own Puritans are Cultural Marxists for reasons other than the truth or falsehood of Cultural Marxism. Because its surface claims about treating people as individuals, and not being rude to them, are broadly in line with public opinion, it is an ideal legitimising ideology. If our Puritans had, after about 1970, taken up traditional Calvinism, or Orthodox Marxism-Leninism, or National Socialism, they would have got nowhere. The social liberalism of the previous two decades would have rolled straight over them. Instead, there was the combination, in Britain and America, of a large cohort of those inclined to Puritanism and an ideology, or set of ideologies, that could be shaped into a powerful legitimising ideology. It may be that the universe as a whole is locked into a rigid scheme of cause and effect. In this case, what happened was inevitable. But looking only at those parts of the universe we can understand and control, I think there was an element of contingency here. We are where we are because of a largely accidental discovery by the Puritans of a legitimising ideology that worked for them.

I suggest that direct argument is of limited value. This is not to deny that argument has some value. No point of view should be rejected without examination. It may be correct, and there is an obvious benefit in knowing the truth. Before we reject anything, we should assure ourselves of its falsehood. We discover its falsehood by arguing about it. Direct argument is also useful, so far as it brings over the uncommitted, or simply immunises them intellectually against otherwise hegemonic propaganda. It can be useful for giving comfort to the victims of an ideology, and for giving them their own ideology of reaction against what is established. But anyone who thinks that bombarding people like Theresa May and Hillary Clinton with memoranda on the error of their ways will be disappointed. Lecture even a junior Puritan, and the most effect you will produce is a momentary annoyance. They will ignore you. If that fails, they will smear you. If that fails, they come after you.

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