Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Workers vs. Wokeness: Recognizing Campus Social Justice as a Luxury Good

By Jonathan Kay, Quillette

“While art has long maintained a symbiotic relationship with bourgeois state power, there’s still something deeply unsettling about our supposedly ‘radical’ artists manufacturing consent on behalf of one of our two entrenched capitalist parties,” wrote artist and self-described “culturally agnostic Marxist” Adam Lehrer in Caesura last month. By way of example, he cites an image circulated by visual artist Marilyn Minter in advance of this month’s US election, labeled, “How are you voting in 2020?” with the two choices labeled “Democrat” and “Fascist.” Lehrer argues that “Trump isn’t a fascist. He’s a symbol of the transformation of American empire and global capitalism.” And so “what Minter is doing is fusing conceptualist aesthetics with neoliberal politics and talking points. In doing so, she’s not just propagandizing on behalf of one faction of the elite, but also neutralizing art of its critical role.”

More broadly, Lehrer argues,

The cultural hegemony has shifted in the last 30 years as artists, intellectually trapped in the banal culture wars of the ‘90s and attracted to the intersectional aesthetics of [a] liberal elite (the [Democratic Party] and its backers in the surveillance state, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street), [that] willfully overlook[s] or latently support[s] the neoliberal and imperial politics of the elite. This is rank conformism.


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