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Woke Capitalism Is Our Enemy

The soft Stasi-fication of the American workplace

Pro tip: whenever you hear a management type talk about “diversity” and “inclusion,” you may be certain that you are about to hear a rationale for creating a more ideologically uniform and ideologically exclusive community.

A reader has sent me internal documents from a leading global corporation having to do with its employee program to create a Diverse and Inclusive culture. I am not allowed to quote from the documents, or to identify the company, so I’m going to be delicate here in what I describe, to honor the reader’s request to protect privacy. The reader said

It confirms what you have been saying all along. You are absolutely correct about the “soft totalitarianism” that is coming. It’s already happening, and it’s picking up speed.

The documents are pretty shocking to my eyes, because I know what I’m looking at. It is 100 percent, pure, uncut Human Resources Department cant. What’s so amazing about it — truly amazing — is that it is all about coercing people into accepting and participating in a cultural revolution by redefining the revolution’s goals and methods as good for business, and a chance for employees to exercise virtue.

This particular company’s program is far more sophisticated and thorough than anything I’ve seen before. It is totalitarian in the sense that it encompasses nearly every aspect of life in the company. From reading these documents, you would think that the purpose of this company is to shape the cultural politics and behavior of its employees. I’m not kidding you: it’s like a church organization trying to catechize and discipline its employees in true religion — and part of that discipline is urging them to police their own ranks for heretics. It even instructs employees to conduct struggle sessions within themselves to root out false beliefs that undermine Diversity and Inclusion.

Though it’s stated in happy-clappy HR jargon, it’s clear that the company is training its employees to monitor each other for signs of bias, and encouraging them to call out each other. Incredible. It’s the Stasification of the American workplace. And the program instructs employees to think and talk about Diversity and Inclusion all the time, in everything they do. Seriously, it does. If I were an employee there, I would find all this completely unnerving. I would wonder constantly if I were being monitored by my co-workers and judged for not showing enough commitment to Diversity and Inclusion. I would watch what I said, but also worry about what I did not say. It would make me a nervous wreck.

Again, I’m not going to name the company or give identifying details about the program. I am quite confident that what I’ve said here describes the internal culture many corporations are building. I’m sure many of you readers are thinking, “That sounds like where I work.” It is coercive, and it is totalitarian. It is going to create massive suspicion and mistrust within companies that do this, in part because it is going to empower members of particular groups to harass others in the workplace, to inform on others, and even to affect their salaries and impede their career advancement.

Get this: the way this particular program is set up, you don’t have to participate, but failing to do so will be noted, and it’s going to affect your pay. It’s not enough to sign up for the program in a pro forma way, and then simply be quiet about it. You are expected to be an active, vocal advocate of its principles. From what I can tell, it appears that they have the rudiments of a Chinese-style Social Credit System structure to monitor employee enthusiasm.

You might be a first-rate maker of widgets for this corporation, or a superb sales executive, manager, whatever, and you may be a diligent employee who is honest and works well with others. But if you are not 100 percent aboard the Party’s company’s ideological campaign for cultural revolution, it will go down in your employee record, and it will affect your future at the company.

When you see these documents, and realize that this is how it is inside one of the world’s leading corporations, you know perfectly well that this is quickly going to become normative in corporations, if it isn’t already. What kind of future do any of us deplorables (or our kids) have in corporate life when workplaces become communities of coerced wokeness?

Let me put it to you like this. If this were the US Government, and it pushed “patriotism” on its employees following the same platform and methods that this corporation is pushing “diversity and inclusion,” people would freak out at the coerciveness and invasion of privacy. And they would be right to! Imagine that you, a US government employee, were told to monitor yourself constantly to root out a lack of patriotism. How … Soviet would that feel? Well, that’s what this corporation is doing to its employees regarding diversity and inclusion.

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. These documents I looked at today assert — assert, do not argue — that the total politicization of the company’s culture is critical to its business success … and then go on to describe a program that is almost certainly going to cause major problems with teamwork, cohesiveness, and conflict. These documents are a recipe for creating intense anxiety and suspicion within the company. It’s as clear as day. You cannot imagine why any sensible company would embrace these principles and techniques, which can only hurt its ability to compete. But there it is, in black and white.

Hannah Arendt, in her 1951 book The Origins Of Totalitarianism, writes:

There is a great temptation to explain away the intrinsically incredible by means of liberal rationalizations. In each one of us lurks such a liberal, wheedling us with the voice of common sense. The road to totalitarian domination leads through many intermediate stages for which we can find numerous analogies and precedents. … What common sense and ‘normal people’ refuse to believe is that everything is possible.

Woke capitalism is a vanguard of unfreedom. It’s happening. We have to be prepared to resist. Next week I’ll be in Slovakia doing the first interviews for my new book project on resisting this cultural revolution.

UPDATE: You knew that Matt in VA was going to be good on this stuff, and sure enough

I work at a public, state university that I don’t think people think of as at all liberal, and this is the reality here. We have meetings in which we are all encouraged to constantly reflect on stuff like our implicit biases, our racial attitudes, our attitudes towards transgendered people, etc., and we have been encouraged to call each other out about language that is “exclusionary,” etc., and to report it to supervisors. Recently the administration has been REALLY pushing the transgender acceptance stuff, emphasizing that discrimination against anybody for “gender presentation,” etc., is illegal and not allowed in the workplace, putting up huge signs in every bathroom telling those who use it to “MIND YOUR BUSINESS AND DO YOUR BUSINESS.” I think the transgender issue is really beloved by our administration because it shows how up-to-the-minute they are, or think they are, on social justice issues. It is a sort of currency here, which makes sense, since if actual erudition or learnedness or even just intellectual curiousity were the currency at this university, the current administration would fare very poorly indeed.

The flip side of this, though, is that as a state employee I have more job protections and job security than people in the private sector. My bet is that American conservatives, having fought for years to enable corporations to fire people, are going to be rewarded with workforce nonperson status very soon for their troubles.

I will say that this kind of mentality coming from the administration hasn’t created a scary Stasi-like atmosphere here, because the people most enthusiastic about social justice causes, etc., are too stupid to be able to “catch” anybody in a false move. I mean, it might be different for the very earnest type of Christian who feels compelled to state baldly what he believes and how he disagrees with the liberal party line, but if one is at all nimble, it’s not hard to navigate this environment, at least here. The success of liberalism has meant the dumbing-down of liberalism, so that your average midwit paper-pusher type of person can parrot its pieties. The most woke people here at my workplace seem to catch on to some new liberal party line about a year or more after I’ve first seen it out in the wilds of the internet- – I’m pretty sure it’s only when they’ve seen it enough times on TV that they adopt it and start parroting it themselves. I am always so far ahead of them in knowing what they are going to support, what they are going to claim all right-thinking people MUST people in The Current Year. These people have no frame of reference for anything other than TV — everything is put in terms of television — so conservatives are always “Fox News people” and Fox News is metonymically deployed to describe anything bad. I think the biggest effect of this kind of thing in the workplace, at least here, is more a general dead-eyed zombieish quality to everything, or at least a dead-eyed zombieish quality to the men. It’s kind of like how widespread porn being available on a device the majority of the population has access to at any given time hasn’t resulted in some kind of wild orgy atmosphere or tons of rapes but rather in a sort of cultural exhaustion and a heightening of the battle of the sexes. This kind of Woke Workplace stuff leads to men who are nihilistic and disengaged, and women who are sold a fake religion and a fake raison d’etre (dopey tinned identity politics and bourgeois career success) and who I don’t think are the happier for being so deceived.

I’m not sure this stuff is going to destroy businesses in some kind of dramatic meltdown out of The Crucible. Look at how the economy keeps on going, everything keeps on going, Trump got elected President and nothing has changed. What is happening is that everything is being enervated by this stuff. It is like the architecture of today. It’s not worth fighting for, or caring about. Entropy, decadence, a feeling of contempt for the stupid, banal smallness of it all. I mean, what is liberalism today? What do our elites, our ruling class, look like today? Remember that guy with the parents who are very, very well-connected to Democratic Party elites, who got into Princeton by submitting a personal essay that was just “BLACK LIVES MATTER” repeated a hundred times? *That’s* our elites today. There’s the horrors of Communism, of political totalitarianism; but there’s also something else, maybe something that could best be analogized to “The Nothing” from the Never Ending Story. One of the things that’s so awful about today’s ascendant liberalism is that it is so ascendant and dominant and simultaneously so empty. The emperor has no clothes, and why bother to build families, institutions, communities, or anything else when one knows that one is too cowardly and pathetic to do anything other than go along with everyone else in pretending that the emperor isn’t naked?