Friday, August 17, 2018
Two (or three) big pieces on identarian politics, and hypersensitivity about race -- and "my" own free speech
Two major pieces appeared in Rick Sincere’s daily paper from Bearing Drift in Charlottesville. They both are intricate, and I’ll have to come back to the details again. But let me introduce them now.
The first is in Foreign Affairs, and is by Francis Fukuyama, and is titled “Against Identity Politics: The New Tribalism and theCrisis of Democracy”. This is of booklet length (online there is a paywall) and I might have put it on the Books blog. I’ve reviewed several books on Wordpress recently on tribalism and the tension between hyper-individualism and sustainable democracy. I actually proposed this article to Sincere.
This article traces the history of the Left, which moved through the working class and tried to contain individuality with the “New Man” idea and the socialist left, which came out of the Marxist narrative. But western democracy, most of all in the US, created a paradox for the left. It first offered equality before the law; but with freedom and with inherited advantages individuals performed differently, and wealth and income inequality steadily increased. Yet the new Left, rather than focusing on the old working class model, instead, led by the Civil Rights movement, began to focus on repairing oppressions of an increasing (and intersectional) list of groups. The “old” norms of personal neutrality in offering opportunity weren’t good enough. Speech normally seen as acceptable in narrow implementations of personal responsibility (including free speech “fundamentalism”) could be seen as encouraging suppression of people with specific identities (maybe most of all in gender fluidity and identity issues). The infiltration of identity norming into speech is now putting unprecedented pressure on the tech industry to mediate the speech of users or even deciding who can have the floor.
Then growing inequality encouraged pundits and politicians (most of all Donald Trump) to export identarianism to the right, more or less creating the alt-right. In Europe, the article says, it is much harder.
The article, toward the end, actually proposes a mandatory national service for the United States as a healthful way to encourage national identity. Would the practice be contained within young adulthood? Maybe seniors would have to “earn” their social security?
The other article in this “No Voice at Vox: Sense andNonsense about Discussing IQ and Race”, by Richard Haier, on Quillette. Haier had submitted a piece to Vox rebutting Vox’s earlier 2017 piece saying that podcaster Sam Harris had been reinvigorating the “junk science” between Charles Murray’s 1994 book “The Bell Curve” about race and IQ. That book could make a preview post on my legacy Books blog even though its 24 years old (and normally I’m not much for promoting old books when my POD publisher calls me). Murray’s ideas, at a certain level, are so offensive to the identarian far Left that he has been banned from some campuses or driven off. But, as Haier points out (sounding a lot like James Damore in the way he writes and reasons) ideas should not be discarded just because their invocation have a potential for a morally repugnant or ugly outcome. Haier reproduces the rejected submission to Vox and tries to parse all possible statements into a new sequence, rather like he was preparing a proof for a plane geometry exam. I can’t say conclusively that either side is wrong – you can accept, for example, that measurable differences in intelligence (as a measurable g) can accumulate because of environmental influences and colonial exploitation of one population over another.