Taking on the Social Justice Warriors

Dec 20, 2018 by

by Eric Kaufmann, UnHerd:

Even if Remain wins out and Trump is defeated in 2020, one thing is pretty certain: we will continue to live in polarised times. In my new book Whiteshift I argue that one of the main forces driving this fracturing is the perfectionist creed of multiculturalism, whose shock troops are the so-called Social Justice Warriors (SJWs).

Spearheaded by radical staff and students, and leveraging twitter to harass and intimidate opponents, SJW excesses provide fodder for the Right-wing media, and continue to raise the temperature of the culture wars. Are the SJWs a wholly new product, brought to life by social media and a coddled generation, as Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff argue? While I love their book, the headwaters of this movement lie further back in time.

The 1960s brought many societal advancements, such as the extension of civil rights to blacks in the American South and a new push for gender equality. Protests helped draw attention to injustices and mobilise public support. However, in the heat of the moment it’s tricky to know how far to push things.

Legitimate protest tipped, at elite universities, into a frontal assault on intellectual merit and the norms of rules-based deliberation – the foundations of the university. Protest, occupation and emotional release came to be sanctified as equivalent or even superior to the Socratic or Popperian models. Moralistic poses could trump evidence and logic.

Sixties radicals cited their resistance to power and hierarchy, championing narratives of liberation and equality to justify a radical revolution in the curriculum. The first generation of writers to dissent from this cultural radicalism were largely New York Jewish, ex-socialist, figures like Daniel Bell and Nathan Glazer, who shifted Right in disgust at the anti-intellectualism of the students.

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