How their race politics liberated the elites from their obligations to the rest of us

How their race politics liberated the elites from their obligations to the rest of us. By Matthew Crawford.

Consider the moral ecology inhabited by the broader gentility: the salaried decision-makers and ideas-managers who service the global arrangement from various departments of the ideological apparatus. They may work in NGOs, the governing bodies of the EU, corporate journalism, HR departments, the celebrity-industrial complex, the universities, Big Tech, etc. …

They have broken free of the claims of allegiance made upon them by the particular communities they emerge from.

How does this work, psychologically? The idea of a common good has given way to a partition of citizens along the lines of a moral hierarchy — one that just happens to mirror their material fortunes …

Instead of feeling bound up in a shared fate with one’s countrymen, one develops an alternate solidarity that is placeless. The relatability across national borders that the gentlefolk feel in one another’s company — the gracious ease and trust, the shared points of reference in high-prestige opinion — has something to do with their uniformly high standing in the moral hierarchy that divides citizen from citizen within their own nations. The decision-making class has discovered that it enjoys the mandate of heaven, and with this comes certain permissions; certain exemptions from democratic scruple.

The permission structure is built around grievance politics. Very simply: if the nation is fundamentally racist, sexist and homophobic, I owe it nothing.

That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.

In The Revolt of the Elites, Christopher Lasch spelled out in greater detail the role that claims of racial and sexual oppression play in securing release from allegiance to the nation — not just for those who identify as its victims, but for those with the moral sensitivity to see victimisation where it may not be apparent, and who make this capacity a touchstone of their identity. It becomes a token of moral elevation by which we recognise one another, and distinguish ourselves from the broader run of citizens. …

Black Americans serve a crucial function for the white bourgeoisie. As the emblem and proof of America’s illegitimacy, they anchor a politics of repudiation in which the idea of a common good has little purchase.

This illegitimacy transcends any particular historical facts about slavery and segregation. Indeed it transcends America, as one can surmise by the ease with which American grievance politics has been exported throughout the Western world. … Most recently, the transatlantic festival of George Floyd attests to the fact that it isn’t simply America that stands accused.

F*** the deplorable working class. The modern gentility are so over them. Now they just look after themselves, thank you very much.

The social order is corrupt, then. The labour movement once had an alternative order to offer in its stead, drawing on the socialist tradition….

The moral authority of the black person, as victim, gave the bourgeoisie permission to withdraw its allegiance from the social order, just as black people were gaining fuller admittance to it. …

The civil rights movement of black Americans became the template for subsequent claims by women, gays and transgender persons, each based on a further discovery of moral failing buried deep in the heart of America. Hence a further license, indeed mandate, granted to individual conscience, as against the claims of the nation. …

Bureaucrats, good government jobs immune from market discipline, and ever-bigger government for their fellow travelers:

The notion of expertise is important. There appears to be a circle of mutual support between political correctness, technocratic administration, and the bloated educational machinery. Because smartness (as indicated by educational credentials) confers title to rule in a technocratic regime, the ruling class adopts a distinctly cognitivist view: virtue does not consist of anything you do or don’t do, it consists of having the correct opinions. This is attractive, as one may then exempt oneself from the high-minded policies one inflicts upon everyone else. …

You can de-legitimise the police out of a professed concern for black people, and the explosion of murder will be confined to black parts of the city you never see, and journalists are not interested in. In this way, you can be magnanimous while avoiding the moral pollution and that comes from noticing reality.

With this clerisy’s systemic lack of “skin in the game”, the idea of a common good becomes a weak abstraction. Maintaining one’s own purity of opinion, on the other hand, has real psychic consequence, as it is the basis for one’s feeling of belonging — not to the community one happens to reside in, but to the tribe of the elect.

And to be in good standing with the new class of the elect is also to be in good standing financially. Funny that.