Culture Wars/Current Controversies

“Cancel culture” and Solidarity

By Krystal Ball and Kyle Kulinski

We’re looking forward to our conversation this Friday with Dan Kovalik, author of Cancel This Book: The Progressive Case Against Cancel Culture. In advance of this conversation, we’re thinking about how the Left will build an unapologetic movement for equality that goes beyond performative gestures. And we’re also thinking about how to stand in solidarity with the members of our community who face discrimination and cruelty. Achieving one of these goals doesn’t mean sacrificing the other — on the contrary, it’s essential to understand how to bring people over to our side without accepting or condoning hateful rhetoric. We’re glad Dan is joining us Friday to talk this through, and we hope that you will, too.

Consider this introduction to Cancel This Book:

Cancel This Book argues that “cancellation” is oftentimes counter-productive and destructive of the very values which the “cancellers” claim to support. And indeed, we now see instances in the workplace where employers are using this spirit of “cancellation” to pit employees against each other, to exert more control over the workforce and to undermine worker and labor solidarity.

Kovalik argues that it’s important to keep the principles and purposes of cancel culture in mind. To put it another way, there’s a meaningful difference between working to build an anti-racist or anti-misogynistic organizing environment and treating this work as the territory of company HR. Amazon’s union-busting and cost-cutting on essential pandemic supplies demonstrate that companies act to maximize profit and minimize liability, not to put the safety and comfort of their workers first. While they may sometimes make decisions to protect workers from basic threats to safety, no corporation will be leading us down the path to transformative justice.


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