Fruit of a Poisonous Earth

I don't get by Ace of Spades all that often, except on Sunday mornings -- I like to spend such mornings playing through the problems in their weekly chess thread.

Dropping by there today, I see at the top of the page a discussion of "intersectionality." Only, really, there's a simpler explanation.
Intersectionality At Its Best (Or Worst): Angela Davis Speech Is sponsored By "Students For Justice In Palestine," "The GW Black Student Union," And "The GW Feminist Student Union"

You have to hand it to good old Angela Davis; she is quite inclusive in her vicious Marxist politics. She'll take money from anyone on the Left if it pays for another opportunity to spout her racist, anti-Semitic, anti-American pseudo-philosophy.
The true key to understanding this is the word "Marxist." It's not that this represents a coming-together of disparate movements. It's that all of these "critical studies" organizations are Marxist in their essential thought structure.

That's not to say that there's no non-Marxist way to talk about the black experience in America, or justice issues around as-yet unresolved areas of prejudice and mistreatment. Similarly with feminism; similarly with Palestine. No, what I mean is that the modes of thinking about the world that these groups endorse are all variations of Marxism.

Essentially, these theories work like this:

1) Divide the world into a class of oppressors and a class of the oppressed.

2) Explain everything in terms of that relationship.

3) Some will learn to play this game with you: praise them as having attained the enlightenment to see the secret truth ("New Soviet Men" / "Woke").

4) Others will resist. Damn them either as members of the oppressor class, who of course are refusing to admit the truth as it would require them to give up the privileges extracted by oppression; or, if they do not fit the oppressor class model, as people who are so deeply enslaved by the oppressors that they cannot see the truth ("False Consciousness" / "Not Woke").

It looks simplistic when you write it out like that, but endless volumes have been churned out on this basic model.

For true Marxism, the model makes a kind of sense. Marx was a materialist. Since nothing is real except the material, economics takes on a special significance as it describes the systems by which material goods are produced and distributed. It makes sense to describe all of human history in terms of a clash over economics, because economics controls the material and the material is all there is.

It's less convincing as an extended metaphor, which is how it appears in the so-called Critical Studies. Still, you'll find some who really believe that all of human history is completely explainable in terms of the oppression of Group X by Group Y.

In any case, there's nothing strange about Davis speaking to all of these groups at once, and drawing on all of their resources. It's not much of a trick for a Marxist to unify these threads, as they all grow from Marxism's earth.


jaed said...

Intersectionalism can be seen as an epicycle on the approach. Since there are multiple oppressed/oppressor dichotomies, you need to somehow figure out which one takes priority in a given situation.

For example, a white woman in conflict with a black man who is her boss: which one is oppressor, and which oppressed? Which way does the power relationship go? Whose side should the authority come down against, in order to do the proper Social Justice? It can be a difficult question. Intersectionalism attempts to address the problem of making this determination, even in very complicated cases.

Grim said...

Intersectionalism can be seen as an epicycle on the approach.

That's a nice formulation. It points to the contrived nature of the basic model, which was like the Turning of Crystal Spheres in the Sky. That model functioned OK for explaining the world, but it required these little adjustments now and then that needed explanations of their own.

Still, it was all based on the same fundamental, fanciful model of reality.

jaed said...

Oversimplified, I'd call it. Boiling everything down to "partition humanity based on a single characteristic, then explain everything in terms of power relationships between the two groups thus created".

The epicycle is an attempt to bring sufficient complexity into the picture to explain reality... but you can see just looking at the contortions it causes that it isn't going to work.