Many of the shifts giving rise to wokeness began in the 1970s. As the political economy of the West ‘globalised’, and as the postwar settlement was upended, a new elite class emerged – what Barbara and John Ehrenreich termed the ‘professional-managerial class’ (PMC).
In this new globalised era, jobs were offshored, mainly to East Asia, and economies increasingly moved focus from manufacturing to services. At the same time, mass immigration changed the demographic make-up and the cultural norms of settled communities. In short, social cohesion and nation states were increasingly superseded by new forms of ‘globalism’ and new elites emerged to manage the transitions.
More importantly, a new cultural and moral order emerged under this hyper-liberal globalism, midwifed by the PMC. Supposedly outdated and gauche ideas of nationhood, community and self-sacrifice were out. Individualism and self-discovery were in. …
The great realignment, as the leftist intelligentsia abandoned the working class from which it once largely came and aimed to win votes by pandering to identity groups instead:
In the face of these shifts, progressive politics morphed. It abandoned the ‘old’ politics of class. Instead, it sought to corral new and fluid coalitions and alliances that emphasised identity politics. As the PMC promoters of this new ‘progressive’ politics marched through the institutions, … PMC ‘caregivers’ effectively assumed hegemony over vast swathes of public life.
The moral panics that continue to grip and restructure UK institutions, such as complaints about microaggressions, unconscious bias or structural racism, should be seen in this context — as the product of an ethical entrepreneurialism designed to shore up and sustain bureaucratic power.
This grievance politics, which often takes the form of a transnational solidarity with distant others, complements the post-national cultural order. It serves to create a hierarchy, in which the university-educated, ‘enlightened’ post-national citizen is elevated above the lumpen, non-degree-holding and ‘unenlightened’ national citizen. The worldview of (usually white) upper-middle-class professionals is seen as the only ‘correct’ one. And those challenging the common sense of the PMC are presented as in need of education. …
How the con works:
The PMC’s identification with the vulnerable is key to its authority. It is continually suggesting that some group or other is threatened by oppression, bigotry, prejudice and so on. The promise to protect the supposedly vulnerable gives moral clout and political justification for PMC rule.
Politics is thus reduced to a conflict between competing claims of vulnerability. Indeed, much of progressive politics is now little more than a call for various public or private bodies to police the speech, opinions and behaviour of alleged oppressor groups in the name of protecting a never-ending supply of victim groups.
In this, suffering and victimhood become both a commodity and weapon of progressive politics. Obey me and give me what I want, or you will harm vulnerable groups and I will make you a social outcast. This is the essential dynamic of cancel culture.
Objective truth was replaced by power, as the believers used the con to help themselves to power while blithely disregarding reality. Language is used to constrain your thinking, to persuade or exhaust you into submission.
This has had deleterious effects across broader culture. For example, social-constructivism stresses the importance of language in ordering the world, which ends up elevating what is felt or perceived over what is real. Advocates of gender self-identification, for example, explicitly rely upon this theory. As they see it, gender is a social construct with no basis in objective, biological reality.
Hence the old joke: