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Social Justice = Cultural Socialism

What do you call the cultural politics of radical egalitarianism?

A letter from a reader:

Rod, you may or may not be interested in this but it fits in with the theme you’ve been hitting on recently re: the rise of cultural socialism.

My oldest son is a high school senior, where the flagship state university – the state system’s most prestigious school – sent out admissions notices this week. My son’s attending a different school, one of his friends – I’ll call him Eric – did not get in to state flagship school and was more than disappointed – he was angry.

For context, both Eric’s parents went to the school; Eric had fantastic SAT and ACT scores, a 4.0+ grade point average, a high school resume crammed with activities, leadership roles and job experience.

He didn’t get in. But there’s another student in their class who didn’t have the same grades, didn’t have the same test scores, didn’t have the same extracurricular involvement – but did get in.

I forgot to mention – but you’re probably figured it out by now – that Eric is white; blonde haired, blue-eyed.

The other student, let’s say, is not white.

As my son was telling me this story last night, he finished with: “That’s bullsh*t.” And so I explained the whole “colleges-are-seeking-greater-diversity” thing to him, that student bodies have traditionally been overwhelmingly white and schools are trying to change that so their enrollment more resembles society at large, and everyone is given an opportunity, etc. etc.

I wasn’t trying to indoctrinate him, I was merely telling him this is the way it works. But he wasn’t buying any of it; to him, it was still manifestly unfair.

And this is a kid whose friend group is completely mixed in terms of race and background. But he still thinks this new “egalitarian” standard is unfair; it penalizes those who have achieved in order to reward those who have achieved less.

And in not so many words he asked: What’s the point of achieving if that’s the way it’s going to be?

Well, I said, it’s not like Eric won’t find another school that will let him in. But again, that sense of unfairness, that Eric got screwed out of something he deserved — not because of his “whiteness,” but because he put in the work and the time and the effort and the “prize,” so to speak, went to someone else for reasons that had little to do with that work and time and effort.

It’s unfairness in the name of “fairness.”

And I thought: We can talk about the threat of looming cultural socialism; but the threat TO cultural socialism is developed every time a workaday person — especially a younger person, of a coming generation — thinks, “This is unfair.”

The whole social justice facade is in danger of crumbling if enough people stand back, take a good look and say: this isn’t just.

Yep. I’ve had lots of pushback from left-liberal readers on my definition of “socialism” in recent posts — this, because the next book I’m proposing to write will focus on the lessons we in America today ought to learn about socialism, according to people who lived under it in Eastern Europe. There has been collective (naturally) wailing that I am wrongly conflating economic policies with cultural policies.

As I’ve said, I agree that it is possible, in theory, to have more economically “socialist” policies (e.g., a stronger welfare state) without accepting the woke agenda. But in reality, this is not on the table with the Democratic Party. They are all on board with what they call “social justice,” which is really just cultural socialism: the idea that any inequities in the distribution of position within society is the result of iniquitous discrimination, and must be remedied by reducing individuals to demographic characteristics, and allowing authorities (the State, universities, corporations, etc.) choose winners and losers based not on individual accomplishments, but on one’s membership in a demographic group favored by the planners.

“Social justice” is not justice at all. It’s the cultural politics of redistribution and leveling. We ought to start calling it what it is: cultural socialism. 

If Trump wants to run against “socialism,” then I hope he makes a point of running against cultural socialism as well as economic socialism. With the Democrats these days, you can’t have one without the other. Liberal political scientists can complain all the livelong day about how Trump is threatening “the liberal norms underpinning American democracy,” but it is the cultural socialists of the Democratic Party and its fellow travelers who are trashing the idea of reward being linked to one’s individual effort and accomplishment — a core ideal of American democracy.

Americans fought it when white supremacist laws and norms denied fair play to racial minorities, and when similar laws and norms did the same to women. This was the right thing to do. Equal opportunity is the American way — not equality of outcome. People who say otherwise ought to be called out for what they are: cultural socialists.