Pandaemonium

THE TROUBLE WITH LIBERALISM

FILE PHOTO: Participants of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum gather near an electronic screen showing Russian President Putin during a session of the forum in St. Petersburg

This essay, on the crisis facing liberalism, and why it is not the one that Vladimir Putin thinks it is, was my Observer column this week.  It was published on 30 June 2019, under the headline ‘Liberalism is facing a crisis. But it’s not what Vladimir Putin thinks’.


‘What we may be witnessing is the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.’ So wrote Francis Fukuyama in his 1989 essay, The End of History?, as he surveyed the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Thirty years on, the argument seems to have been turned on its head. As Vladimir Putin, virtual tsar of the Russian nation that has emerged from the debris of the Soviet Union, declared on the eve of the G20 conference in Osaka, it’s not history but liberal democracy that seems to have ‘outlived its purpose’. Liberalism, he told the Financial Times, has ‘come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population’.

Putin’s vision of liberalism is, of course, a caricature. The ‘liberal idea’, he suggests, ‘presupposes that… migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights… have to be protected.’ Liberals ‘claim now that children can play five or six gender roles’.

Nor is it true that social liberalism has been rejected by ‘the overwhelming majority of the population’. In some countries, such as Russia or Brazil, attitudes to immigration or gay rights may have hardened. But in others, including Britain, social attitudes have become more liberal, even as they have become more polarised. In Donald Trump’s America, for instance, people have become more supportive of immigration, but also more partisan.

But however warped Putin’s vision of liberalism, it is incontestably facing challenges it rarely has before. From America to the Philippines, the rise of populist movements reveals a yearning for belonging and identity that liberalism cannot satisfy. The emergence of non-liberal economic powers such as China calls into question the postwar ‘liberal order’. Putin, FTeditor, Lionel Barber, told Radio 4’s Today programme, ‘feels he is on the right side of history’. Many liberals fear that, too. Hence the global impact of Putin’s comments.

The real issue, though, is not that social attitudes have become more illiberal, but that liberalism has been unable to address the fundamental issue of the relationship between the individual and society even as that issue has become one of the most salient.

As a philosophy, liberalism exists in many, often competing, forms. At the heart of most forms, however, stands the individual. Humans, wrote John Locke, the 17th-century philosophical founder of liberalism, naturally exist in ‘a State of perfect Freedom to order their Actions… without asking leave, or depending on the Will of any other Man’. Classically, liberals held that society comprises free individuals who come together in voluntary rational agreement. Any restraint placed on an individual’s liberty, including the right to own property, had to be both justified and minimal.

Critics pointed out that humans do not live merely as individuals. We are social beings and find our individuality and discover meaning only through others. Hence the importance to political life not just of individuals but also of communities and collectives.

The critique of liberal individualism wore both conservative and radical garb. Conservatives saw history, tradition and the nation as the means by which the individual became part of a greater whole. A nation, as Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, wrote, is found not just in a set of values but also in ‘an idea of continuity, which extends in time as well as in numbers and in space’.

For radical critics of liberalism, particularly socialists and Marxists, an individual realised himself or herself not through tradition but rather through struggles to transform society, from battles for decent working conditions to campaigns for equal rights. These struggles created organisations, such as trade unions and civil rights movements, which drew individuals into new modes of collective life and forged new forms of belonging and common purpose.

Conservative and radical ways of thinking about belonging have long coexisted in tension. The idea of a community or of a nation inevitably draws upon a past that has shaped its present. But the existence of movements for social change transforms the meaning of the past and of the ways in which one thinks of identity. ‘Britain’ or ‘Russia’ means something different if defined in terms of what we want the nation to be, rather than just of what it has been.

The tension between liberalism and radicalism has been even more important. Liberalism ensured that the issue of individual rights and liberties remained central to many strands of the left, even as socialists rejected liberal notions of private property. Radicalism injected into liberalism a social conscience. Over time, many strands of liberalism modified both the classical attachment to private property as sacrosanct and the distaste for state intervention.

JAPAN-G20-SUMMIT

The relationship between liberalism, radicalism and conservatism began to change in the last decades of the 20th century, largely as the left disintegrated. The idea of an alternative to capitalism seemed to many chimerical, more so after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Even before the Berlin Wall had come down, a new kind of economic liberalism, unstitched from the restraints of social need, had emerged – what many now call ‘neoliberalism’. At its core was a philosophy of deregulation, privatisation and the introduction of market forces into virtually every nook and cranny of social life.

At the same time, the organisations that had provided working-class people with hope and dignity crumbled. Trade unions were crushed and radical social movements eroded. Societies became atomised and much of the social architecture essential for people to flourish was dismantled. It was a process not confined to the West, but visible across the globe.

Against this background, many of those looking to recreate a sense of social solidarity have been drawn to conservative, even reactionary, ideas of belonging, rooted in nation, tradition and race. And, in an age in which there exist few transformative social movements, many have turned to strongmen to do the job. In the 2016 US presidential elections, just a quarter of Trump voters thought their candidate had ‘good judgment’, but four out of five thought he could ‘bring about change’. Much the same is true of authoritarian leaders across the globe, from Putin to Erdoğan, from Salvini to Duterte.

The irony is that the problem faced by liberalism is less the retrenchment of social liberalism than that the retreat of the left has allowed for the success of the ugly side of individualism. The irony, too, is that what is exposed by this is not simply a problem for liberalism, but an even bigger problem for the left.

.

The photographs are of Vladimir Putin addressing a session of the 2017 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum via video link (photo © Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters) and Putin and Donald Trump at the 2019 Osaka G20 conference (photo © AFP).

10 comments

  1. damon

    “Against this background, many of those looking to recreate a sense of social solidarity have been drawn to conservative, even reactionary, ideas of belonging, rooted in nation, tradition and race.”

    That is certainly true. Those ideas seem to be what’s left when other loftier ideals break down or are discredited.
    I’m in Turkey right now, and the sense of Turkish nationhood his palpable.
    It’s being manipulated of course, and has been since the state was founded, but it’s also very real.

    Liberalism has changed into something that I don’t really feel in step with myself these days. And who defines what reactionary even is? Is the Spiked-online website right wing and reactionary? Many liberals and people on the left would say that it is. When you see a podcast of its editor interviewing Breitbart’s James Delingpole, maybe they have a point. Or not maybe. You have to make up your own mind on what counts as backward and reactionary. And you have to do the same if you want to define what liberalism is.

    The reason I’ve been turned off liberalism and the left is their inconsistency and dishonesty these days.
    People will focus sharply on any situation which favours their narrative, but will not focus, or go “soft focus” on things that don’t really suit them or that they want to downplay.
    An example of this just happened the other day with the beating of journalist/activist Andy Ngo in Portland Oregon. People on the left either ignored it, or were even mocking him and supporting his being hospitalised. Which I find pretty horrible. The Guardian ran something on the story by (so it is alleged) Antifa sympathiser journalist Jason Wilson. Wilson was recently named in the magazine that Ngo works for as being close to the group.

    If that kind of liberalism and leftism is pushing many people to the right wing and reactionary politics, I think you have to differentiate it from the kind of state led populism that is being pushed in Russia and Turkey.
    It’s more spontaneous and organic than that.
    I watch the right wing Fox News clips on YouTube, as they can be quite informative – and entertaining.
    Like the analysis of the recent Democratic Presidential debates. Fox and the right wing poured huge scorn on that kind of liberalism. And it was fun to watch. Like where the presidential nominees try outdo each other with their speaking Spanish. Surely it was legitimate to poke fun at that.

    An example of the liberal and left’s “sharp focus verses soft focus” can be seen here in this tweet by Guardian columnist Nesrine Malik.

    “I’ve had a look but I can’t quite believe the results so I ask again on here. Other than at the Guardian (and Sathnam Sanghera, Matthew Syed at The Times) who are the other black and ethnic minority STAFF columnists (not reporters) in the British press?”
    https://mobile.twitter.com/NesrineMalik/status/1144637068938813440

    She may well have a point – although she’d probably discount any BAME person who didn’t have the right kind of politics …… but all you hear from that kind of left/liberal identitarianism, are constant complaints. It’s non stop.
    Many people who have switched off from that and gone over to right wing populism have done so I think, because of a degree of exasperation with the left. It’s easier to just switch on Tucker Carlson or Glenn Beck and sit back and laugh. Which is not good either in my opinion – but you know, even people as ridiculous as Glenn Beck can come out looking more sensible than the mainstream left and liberals today.
    I could have picked out a dozen different videos to prove my point here, but this is one I just watched.
    Yes Glenn Beck is a discredited populist ….. but he makes more sense than the Democrats these days.
    Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the new face of liberalism?

  2. Liberalism is intricately linked to wellbeing through the ecological and economic means of survival. Historically, wellbeing and survival where delivered through the feudal state and thereafter through the nation state, in this respect, classical liberalism was expressed through the institutions of the nation state. In more recent times, supranationalism has become the institutional framework by which liberal rights are being mediated which includes the supranationalism of the United States and the supranationalism of the European Union.

    Supranationalism was the institutional framework by which neoliberalism was delivered which technocratically constrained important national policy framework decisions that directly affected the ability of states to deliver wellbeing and survival for national populations. As a result, social liberalism became cojoined with the highly competitive economic freedoms associated with neoliberal supranationalism.

    The shift of liberalism from the nation state to the supranational state created a new field of political activism whereby issues of wellbeing and survival were mediated through the highly competitive supranational market economy. Without the security and the rootedness of the nation state, issues of wellbeing and survival are now being expressed through identity politics in which the self determined identity of the individual reigns supreme.

    As such, supranational identity politics has become the new means by which individuals compete in a war against all by which rights entitlements are utilised as the means by which to determine one’s position in the supranational social hierarchy. Those expressions of rights entitlements that best align with the highly competitive economic freedoms associated with supranational neoliberalism were deemed to be the most privilaged which were then followed by expressions of liberal individuality, minority rights and then those that sought the safe haven of their wellbeing and survival through the traditional nation state.

    This rights mediated supranational social hierarchy rewarded those that were best able to exemplify economic liberalism whilst punishing those that don’t with underinvestment, chastisement and impoverished low skill jobs. Therefore it is hardly surprising that a highly competitive supranational system that thrives on liberal based discrimination should be rejected by those that are unwilling to fully embrace liberalism or else find themselves at the bottom of the supranational liberal food chain.

    This systemic ideological discrimination directly led to the reenactment and revitalisation of traditional nationhood ties with ethnicity and ancestry being the most reactionary expressions which were accompanied by the invocation of liberal democratic rights that bring important policy frameworks back under national state control.

    The fear of ethnic nationalism is the fear of the breakdown of a highly competitive supranational social market hierarchy that best rewards expressions of liberal and identitarian rights.

    Can supranationalism be done differently in order to avoid liberal based discrimination through the socialist co-option of supranational institutions or is the reversion back to sovereign nation states inevitable by which democracy rather than ideological self identification determines the utilitarian extent of wellbeing and survival.

    A possible means by which to bypass ethnic nationalism and better deliver civic nationalism is through more emphasis on devolved subnational regional identification by which different groupings are encouraged to recognise and contribute towards building up regional wellbeing and survival.

    Regionalism or regional associationism brings disparate voices and concerns together with more face to face contact as opposed to the largely abstract unseen social market economy in which groupings largely differentiated on their levels of liberalism remain distinct and separated from one another in a war against all.

  3. A recurrent theme. The rise of the far Right has been made possible by the collapse of the Left.

    The 2007 crisis of free market capitalism has strangely left free market ideology more strongly entrenched than ever. Social services are collapsing, while tax avoidance is rife, promises to tackle offshoring are never fulfilled, inequality continues to grow, and the plainly visible return of extreme poverty has seen the first decline in life expectancy for a century.

    Why has the Left been so unable to take advantage of this situation?

  4. damon

    “Why has the Left been so unable to take advantage of this situation?” asks Paul Braterman.
    Well maybe it’s because there are too many voices competing for our attention and that actually get to the bottom of things requires paying attention to a lot of detail and also trusting the people who are saying particular things.

    My guess is that Owen Jones has probably got quite a lot of good things to say and some sound analysis.
    The problem is though, that I just don’t like or trust him. It’s the same with much of the left.

    There’s another left person I follow on Twitter. A pretty sound guy in many ways and quite thoughtful. He gets guest spots on TV and radio shows in the U.K. quite a lot, but the problem is (again) that I really can’t trust his overall judgement and I know he has plenty of shockingly naive views too (like supporting David Lammy’s views on Brexit).
    Sunny Hundal is his name and he’s got 97 thousand followers on twitter.
    I see him as being at the heart of progressive liberalism and leftism in Britain.

    This was something he tweeted last week:
    https://mobile.twitter.com/sunny_hundal/status/1144528789533319169

    It’s a YouTube he really liked about how Londoners are “not born, but made”.
    Meaning basically, that anyone who shows up in London can consider themselves a Londoner.
    He just liked it and posted it. And then moved on to something else.

    He too is a not a born Londoner (like myself). But the video throws up some profound issues in my opinion, and are ones that most leftys and liberals don’t want to think or talk about.
    They hate right wingers and racists talking about “The Great Replacement” …… and I’m not keen on it either, but that video does actually show a kind of replacement of original Londoners, by new people who have become the majority in many places.
    The main person in the video – black ex-footballer Ian Wright is obviously a Londoner, and even talks like one (if it’s not drifting into “Mockney” a bit) – but many of the others are speaking that new diversity accent that didn’t even exist when I went to school in London. I’ve never liked it.

    Strong lefty liberal Sunny Hundal would not be open to a discussion about all the different outcomes of a rise in diversity – to the point where London became like a different city. He’d only see probably racist motives in wanting to talk about such a thing. It’s another reason why I can’t fully trust liberals and leftists.
    I feel I’ve been driven out of London by the rise in diversity (or the rise in the population more accurately).
    I can’t afford to live there anymore as I don’t earn enough to justify the high rents.
    There had to be displacement of the original population, otherwise each borough would have had a population of about a hundred thousand more than they do now – and nowhere for all those people to live.
    I try not to be bitter about it – it’s just one of those things, but I am slightly miffed that you can’t even really say such a thing without being seen as a terrible person.

    Another reason why I’ve gone off the idea of considering myself a liberal was evident at the Glastonbury festival this weekend. I saw a clip of thousands and thousands of middle class liberal white people, cheering on a set by the Croydon Grime Rapper “Stormzy”.
    The guy was in a Union Jack stab vest, designed by the artist Banksy.
    What an absolute joke.

    Why are all these white people treating this black man from “the Croydon ghetto” (my home borough) with such reverence and awe? It’s something to do with the white liberal “othering” of certain kinds of black people.
    A kind of “Orientalism and voyeurism. I can’t be the only person to have thought this.
    White liberals love the ghetto idea. It was even there forty years ago in The Clash songs “White Riot” and “The Guns of Brixton”.

    • ‘Another reason why I’ve gone off the idea of considering myself a liberal was evident at the Glastonbury festival this weekend. I saw a clip of thousands and thousands of middle class liberal white people, cheering on a set by the Croydon Grime Rapper “Stormzy”.
      The guy was in a Union Jack stab vest, designed by the artist Banksy.
      What an absolute joke.
      Why are all these white people treating this black man from “the Croydon ghetto” (my home borough) with such reverence and awe? It’s something to do with the white liberal “othering” of certain kinds of black people.’

      I can’t speak as to why everyone who likes Stormzy likes Stromzy, and there may well have been ‘white liberal “othering” of certain kinds of black people’. But he was there to perform, just like every other act in Glastonbury, and many, perhaps most, who liked him would have liked him because they liked his music and his performance. It’s striking that you don’t even mention his set; the only thing that seems to matter for you is that he’s ‘this black man from “the Croydon ghetto”’. That speaks more to your obsessions and blind spots than anyone else’s.

      ‘I feel I’ve been driven out of London by the rise in diversity (or the rise in the population more accurately).
      I can’t afford to live there anymore as I don’t earn enough to justify the high rents.’

      What’s driven up rents in London isn’t ‘diversity’ or even ‘the rise in the population’ (and the two issues are far from being the same) but a lack of house building, apart from for the very rich, and the use of property as investment rather than as a place in which to live. In other words, issues of policy and class. The fact that you (like many others) want to turn this into an issue of ‘diversity’ again speaks more to your obsessions and blind spots than it does to reality. It also makes it far more difficult to address the issue.

      • damon

        “That speaks more to your obsessions and blind spots than anyone else’s.”

        Maybe. I’m not sure if it really is my blind spot. These are just things I’ve been observing for the last twenty years. Other people seem to be blithely oblivious to there even being any deep cultural issues going on, or know how to analyse and describe them. But they are very good out calling out “racism” all the time when these cultural phenomena result in real life bad situations. You yourself Kenan didn’t even think there was anything potentially sinister in the hoodie street culture.
        I can imagine people laughing at the idea of people finding “dress styles” intimidating.
        But you only have to see the CCTV footage snapped in Croydon the other night as a possible suspect was seen leaving the area of a murder scene. Of course he was hidden inside a hoodie as he scurried away. (That was the pregnant young woman who was murdered in Thornton Heath).

        The first time I ever heard of Stormzy was three years ago on this piece on Channel 4 News.
        Because he does come from where I grew up, I find it particularly intriguing.

        He’s talking about things I am hardly aware of. This culture he talks about just didn’t exist there in the 1970s. It might have done a few miles away in Brixton, but not in Croydon then.
        See what he says starting from 1:30. He’s talking about “the block” and “endz”.
        Where on earth did this “endz” business come from? I’d never heard such a term till about six years ago.

        He says: “Where I come from, you’re not really allowed to talk in a certain way, unless you’ve lived it – or unless that’s actually you. You can’t be fabricating – because people get found out quite quickly”.
        What’s he on about? This is something new. Or it was something new, back about fifteen or twenty years ago. But he comes from the same place as me. Maybe the other side of the borough, but I used to go through that area going too and from school on the bus every day. That street culture didn’t exist then.
        There was no “ghetto” to rap about and glorify. I also don’t think I ever heard of any of the kids in my school getting involved in any street crime or being mugged on the bus. Which in Stormzy’s world, seems to just be part of the everyday “mean streets”.

        I noticed Spiked mentioned the other day in the article about stop and search, that people have been leaving London, “to get away from the stabbings”.
        There’s poor analysis about what is actually going on (in my opinion).
        They uselessly talk about it on the radio programmes, and the newspapers will do some stories on it, but no one really has a clue what to do.
        The best analysis I’ve heard comes out of the USA, from the likes of John McWhorter and Glenn Loury.
        But in the U.K., we’re absolutely hopeless.
        I have an idea what what’s going on, I’m just not bright enough to articulate it properly.
        But it’s definitely something to do with (what John McWhorter calls) “Self Sabotage” and “Therapeutic Alienation”. It’s that “authenticity” that Stormzy and his teenage friends were seeking as they obsessed over their raps back about 10 years ago. There’s no glory for them in being a good boy and doing well at school.
        I do understand these teenage obsessions as I had a couple myself.
        But these ones make these young black boys into different people than their white peers.

        As for building more and more houses. To accommodate all the original Londoners and the people like my Irish immigrant parents who chose to go to London, as I said, each borough would have had to increase its population by about 50%. It could have been a total nightmare. The infrastructure just wouldn’t have been there. You can hardly drive around south London as it is.
        In a few years, all the poorer people with older cars are going to be forced to give up their cars because of the expansion of the pollution charge zone out to the north and south circular roads.

        There was an article in the Daily Mail the other day by a guy who wrote a book in the 1970s about him fearing for the future of his beloved village just outside Cambridge. He said he feared that suburbanisation would encroach out from Cambridge and destroy the life he’d always known.
        In the Mail piece the other day, he said his worse fears had been realised. Dormitory suburbs from Cambridge had reached the outskirts of his village and the lanes had become commuter routes causing traffic jams everywhere. He also complained that all the traditional birds had disappeared and the wildlife had suffered loss of habitat.
        I looked at some pictures of the new housing estates he was complaining about.
        They really did look ugly and lifeless.
        But people have got to live somewhere.
        We’ll be at 70 million before long, so I suppose we can’t afford to be sentimental about birds and hedgehogs.

  5. damon

    The trouble with liberalism.

    As I’ve said, I find it to be too dishonest, evasive not allowing a full discussion about many of the issues it’s passionate about. Just look at the current crisis on the US/Mexico border right now and how both the left and right are presenting it. Liberals and the left are basically for open borders. And that seems to include most of the Democrat Party and particularly those who are now running to be the presidential nominee.
    If you are for open borders (or just want all these “concentration camp” border facilities closed down) you have to then explain how the country is supposed to deal with millions of new arrivals who will flock from Latin America and the rest of the world.
    YouTube is now full of news stories about the congressional visits to a border detention facility the other day, and some of the wild claims by the increasingly unhinged sounding Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who claimed that detainees were being forced to drink water from the toilet and that border staff had physically and sexually threatened her while she was there. If liberals don’t call her out on this then they become complicit in her accusations. And this kind of thing is a huge reason in my opinion as to why so many regular people have turned away from liberalism and the left and gone over to the other side. Just watch the coverage on the right wing channels. It’s actually quite persuasive. The Democrats are “bonkers” over this issue.
    And it’s true what the right wingers say. First the left denied there was any crisis. Then they said it was a manufactured crisis. Then they blocked more funding for the border to improve facilities for the detained people.
    A few, even opposed a contract to provide beds for children there. Then they start screaming about children sleeping on floors.

    I would recommend people to type “AOC’s” name into YouTube along with words like “border” and “camps” and just go through some of the coverage. You’ll see why so many people who “should” be voting left, because of their class interests, have gone to the right. There’s a particularly convincing one with Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw titled: – “Ocasio-Cortez is ‘getting bolder with her lies’ ”

    That’s why people are turning right. He’s a war hero former Navy Seal, wounded in combat, and he seems to be making more sense than the Democrats.

    And then there are mild mannered guys like “Blue Collar Logic”.
    He spells things out in a way that seems pretty reasonable and logical to regular everyday people.
    It’s really more persuasive than a lot of the left and liberal positions. In the US and in the U.K. too.
    The Guardian opinion columnists who come across like the deranged left Anti-Trump liberals in the US are also turning a lot of people off.

    I don’t want to say I’ve been “Red Pilled” because I don’t like the term – or a lot of the people who use it.
    But I’ve certainly been turned away from mainstream progressive liberalism.

  6. Brian

    Nice article. Liberalism, for me, means equal justice for all, equal ‘buy in’ to Democracy.It also means the government should step in for tings like meat inspectors, mail, ( Funny thing about the US mail service, totally paid for by stamps now for several years, in 2008, they were made by Republicans to totally vest all employees pensions for– 65 years. They did it. Mr. Malik says Liberalis went bad in the 90’s. I like some of the social Democracies in Europe, they have it going on. Like in France, a well trusted reporter was talking with three cabbies, totally at random. All three worked only full time, and all three had vacation homes, on top of their own homes. Just like the unionless contractors on Uber and Lyft- right? They make, on average $8.90/hr. More than half of US citizens, the majority with insurance, that go bankrupt, do so for medical catastrophe. 2 years onto a cancer diagnosis 40% of Americans will have gone through all their savings and be bankrupt. The only characterization of Liberalism on this piece is from -Vladimir Putin? So again, equal rights for all, reguardles of sex, universal healthcare, and – maybe honesty in reporting? FoxNews cnstantly talks of the “working-man’s billionaire, Donald Trump.
    This article keeps saying Liberalism doesn’t satisfy, yet you do not actually believe that other forms will ‘satisfy’ everyone, do you? A most entrepreneurial place is Somalia. No micromanagement from government, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

  7. I read the Putin interview conducted by Lionel Barber and Henry Foy in the FT , but I also read five others essay, by some of the FT’s stable of writers, on the subject of ‘Liberalism’. The Financial Times’ defensive posture is/was clearly evident: avoided at all costs, were two topics: the wholesale surrender of the ‘Liberals’ to Neo-Liberalism: The New Democrats and New Labour in the political wake of Thatcher/Reagan, and the Economic Collapse of 2008!
    ‘The Financial Times defends ‘Liberalism’! Old Socialist comments’
    Thank you for letting me post my comment!
    StephenKMackSD
    https://stephenkmacksd.com/2019/07/04/the-financial-times-defends-liberalism-old-socialist-comments/

    • damon

      I found this whole collection of John McWhorter articles on the City Journal website about twelve years ago.
      And I’ve been “obsessing” about them and such issues since then. They’re nearly all to do with the USA, but I found that much of it applied to Britain too. They are mostly about race issues in America, and I can find nothing equivalent over on this side of the Atlantic.
      Even in the US, this kind of analysis is extremely rare, and it seems that you won’t find liberals and progressives will want to even explore these issues from this direction. Indeed, it’s those on the left who have usually led the condemnation of people like McWhorter and slandered him with the usual accusations.
      When I tried to highlight him on another liberal/left social and political online forum several years ago, I was told where to go and given my marching orders (they weren’t going to put up with this reactionary “racist bs”).

      This is the wider collection of his articles on City Journal – and then I’ll highlight two of them.
      https://www.city-journal.org/contributor/john-h-mcwhorter_130

      Of all of them, these are two that really made an impression on me.
      “How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back”
      https://www.city-journal.org/html/how-hip-hop-holds-blacks-back-12442.html

      He starts off by observing some black schoolboys misbehaving in a fast food restaurant after school and comments:

      “What struck me most, though, was how fully the boys’ music—hard-edged rap, preaching bone-deep dislike of authority—provided them with a continuing soundtrack to their antisocial behavior. So completely was rap ingrained in their consciousness that every so often, one or another of them would break into cocky, expletive-laden rap lyrics, accompanied by the angular, bellicose gestures typical of rap performance. A couple of his buddies would then join him. Rap was a running decoration in their conversation.”

      And I’m reminded of Stormzy from a few years ago where he was explaining to the Channel 4 News interviewer: “Where I’m from ……” and explaining how things were different “where he was from” (Selhurst or Thornton Heath I think). It’s a manufactured or “self-made othering” in my opinion. And a reason I have little time for liberals (like Guardian writers or the Glastonbury crowd) is that none of them are interested in delving into such an analysis.

      The other stand-out article was one about Cornel West and the African American studies department at Harvard.
      I thought it was great – and is one of the pieces that got me to take John McWhorter so seriously.

      “The Mau-Mauing at Harvard
      The fracas between Harvard’s new president and its top Afro-American studies profs highlights black academia’s fixation on victimhood and double standards.”
      https://www.city-journal.org/html/mau-mauing-harvard-12245.html

Comments are closed.