Please, the Capitalist Class Is Anything But Conservative
In a perceptive and properly passionate piece on why “woke capitalism is a vanguard of unfreedom,” Rod Dreher notes that American corporations have become radically totalitarian and socially destructive. In pursuit of intersectional politics and anti-white, anti-male indoctrination, corporate executives now impose mind-boggling restrictions on employees, from forbidding them to use gender-specific pronouns to compelling them to attend tirades against “white privilege.”
Further: “The familiar left vs. right categories no longer serve as reliable guides to our cultural reality. The cultural left has captured the bureaucracies at American corporations. One thing we hear a lot from our friends on the left is that Big Business is conservative, and would never do anything that would hurt its bottom line. Wrong! I have seen personally how companies will do politically correct things that actually hurt their business model, but that win its management pats on the back among their social cohort.”
Hannah Arendt in her post-World War Two classic, The Origins of Totalitarianism, puts into relief the features of totalitarian societies. In this work we encounter two particularly unpleasant example of all-controlling authorities, Nazi Germany, and Stalin’s Russia.
One way these unpalatable regimes sought to exercise control over their subjects was by forcing them to accept and affirm opinions that everyone with half a brain knew were false. By pushing everyone into lying, the totalitarian state defined reality for its hapless subjects, or redefined it in a manner that contradicted the obvious and even self-evident.
In the present age, for example, universities and the managerial state treat gender as something we should be allowed to steadily change for ourselves, depending on our feelings and whether or not adolescent men want to participate in a female athletic event by claiming to have changed their sex. Recently, conservative movement activist Michael Knowles was sprayed with lavender by an LGBT activist for contending in a speech at University of Missouri-Kansas City that “Men are different from women.” My reaction at the time was that only a fool would try to argue this point with ideological zealots or with those who are trying to bully the rest of us into embracing utter nonsense.
But we might note something else about how totalitarian corporate executives take away our freedom and sanity. They are receiving considerable assistance from the administrative state, misnamed “educators,” the media and the culture industry. They enjoy a powerful support system. Moreover, these captains of finance and commerce are mistakenly imagined to be on the right. I heard this repeatedly from academic colleagues when I observed as a professor how culturally radical our corporate capitalists and Wall Street had become.
My coworkers assumed that anything associated with capitalism must be “conservative” because capitalists were against the working class. This archaic analysis totally misrepresents the current situation. An application of an outmoded Marxist model of class conflict, it tells us absolutely nothing about what is going on in this age. Today the working class here and in Western Europe is usually allied to the cultural right, while our financiers and CEOs are mostly where Rod Dreher locates them, on the cultural left. There is no way we can make sense of political and cultural polarities unless we assume an inversion of the Marxist economic paradigm.
Another point I would make about “woke capitalism,” as someone who has just finished a book on antifascism, is that the fascist enemy for the cultural left never goes away. According to New York Times film critic Manohla Dargas, commenting on the movie Dunkirk, “the fight against fascism continues.” And such Yale professors as Tim Snyder and Jason Stanley have raked in fortunes publishing book length comparisons of Hitler’s Germany and Donald Trump’s America.
The good people, who impose PC guidelines on their puzzled, powerless workers and the media who never end their tear against “the authoritarian Right,” are still fighting Hitler. The war against Nazism did not end in 1945. It will go on until that moment when the cultural Left no longer finds it strategically useful to invoke a Hitlerian danger. Reading Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook I discovered that not only is Trump the new Hitler. It also seems that anyone who attacks any policy advocated by the intersectional left is guilty of abetting fascism. Moreover, there is no possible critique of open-borders immigration that Bray would not stigmatize as fascist or identify with “authoritarian” tyranny.
I also find myself wondering whether social approval is all that woke capitalists are after. There may be more if we are seeking a sufficient explanation for why these unpleasant types act as they do. Strange as it may sound, some of these actors may believe in what they are doing. Given their education and socialization, it is entirely possible that what these woke capitalists are imposing on their workers reflects an internalized belief system. Even elites may embrace lunatic ideas out of both personal conviction and a sense of advancing the Good.
Paul Gottfried is the editor-in-chief of Chronicles. He is also Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.