Friday, November 27, 2020

Critical Race Theory

 Quillette has a new article on how Robin DiAngelo gets Foucault wrong. I tend to like something easier and snappier, One Weird Trick that allows you so see through Marx, Hegel, and Foucault. Alas, that is seldom what is offered at Quillette and most other sites discussing the matter. More discipline and hard work is required.

I may have enough of one to pass on to make life easier for you all. Foucault picked up on Marx's idea of ownership of the means of production and generalised it to a more expansive "power." That seems sensible enough, because power comes in many forms, including influence, cultural inertia, and even the subtler structures of how power is allowed to change. So much, you already knew. One could add in Derrida and Paul de Man, though those are usually more prominent in the discussion of "what a stupid bad person you are, thoroughly embedded in the prejudices of your grandfathers, for questioning us at all. It's clearly just resistance, which we know, because we assume it, says very bad things about you personally at the psychological level. And that your income and status depends on it. Have a nice day." But Foucault has held his spot better than they did. DeMan fell as rapidly as Satan from heaven after it was discovered that he had written propaganda for the Nazis. We are now mercifully free off him.

The fatal flaw of Foucault is that his ideas must be close to 100% true or they are not true at all.

The idea of power influencing our perceptions and even those elusive ideas of where our knowledge comes from is not all that alarming.  One can see it long before Foucault, long before Marx, back through Voltaire and Descartes, and even back to Pilate and Solomon in the Bible, and Plato. They all might describe this a bit differently, not in terms of power per se, but of hierarchy or citizenship or anointing, but we can make the mental adjustment quickly. Foucault's prism of power is about the same thing,  Related, anyway. Thus when we start to read his idea (or more likely, about his ideas from others) we find ourselves suspicious that it does seem somewhat reasonable.  We wanted him to be quickly, obviously, and completely wrong, and there he is, saying stuff we grudgingly acknowledge is true. We read on.

We have then passed a break point that we don't fully recognise.  In philosophical discussions and even more especially political discussions we are used to granting that an idea has something to be said for it. Sure, power is part of the picture, I can see that.  Give me some examples of where power is bending the curve, I'll try to adjust. We may not be in full agreement, but we can get closer. It's all a work in progress. Other Post-Modernist theories granted at least a little wiggle-room.  You could go part way down that road and allow yourself to be influenced, and hoped you might influence others in return.  I have long suspected on the basis of my reading that there was not very much wiggle room offered, but I deferred in judgement to liberals who seemed to be moderately reasonable that such things were possible.  They knew these people, worked with them and went to conferences with them and thought you could work with them.  "We can do business together," as Margaret Thatcher said of Mikhail Gorbachev, with whom she strongly disagreed on many matters of grave importance.

Foucault himself never gave the least indication that he felt that way. (I am not that familiar with his work.  Please correct me with something resembling citations if I have gotten this wrong.  My whole premise may be in ruins, but I have gotten in deep enough to risk that.) He was all-or-nothing, and his more recent CRT followers - or Theory in general - do not seem to grant this.

My thought over the last few years, maybe even a decade, had been that Foucault is merely a fundamentalist on this idea.  Bible literalists will likewise declare that those other people who claim to be Christians are not really so.  They haven't been baptised correctly, they don't get Creation right, their women speak in churches. Reasonable Christians work around this, and I thought reasonable post-modernists did as well. While I believe many people who work in academia, and publishing, and conferences for nonprofits still have power and influence and are trying to hold to this vision of postmodernism, that battle has been lost.  They are fighting a rearguard action, convinced, as conservatives still were in the 1960s, that their ultimate reasonableness will eventually prevail and this will blow away, having mildly influenced a generation.

The new generation is actually reading Foucault with some accuracy.  Power is not a method of looking at the structure of society, it is not merely the main method of looking at society, it is the only one. It does not allow for modification. Nice people in churches and those who put rainbow sermons up on their lawn think that they can accomplish much by listening. If it were listening to actual black people, gay people, Hispanics, or women I would merely shrug and praise them for at least acting in good faith.  But that is no longer who they are commanded to listen to.  They can only listen to a selected group of Theory fundamentalists now.

I overstate that, yes.  But not by much anymore. Colleges are obeying the fundamentalists now, issue after issue, as the controversy about the rock at Madison shows. The CRT fundamentalist have no rational argument, yet are winning the day. It's a small thing, but bigger things are coming.  Liberal professors might ask the conservatives they know if any of this looks familiar.


Anonymous said...

"But to say that knowledge is not neutral is not to say that it is not objective. Neutrality and objectivity are not the same thing."

Knowledge is undefined, and needs to be. Otherwise this is fatuous. Objectivity and knowledge are not the same thing.

AmPowerBlog said...

I never ask, but if you've been thinking about adding any new conservative blogs to your sidebar, I kindly ask you put mine into consideration. Here's from earlier today, "Woke Trust Fund Millennials 'Work' to Destroy Capitalism." I've already got your blog linked up in my favorites.

Now just don't go and quit now, lol.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I seldom change the sidebar. Maybe once a year. I'll have to think if it is time, and if so, will consider it. Thank you for thinking of me.

AmPowerBlog said...


Well, I'm not much of a link exchanger, but I like your blog. There's not that many of us any more, lol. Bloggers, that is.

David Foster said... to article was broken, but found the blog. Looks interesting.

re the Trust Fund Kids article, I have to note that there are quite a few people who DO work..even work hard..and still follow the 'Progressive' line on most things. I know quite a few of them, ranging from medical people to successful tech entrepreneurs. They aren't out there burning and raging in the streets themselves, but they are quick to make excuse for...and even romanticize..those who do.

AmPowerBlog said...

David, here's the link; just cut and paste:

I'm also linked at Instapundit, and I linked to A.V.I's piece there, "Critical Race Theory," so in a sense A.V.I. is getting a tertiary Instalanche: "WHEN FRENCH INTELLECTUALS THINK THE AMERICAN LEFT HAS GOTTEN TOO CRAZY… France: Prominent Academics and Macron Administration Attack American Anti-Racist Ideology as “Anti-White”."

Have a good day.

Sam L. said...

Why is is it the Caucasians are the race most criticized?

AmPowerBlog said...

@ Sam L.:

Whites are the oppressor race. "Critical Race Theory" is the precursor to "Antiracism," the woke ideology currently destroying the entire country, not just colleges and universities.

Thos. said...

Because they are the ones who are mature enough to admit they might be wrong.

(Well, not because of that, specifically; but more because that means they're less likely to hit back after being criticised.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ AmPowerBlog - I liked some posts, especially the links and Flynn. I may have gotten some more traffic from your tertiary Instalanche, but I think most people find that only primary and secondary (in a linked article) referrals are big. I do think that over time if people see the name they might develop some sympathy or interest. So thanks for giving it a try.

I will not be putting you in the sidebar when I relook at things, probably January. Too many bikinis; not my style, though I have a few blogs I go to that have a few here and there.

AmPowerBlog said...


Sorry to bother you, actually. I guess yesterday I was trying to regenerate the feelings of the early blogging days, when bloggers were mensches, and they linked around to other blogs and formed communities. It was just a coincidence that I was "Lanched" yesterday. But hey, even a tertiary link (third link removed) generates a little traffic. Check your stats. Maybe American Power threw you a little boost for a day. I've been doing this 15 years (and untold Instalanches), so it's not about anything I need. I thought I'd put up your link on my sidebar and it paid off. I really enjoyed this article on C.R.T. It inspired me a little. Anyway, I removed your link from my sidebar. I like bikini babes along with hard political analysis. To each his own. Have a good blog life. Maybe I'll try to connect again and form a blog friendship in another 15 years.

Fare well, mi amigo.

JMSmith said...

Foucault offers a mixture of Marx and Nietzsche, but is in the last analysis Nietzschean. Power is to be sought for its own sake, because it is better to dominate than it is to be dominated. Christians will recognize this as the doctrine of Lucifer. Nietzsche taught that morality is just an expression of the will to power, and that "justice" is only a more or less effective means to bend others to do my bidding. It seems to me that this is glaringly obvious in the affair of Chamberlain's Rock, which may be better understood as a John-the-Baptist-head, with CRT standing in the place of the dance of Salome.

I think there is truth in the old saying that you never know a man until he has power, and that the same can be said of peoples, classes and sects (such as the CRT sect). Do they use their power for good, or in capricious, vindictive and self-aggrandizing ways? Since Foucault and CRT are the children of Nietzsche, good and good for their power are one and the same thing.