The Post-Christian Moral Order

Wokeness isn’t Marxism. It’s the new moral order for the managerial State.

The “Great Awokening” has been given many names by its believers, such as radical progressivism, critical social justice, critical race theory, and successor ideology, among others. Conservatives have given it other names, which signal their belief that it is a mutation of an old foe: cultural Marxism, or woke neo-Marxism, or postmodern neo-Marxism. The conditions for the appearance of such a radical ideology and its institutional expression in diversity, equity, and inclusion can be traced back decades.

What has been categorized as “woke” or “wokeness,” however, is not Marxism. Marxism combined a belief in a scientifically observable, dialectical movement of history, driven by material change and class conflict, which will be reconciled through the advent of socialism. Further, George Grant, the Canadian Tory philosopher, argued in Lament for a Nation that Marxism implies there is an end to life which is morally better than other ends. “How else could Marx distinguish between man’s alienation and its opposite?” Grant wrote. “Marxism includes therefore a doctrine of human good.” He continued, “what is socialism, if not the use of the government to restrain greed in the name of social justice or human good? In actual practice, socialism has always had to advocate human self-restraint.” Capitalism is only too happy to accept wokeness, given its potential for creating new desires to be satisfied through the marketing of ever-increasing niche identities and the uprooting of communal and traditional resistance to the corporate oligarchies.

Wokeness represents what the post-war Italian Catholic philosopher Augusto Del Noce called a “spirit of negation … aimed at the perpetual destruction of the antecedent order.” The bearer of woke revolution is possessed of “a destructive attitude towards every tradition,” particularly the moral order rooted in Christianity. We are therefore left with a total revolution, that is fast leading into a totalitarianism of disintegration. This detachment from a sense of human limits reveals wokeness to be even more crazed than Marxism.

“Identity politics is not about who we are as individuals; it is about the stain and purity associated with who we are as members of a group.”

~Joshua Mitchell

Of what is wokeness composed? The most parsimonious definition is given by Canadian demographer and professor of politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, Eric Kaufmann. He defined it as “the sacralization of historically disadvantaged race, gender and sexual identity groups.” In this woke New Moral Order, as American dissident academic Brandon Van Dyck put it in a 2022 Youtube interview with Kaufmann, “race is at the very centre of our moral order, but the categories of sex and sexual orientation are secondary and round out a kind of holy trinity of victimology. In this holy trinity, race sits on the throne, with sex and sexual orientation to its left and right.”

According to Kaufmann, this New Moral Order holds the quest for greater equity for ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities as the highest good. And according to social psychologist and co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt, woke demands are typically based on victimhood and the reduction of unjust suffering. Activists express demands for changes as passive-aggressive narcissism and ceaseless bullying.

Below the surface, argues Joshua Mitchell, professor of political theory at Georgetown and author of American Awakening, lies a continuing longing for a Christian-inflected vision of the moral as well as a division between the damned and the saved. This assumes a moral economy that “measures transgression and innocence.” Here, “no balance of payment between them is possible,” but “all accounts must be settled.” For Mitchell, “Identity politics is not about who we are as individuals; it is about the stain and purity associated with who we are as members of a group.”

By contrast, Christians traditionally understood that no final balance of payments between transgression and innocence was possible in this life. A relief of one’s moral debt could only be achieved via redemption through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, whose blood washes the sins of the world from the soul of man. This traditional Christian understanding encouraged a disposition of mercy and forgiveness. As Mitchell explained, “mercy is … the gift for which the world of justice and payment have no place” and can be attained “only after and against the backdrop of the world of justice and payment,” in the hereafter at the end of all things.

Instead, the stain of spiritual transgression no longer divides the hearts of those who are subject to original sin in a fallen world. Now transgression is applied only to those held to be the source of all the world’s evil: ultimately, straight, white, cis-gendered men. This is central to the ethical force of the woke New Moral Order intended to achieve a balance of moral payment in this life; one must attain a final perfected justice for all groups deemed to be victimized.

The impossibility of forgiving social transgression undergirds the woke New Moral Order’s total inability to show mercy to perceived wrongdoers or forgive the supposed transgressor. Hence the repeated cancellations of those who are thought to transgress against those who are considered morally pure. Hence also the displays of fealty from corporations, government departments, centers of culture and the arts, the law, medicine, and the military and security state to the demands of accredited victim groups in the form of quasi-religious rituals and frequent festivals to honor “diversity.”

It is common for those on the right to argue that America’s present epidemic of wokeness stems from the importation of foreign ideology into the body politic and surrounding culture. The denizens of the Frankfurt School and their “cultural Marxism,” or the French post-modernists, are often designated as the source of all our discontents. These purveyors of bad thought may have had some impact on the radicalism that has developed in the U.S. from the 1960s onward. But it seems far more plausible that the fervor with which the woke express themselves is rooted in American religion and culture, reaching back to the turn of the 20th century. Blaming this continuing revolution on some malign foreign philosophical influence is arguably both inaccurate and simplistic.

Much of what the current American regime preaches may find a forerunner as far back as the anti-WASP Bohemianism of Randolph Bourne and his fellow intellectuals in New York’s Greenwich Village in the early 20th century. Their work evinced contempt and hatred for mainstream American culture and politics and reflected what Roger Scruton described as a “culture of repudiation.” Their revulsion for bourgeois America rings through the sentiments expressed by their woke descendants in academia, corporations, and the organs of the administrative state. The culture of rejection-of-the-past permeated interwar intellectuals and artists whose beliefs influenced and were later disseminated by the expanding administrative state.

Today’s woke New Moral Order represents the radicalization and intensification of something quintessentially American. Both the social gospel and progressivism represented a transformation of the older form of American Protestantism.

This Bohemianism together with social-gospel Christianity found its way into early 20th-century progressivism. In his book The War for Righteousness, Hillsdale College history professor Richard M. Gamble argued that this debased religion created “eager participants in a world marked by material progress and technological efficiency and by an increasing moral rigor and earnestness in domestic and foreign policy.” Mainline church leaders saw it as their holy duty at the beginning of the 20th century to transform the world into an earthly kingdom of Heaven. This would be achieved through social reform and administrative control at home and abroad, and particularly through foreign policy. WWI was seen as the means to consecrate the world to the progressivist holy vision of a world uplifted by progressive Christian benevolence. The evangelism of woke imperialism today comes straight from this messianic urge. Both tendencies—the repudiation of traditional culture and social-gospel inflected progressivism—prepared the way for wokeism by repudiating once-accepted moral values in favor of a new world created by progressive administrators.

Today’s woke New Moral Order represents the radicalization and intensification of something quintessentially American. Both the social gospel and progressivism represented a transformation of the older form of American Protestantism, rightly glorified by Mitchell. The politics of progressive social reform/social engineering and messianic liberal internationalism were all pillars of this new American ideology. Wokeness is the Protestant-inflected offspring of these positions that have influenced the post-Christian Millennials and Gen Z.

Foreign influences like the Frankfurt School and French post-modernism, were further fuel for an already raging fire rather than themselves providing the ignition. The developing managerial state became the means of enacting the woke New Moral Order, just as it served earlier incarnations of made-in-America transformative creeds.

The American ruling class is lodged in a managerial regime whose roots lie in early 20th-century America and its new mass state and collectivist or corporate economy. James Burnham argued in The Managerial Revolution that, from the beginning of the 20th century, we have witnessed a revolution in how the elite organized and operated. Mass populations and industrial capitalism engendered the massification of production, markets, and society as a whole. This process played out over decades from the turn of the 20th century and became politically and economically dominant in the first half of the last century. This required a newly centralized elite to manage and coordinate a new mass economic, social, and political system. The administrative structures that evolved are where such organizational complexity dominates and demands the proliferation of bureaucracy, without which it would fall into chaos.

These bureaucracies came to occupy the public domain and the private corporate world, which became intertwined. Various signifiers are used, but “manager” and “expert” are among the many labels for managerial elites. All this resulted from the need to coordinate and manage material changes. As the British, self-proclaimed reactionary feminist Mary Harrington puts it, memes and material causes become intertwined and drive cultural change. This felt need for coordination and management extended to social reform that rapidly became social engineering and was explicitly acknowledged as such. This was especially the case where socialization of children was concerned. As British sociologist Frank Furedi wrote in 100 Years of Identity Crisis, “with hindsight it appears that the Culture War began in the nursery and its battles were frequently directed at gaining control over the levers of socialisation.”

This was achieved through the application of psychology by the administrative state, presaging what Paul Gottfried has diagnosed as the post-60s therapeutic state that determines and imposes social norms and mores. All of this began before the Second World War and was further expanded through the New Deal and post-war legislative transformations. The need to mould children into instruments of the new politics was rooted in a loss of respect for the moral values represented by their parents, which led to an emphatic rejection of the past and its inherited mores. Socialization, which fell under the purview of the administrative state, increasingly focused on the individual and the search for and validation of an identity. This achievement would have less and less to do with the transmission of a culture or of ancestral beliefs and more and more to do with woke transformation.

Wokeness thus composes what Italian elite theorist Gaetano Mosca called the “political formula” in his book The Ruling Class. He explained: “Ruling classes do not justify their power exclusively by de facto possession of it, but try to find a moral and legal basis for it, representing it as the logical and necessary consequence of doctrines and beliefs that are generally recognized and accepted.” Those conservatives who proclaim that ideas have consequences often fail to account for how this becomes the case. As historian of Communism Richard Pipes pointed out in his book The Russian Revolution, “rebellions happen; revolutions are made.”

What makes some ideas have consequences while others don’t? It may be true, according to polling by More in Common, that the part of the American population who actually believe in woke politics lies at around 6-8 percent, but the rest of the populace either acquiesce to the domination of their rulers or eventually come around to affirming their pervasive ideas. This is because the true believers control the levers of social, legal, political, and cultural power.

Sociologist James Davison Hunter, in his book To Change the World, described what he sees as the reality of the situation: “The key actor in history is not individual genius but rather a network of associations and the new institutions that are created out of those networks. And the ‘denser’ the network—that is, the more active and interactive the network—the more influential it becomes. This is where the stuff of culture and cultural change is produced.” The kind of cultural revolution we’re witnessing is coming from above, because, as Hunter wrote, “the work of world-making and world-changing are, by and large, the work of elites: gatekeepers who provide creative direction and management within spheres of social life. Even where the impetus for change draws from popular agitation, it does not gain traction until it is embraced and propagated by elites.”

Michael Lind called these elites the “overclass” in his book The New Class War, which explains that “the most important managers are private and public bureaucrats who run large national and global corporations and exercise disproportionate influence in politics and society.” In our world, “diplomats become investment bankers, investment bankers become ambassadors, generals sit on corporate boards, and corporate executives sit on non-profit boards.”

In an October 2022 article for Tablet, Lind continued this line of thought: “managerial dominance [is] reinforced by lateral mobility at the top levels of society.” The means to this domination is the “control of three [critical] gateways … college education, professional accreditation, and commercial services, particularly new online media platforms like Twitter, sales platforms like Amazon, and financial platforms like PayPal. All three wield variants of the same power: the power to exclude people from the economy” and to act as engines of socialization into our managerial order and woke ideology.

The woke New Moral Order has been adopted by the overclass as its new legitimizing ideology. Its belief in what Lind has dubbed “technocratic neoliberalism” was fatally undermined by the 2008 financial crisis. Its new members reject the promise of ever-increasing material progress in a world that has seen economic instability. To the sense of rootlessness engendered by the system of socialization described by Furedi, we must add material insecurity and cultural instability to understand the present American culture.

The managerial regime may conceivably have sown the seeds of its own dissolution in adopting an ideology that dissolves the ground on which an individual sense of self can be built. As Mitchell reminds us, despite the woke’s damnation of the past as indelibly stained with sin, our “traditions … are, nevertheless, our families. … [W]e are constituted by them, we live in and through them; appearances to the contrary, we can never escape them. To be without them, as Aristotle long ago wrote, is to be ‘either a beast or a god.’”

The concept of civilization as such is best summarized by the Irish Marxist Desmond Fennell. In Ireland After The End of Western Civilisation, Fennell wrote that “a civilisation is essentially a grounded hierarchy of values and rules covering all life and making sense, which a community’s rulers and rules subscribe to over a long period. ‘Over a long period’ … because the community is motivated to keep reproducing itself by the sense, and therefore goodness, that it finds in its framework of life.”

Fennell is correct. The adoption by the managerial regime of the woke New Moral Order, with all its destructive effects on the religious and moral inheritance of the past and the social ecology of the present, has brought about the exact inverse of “sense.” It is therefore inimical to the basic end of what constitutes a civilization. This structure of control, not traditional Marxism, is driving us to madness. And yes, the sources of our malady lie deep in the American past.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.