Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Understanding the Divide Between Social Justice Advocates and the Left-Leaning “Anti-Woke” Community

The more pervasive totalitarian humanism has become, the more there has been a pushback, not only from the right but from the left. Hence, the emergence of opposition to totalitarian humanism on the Left. The development of a “left-wing anti-totalitarian humanism” is what I have been hoping would eventually happen for quite some time. I feel vindicated. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything on the “anti-woke left” either but that’s not the point. The two sides depicted in this article function as necessary constraints on each other.

By Holly Muir and Spencer Greenberg

As part of our research for a Clearer Thinking podcast episode (where we bring people with opposing viewpoints together to see if they can agree on what exactly it is they disagree about), we have been investigating the perspectives of two groups in contemporary U.S. society: those who advocate for social justice, and the newly emerging left-of-center “anti-woke” movement (i.e., liberal-leaning people who tend to oppose identity politics, cancel culture, and critical race theory).

In recent years, we’ve witnessed a meteoric rise of this anti-woke community, with a number of writers within it gaining large followings, including Coleman Hughes, Sam Harris, Jesse Singal, Katie Herzog, and Bari Weiss. Naturally, they have received a large amount of criticism from some social justice advocates.

This article provides a breakdown of these two perspectives in order to explore some fundamental questions that these groups often disagree about (while attempting to “steelman” both sides). We think you’ll find this article interesting if any of the following apply to you:

  1. You’d like to better understand issues around social justice.

  2. You want to get a handle on why some people who are left-of-center say they are “anti-woke.”

  3. You’re only aware of arguments on one side of this debate.

  4. You want to learn about contemporary U.S. culture.

Note that this article is not focused on right-of-center or conservative communities that identify as anti-woke (a group that tends to have very different views than the left-of-center anti-woke communities). We discussed the traditional left-right divide in detail in a previous podcast episode. In this article, we are interested in two groups that both tend to think of themselves as liberal or left-of-center – and tend to agree on many topics, including that:


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