Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cultural Marxism

Love is hard to find
In the church of the poison mind
--Culture Club

Interesting synopsis of the development of cultural Marxism via the 'Frankfurt School.' Original Marxist theory posited that its centerpiece communist revolution would have economic roots. The working class 'proletariat,' being denied economic prosperity by the ruling class 'bourgeoise,' would rise up in arms to release the socioeconomic pressures accumulated thru class conflict.

In the early part of the twentieth century, Marxists believed that if war broke out in Europe, then that would be the spark to ignite the revolt.

That didn't happen. Marxists were forced to revise their theory. They proposed that the working class didn't rise up in revolution because they had been blinded by the successes of democracy, capitalism, and other Western institutions. Until those institutions were first put down, a communist revolution was not possible.

In the 1920s, prominent Marxist thinker Georg Lukacs proposed a program of 'cultural terrorism' to erode Western conceptions of family and social morals. His program included 'education' for children that would encourage them to deride and reject Christian ethics.

At a conference in Frankfurt, Germany, Lukacs ideas resonated with a wealthy Marxist named Felix Weil. Weil liked the idea of complementing classical Marxist theory of economically motivated revolution with Lukacs/ cultural angle. He decided to fund a new Marxist think tank called the Institute for Social Research which subsequently become known as the Frankfurt School.

In the 1930's, the Frankfurt School began incorporating ideas from Sigmund Freud. In classical Marxism, the workers of the world were oppressed by the ruling classes. In the modified theory, the working class was unable to rise up on its own because everyone in society was psychologically oppressed by Western culture. New vanguards were needed to take down that culture and spur change.

Around this time, the rise of the NAZI party was making it uncomfortable to be Jewish Marxists in Germany--which many members of the Frankfurt School were. As such, the faculty moved to New York City and set up shop at Columbia University.

Now that the Frankfurt School had gained a presence in a bastion of Western culture, it went to work publishing fundamental works of cultural Marxism, including:

Critical Theory. The title is a play on words. The idea: criticize every pillar of Western culture--family, the Constitution, liberty, common law, etc, and hope that the criticism causes the pillars to crumble.

The Authoritarian Personality. Redefined American views on gender and sex as 'prejudice' and compared them to traditions that led to the rise of fascism in Europe.

The school pushed its publications away from economics and toward work grounded in Freudian-flavored psychological repression. The theory split society into two groups: the oppressors and the victims. History and reality, the theory argued, was shaped by the groups that controlled the traditional institutions (code for white males of European descent). Social roles of men and women at the time had been defined by the 'oppressors' and could be changed if the oppressors could be taken down.

Eros of Civilization. Authored by Herbert Marcuse in 1955, It argued that Western society was inherently repressive and called for 'polymorphous perversity,' which included the idea of seeking sexual pleasure outside of traditional norms. The book helped shape the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Marcuse would be the one to answer a question posed by early Frankfurters: Who would replace the working class as the vanguards of the Marxist revolution? Marcuse believed that it would be a victim coalition of minorities: blacks, women, and homosexuals.

The social revolution of the 1960s offered Marcuse a unique vehicle for releasing cultural Marxist ideas into the mainstream. Piggybacking the black power, feminist, gay rights, and sexual liberation movements and railing against all things establishment helped the Frankfurt School's ideas to be embraced on college campuses across America.

Marcuse's Repressive Tolerance was published in 1965. It argued in classic Marxist upside down fashion that tolerance of all values and ideas meant the repression of the 'correct' ideas. Marcuse called for 'liberating tolerance' that tolerated all ideas coming from correct sources (e.g., the Left) but none from incorrect sources (e.g., the Right).

An overarching theme of the Frankfurt School became total intolerance for any viewpoint but its own.Parenthetically, these pages have discussed this phenomenon on several occasions, e.g. here, here, here, here.

The author suggests that cultural Marxism courtesy of the Frankfurt School has, over the span of a half century, recast America into a divided, animosity filled nation, There is certainly some explanatory power here.

But I wonder how much of the cultural Marxism movement has been endogenous rather than exogenous in nature. Because socialism is ironically anti-social in that it runs counter to natural tendencies of people to pursue their interests and cooperate peacefully, it requires various rationales (and ultimately force) to enable the ideology to advance in practice.

Cultural Marxism can be seen as merely another rationale, perhaps even a predicatable one, concocted by socialists that keep socialism hurtling toward its chaos endpoint.

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