Too much political identification

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein writes,

I’m no fan of postmodernism, but I somehow doubt that this obscure academic ideology is responsible in any meaningful way for our post-truth woes. For one thing, the writings of postmodernists are so opaque and filled with jargon that I’ve often wondered whether the authors themselves have any idea what they’re trying to say. It’s hard to see how they could exert much influence outside of their own small coterie.

I would say instead that the downgrading of truth, both within the academy and without, shares a common cause—namely, the promotion of political ends above all else. We have lost the capacity to limit the reach of our ideologies and the identities that go with them. Perhaps modern life has so unsettled traditional identities that many of us have nothing better to fall back upon than the crude claims of politics. And it is certainly the case that new media bear some of the blame, with their unprecedented capacity to distort and heighten every point of ideological disagreement and to disseminate it far and wide.

My emphasis. I wish that politics would retreat. Instead, if we look at how businesses are feeling impelled to take stands on political issues, politics seems to be advancing.

Yuval Levin and I were speculating the other day that perhaps our society just wasn’t prepared to handle the media environment that has emerged. Maybe as we adjust and learn, the political tribalism will die down.

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9 Responses to Too much political identification

  1. postmodernism does not reject truths and universals (it’s not ‘anti science’); rather, it reject values

  2. Jeff R says:

    Maybe as ethno-religious tribalism has faded, new forms have simply filled the void. Conservation of tribalism, if you will.

  3. D. Moore says:

    I don’t think it’s so much a case of politics advancing in to the business realm so much so that politics are being forced upon businesses. We, as consumers, have stripped traditional moral authorities of their role as arbiters of morality and are starting to foist the role of upon corporations. Predictably, corporations have accepted; they now have a powerful tool to attract and retain customers, and a bludgeon to weild against competitors and politicians.

  4. Curt says:

    Interesting point about the new media; certainly similar conjectures have been made about the impact of radio and television… hard to measure directly of course.

  5. Bret says:

    Kling wrote: “Maybe as we adjust and learn, the political tribalism will die down.”

    Tribalism is the natural state of man. I expect humanity to become increasingly tribal and then increasingly violent eventually tearing the fabric of civilization itself.

  6. BT Reynolds says:

    “our society just wasn’t prepared to handle the media environment that has emerged”

    I think society is perfectly capable of adapting to the new media environment. It’s the politics part that is failing to adapt and is and ruining things. Politics is involved in too many areas, many in great detail: transportation, education, housing, neighborhoods, zoning, workplace, commerce, and more — all requiring voice instead of exit (choice) for change.

    Without the option of exit, people behave like threatened animals. Nobody wants to be on the short end of a zero sum game. It encourages tribalism. It’s politics that makes other tribes a threat and encourages us to join your own.

  7. Tom G says:

    Yes, too much politics — but your fav Tyler linked to:

    Amia Srinivasan writes:
    ” By contrast, gay men – even the beautiful, white, rich, able-bodied ones – know that who we have sex with, and how, is a political question.” The LGBT agenda is to make sex, and sexual identity, a question to be answered by force and police.

    ” Sex isn’t a sandwich, and it isn’t really like anything else either. There is nothing else so riven with politics and yet so inviolably personal.”

    To me, politics is about law & enforcement. But the PC-nags want “politics” to mean all interpersonal relations.

    I’m sick of this, and most normals are. The PC-nags want more identity politics so as to cause more dis-unity, with the hope that more unhappy folk will vote for Dems.
    It’s terrible; PC-nags are terrible.
    (Maybe PC-nags can catch on where PC-nazis won’t).

  8. Handle says:

    Yuval Levin and I were speculating the other day that perhaps our society just wasn’t prepared to handle the media environment that has emerged.

    I think one could make similar claims for all broadcasting and indeed any technology allowing for the mass production and dissemination of information – going back at least to the printing press and pamphlets – and that even after the passage of centuries, no one has ever figured out how to prevent the free use of these technologies from faciliatating certain Social Failure Modes leading to ideological runaway reactions and political catastrophe.

    Martin Gurri would make a “Revolt of the Public” point here about the consequences of the loss of elite control, but my response is that the key word I’ve used above is “free”, and the “adjusting and learning” that is happening is mostly a realization that ideological control of one form or another will be established over these media, and the question is Who will dominate Whom. Who shall have “memetic soverignty”, as it were.

    What we see is that many states around the world are coming to the obvious answer, “the state shall have memetic sovereignty,” and acting accordingly. This isn’t just North Korea or China or Iran we’re talking about – most developed countries regulate speech and throw people in prison for publicly articulating their honest sentiments, and the American tradition of liberal toleration of free expression is both an exceptional aberration, and one, it would seem, which no longer commands the unqualified commitment of most of the influential class. So it likely won’t last, in practical terms, for very much longer.

    There are two ways to end a conflict: in a peace treaty based on a balance of power, or in defeat and conquest. There is just no way anything like a balanced peace of our present disputes can emerge sponteneously out of establishment of new norms, and so either the state steps in to enforce it with new restrictions (e.g., common carrier non-discrimination regulations), or, more likely, the progressives are able to leverage their many advantages to win by default.

    “Have a nice day.”™

  9. Bryan Willman says:

    re Handle – seems to me that a great many conflicts do not end with treaties based on balances of power, nor total conquest. Instead, many (most?) of them seem to run on forever, ebbing and flowing.

    So rather than a “progressive” victory, we might expect civil war of some kind (perhaps cold), followed by some weird set of balance of power issues. One could imagine a society where for example LGBT persons are granted “fully” equal rights, but in practice are so socially shunned that it doesn’t matter.

    Recall that most forms of racial discrimination have been outright illegal in the US for decades, yet no credible observer thinks racism isn’t alive and well in the US today.

    (See recent papers about how young black men, unlike black women and white children, do not seem to gain from the educational or economic advanges of their parents. See also papers pointing out the various “taxes” that women face impeding success – the most famous one being that a woman who wins “best actress” or “best director” may expect to get divorced, men not so much.)

    Have a nice day.

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