Conservatives need to stop treating virtue signaling as if it didn’t matter

Conservatives need to stop treating virtue signaling as if it didn’t matter. By James McElroy.

The phrase “woke capitalism” … [is] the institutionalization of Left social doctrine by America’s top corporations — and the purge of any American who refuses to submit. … It’s a mistake to focus solely on deplatforming. Woke capitalism goes much further.

Behind closed doors, corporations hold seminars in which Ivy League professors, or other TED Talk types, explain that capitalism is racist and needs to be corrected with massive redistributions. More visibly, Goldman Sachs refuses to work on IPOs if the company is run by straight white males, Microsoft won’t hire law firms that fail to meet diversity requirements, and Credit Suisse created an equity index to track policies. Bank of America pledged to donate one billion dollars over four years to fight racial inequality, and J.P Morgan pledged $30 billion over five years to lend explicitly based on race. The administrative state agencies supervising corporate compliance back these measures to the hilt. …

A common misconception:

Many people like to believe that woke capitalism is insincere posturing. H.R. blather protects the company from lawsuits, woke ads build goodwill with progressives, and companies will use minority lending programs to create CDO products. Big deal — underneath it all, business remains the cold world of profit-seeking rationalism. … But Twitter’s and Facebook’s actions clearly prove this wrong: they cannot be explained in terms of profit. Nor is it the first time this has happened. In 2019, corporations openly opposed democratic self-rule by refusing to work in Georgia when the state passed restrictions on abortion. This was despite Georgia’s pro-business policies. Who cares if that was a publicity stunt?

The people who work at these companies do, in fact, hate you. Their sincerity or depth of principle is irrelevant. Those who fret about the inconsistency or inauthenticity of today’s neo-totalitarians have spiritually surrendered, saying, in effect, “that KGB agent who dragged me to the Gulag and stomped on my face was so cynical. Probably hasn’t even read Marx’s Capital.”

Conservatives who unreflectively champion “pro-business” policies without reference to their holistic impact on American life and culture simply work to fund people who hate them. And so to fight the new totalitarian menace, it will be necessary to rethink the institution that historically kept business interests in check: the labor union.

Ever noticed how woke consistently generates more jobs and income for the “managerial class”?

The “managerial class” is simply the people who run our large bureaucracies. The phrase doesn’t necessarily refer to economic status, but economic function. The bureaucracies can either be government or corporate. Both rely on the same talent pool, and the distinction is often less relevant than Republican rhetoric suggests.

Any large bureaucratic action, whether initiated by the government or a corporation, requires managers. A complicated tax code requires bureaucrats within the government to enforce, but also creates a vast army of Big Four consultants to help Amazon dodge it all.

In older forms of capitalism, the upper class’s economic advantages manifested at the individual level. The factory owner depended on workers, but received the lion’s share of profits because of individual property rights.

Managers aren’t capitalists in the traditional sense. They don’t benefit at the individual level in the same way. James Burnham wrote that “the system of managerial economy might be called a type of ‘corporate exploitation’ as opposed to the ‘private exploitation’ of capitalism.” Burnham compared the way that managers achieve economic benefits to priestly castes in older societies. In the Catholic Church, the Cardinals have power because they pick the Pope, but no single individual picks the Pope. The managerial class confers benefits upon itself in the same manner as priests, and this shapes their worldview.  …

A class of people achieve economic benefits like a priesthood, work jobs where they tell others how to think, and promulgate nonsense “values” as a tool to achieve their own ends. Could that possibly be related to the rise of a pseudo-religious political movement that tells people what to think and promulgates transparent nonsense to achieve its own ends? It’s not a coincidence that Barack Obama always used the quintessential corporate phrase “our values.”

Behind every crazy woke idea is an implicit call to consolidate power within the managerial class, proving that there is never a clear distinction between the economic and cultural spheres.

  • It’s not just “be nice online,” it’s “hire disinformation specialists.”
  • It’s not just “use the proper pronouns,” but “hire these diversity managers.”
  • Not just “abolish the police,” but “hire these social workers.”
  • Racism is now defined as a metaphysical state of being that permeates everything, and so we must fork over piles of cash to the gnostic priests who understand the secret forms of bigotry hidden in your heart. …

How to defeat the managerial class:

The university is usually blamed as the originator of all this, but that is true only insofar as business has outsourced job training to college. …

Conservatives should spend more time thinking about what it would mean to build effective 21st-century labor unions or guilds. Republican leaders often defect because woke concerns function as a way to signal class status. Conservatives need to find ways to nurture a new leadership class that isn’t crippled by status anxiety. The working class is less tied to woke pieties than the managerial class, and finding ways to increase their political agency would defang woke nonsense.

Tech monopolies can’t truly be fought without fighting their anti-American labor practices. Republicans spent a year fundraising off the threat of tech censorship, and then as soon as the election was over they rewarded big tech with cheap labor. A new labor movement could help curb immigration, reform the H1-B1 program, and lessen offshoring, while encouraging strategic manufacturing in America.

New labor movements must also divorce the white-collar workforce from the university wherever possible. Most colleges are a total joke, and there are plenty of well-paying white-collar jobs with fancy titles that could be done by a 19-year-old. It’s time to end the charade. These are already popular issues among the populist Right, but it’s important to stress how they help cultural fights.