Culture Wars are Long Wars

Culture Wars are Long Wars. By Tanner Greer.

The woke campaign to remake American society is only one of a dozen that have reshaped the American republic. The creation of a distinct American national identity between 1750 and 1780, the 2nd Great Awakening’s moral crusade (culminating in widespread anti-slavery sentiment) that transformed the North between 1820 and 1860, the South’s embrace of pro-slavery politics between 1830 and 1860, and the advance of the Progressive Movement between 1880 and 1920 are all examples of this pattern.

More recent social and political movements we tend to associate with narrower dates: the ‘neoliberal revolution,’ with the election of Ronald Reagan, the Civil Rights movement with the victories of 1954-1968, and so forth. But here too there was a gradually and a suddenly; behind almost all of these sudden revolutions were a decade or two of less glamorous institution and idea building. …

Cultures can be changed; movements can be built. But as these examples all suggest, this is not a quick task. Culture wars are long wars. Instilling new ideas and overthrowing existing orthodoxies takes time—usually two to three generations of time. It is a 35-50 year process. …

In the 1930 and 40s, everyone knew socialism was the way of the future, and politics was different competing brands and strengths of socialism (e.g. fascism vs communism).

If you care at all about this topic, Friedrich Hayek is a man to study closely. Consider his position in 1949, the year he penned the essay “The Intellectuals and Socialism.” He was an economic libertarian living in a world that had seemingly discredited everything he had stood for. … Unfettered capitalism was endorsed by no one. Well, almost no one. It was still endorsed by one Friedrich Hayek. …

Of course, socialism fell with the Soviet Union and the West moved back towards capitalism in the 1980s.

Key to Hayek’s campaign was the conviction that policy flowed from the general attitudes, beliefs, and worldview of what he terms “secondhand dealers in ideas.” What these people believe today, Hayek maintains, will determine policy in 10-20 years. Secondhand dealers in ideas are not experts in the ideas they peddle; they care less about particulars than the grand sweep of things.

Libertarians failed to make way against the midcentury socialist tide, Hayek maintains, because they had nothing to offer these people. They offered stale orthodoxies of an earlier age and saw politics mostly as a wonkish scheme of adjustment at the edges. The secondhand dealer of ideas thirsts for something more than this. Hayek’s essay describes the shape ideas must take if they are to appeal to the generalist intellectual, who exactly these intellectuals were, and why keepers of cultural orthodoxies struggle to adapt their message for the secondhand market. …

It’s also strongly generational:

[Robert Putnam, in Bowling Alone,] isolates many different reasons for these changes, but in the chapter “Generation to Generation,” he describes most of them as effects of cohort change.

 

 

America’s future is godless not because the God-fearing were convinced of the errors of their faith, but because their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren never adopted their faith to start out with. Cultures do not change when people replace old ideas with new ones; cultures change when people with new ideas replace the people with old ones. …

Cultural insurgents win few converts in their own cohort. They can, however, build up a system of ideas and institutions which will preserve and refine the ideals they hope their community will adopt in the future. The real target of these ideas are not their contemporaries, but their contemporaries’ children and grandchildren. Culture wars are fought for the hearts of the unborn. Future generations will be open to values the current generation rejects outright.

This will not be apparent at first. Beneath the official comings and goings of the cohorts above, a new consensus forms in in the cohorts below. Ideas will fester among the young, but their impact will be hidden by the inability and inexperience of youth. But the youth do not stay young. Eventually a transition point arrives. Sometimes, this transition will be marked by a great event the old orthodoxy cannot explain. At other times it is simply a matter of numbers. In either case, the end falls swift: the older cohorts suddenly find themselves outnumbered and outgunned, swept up in a flood they had assumed was a mere trickle.

For them it was a trickle. They spent their time with members of their own cohort. The revolution occurring below did not echo in their souls. It won no converts among their friends, nor even among their rivals. The new values remained the preserve of weirdos and extremists. Not so for the rising generation!

The rising cohort has many reasons to thirst for new ideas. Old orthodoxies, designed to solve the problems of a past age, will have difficulty explaining crises in the new one. …

For example, consider the resurgence of socialism among US Democrats:

Older party leaders view the socialists as spoilers and madmen, political contagions not to be fought against nor partnered with, but contained and quarantined. Socialism is not something they take seriously. This is a cohort problem. Democrats under 40 take socialism very seriously. The Great Recession was their formative event; the old orthodoxy did not seem equal to the fear and heartache it caused. Thus, gradually, the younger cohorts have been won over to the socialist cause.5 All that keeps the socialists at bay is the power of their elders. That power cannot last. At some point in the next decade the transition point will arrive. Gradually will become suddenly, and America’s most popular party will be openly run by socialists. …

We have to survive the millennials, who have been miseducated to believe woke nonsense:

If you reject the quickly crystalizing orthodoxy of America’s millennials, your short-term options are limited. The millennials are a lost generation; they will persist in their errors to the end of their days. Theirs is a doomed cohort — and for most of the next two decades, this doomed cohort will be in charge.

But like all orthodoxies, theirs will eventually stumble. Today’s orthodoxy will meet events it cannot explain. Today’s hopes will be the source of tomorrow’s sorrows. When those sorrows arrive, a rising generation will be looking for alternatives. The job of today’s insurgents is to build a coherent critique of this orthodoxy, a compelling vision of a better way, and a set of networks that can guard the flame until the arrival of that happy day.

To stop the woke revolution both now and in the future, we need to get our children out of their schools. School vouchers would seem to be the right mechanism.