Why do American Elites love Wokeness?
Wokeness is just Liberalism and Capitalism pushed to its true extent.
“Woke Capital” or “Wokeness” is a phenomena that we have witnessed a lot lately. I broadly refer to it as a set of beliefs that claim, but are not limited to, the following:
Society is fundamentally racist/sexist/patriarchal/colonialist and must be corrected/dismantled;
Diversity in appearance is good but diversity of views is not;
Class does not matter, and if it somehow does then it must be secondary to race/gender/LGBTQ issues;
You must be punished for your wrong views, and redemption is unlikely;
If you oppose our beliefs you are a racist/fascist/neo-Nazi etc.
Many high-profile “academics” push such views. They include Robin DiAngelo and her book White Fragility; Ibrahim Kendi and his book How to Be an Antiracist; and Kimberle Crenshaw with her works on Intersectionality and her books on topics such as Critical Race Theory, among others.
I have heard many of my friends and acquaintances ask, “why specifically did Wokeness emerge”? “Why did it emerge in uber-Capitalist and uber-Liberal United States”? “Why is it the ideology-of-choice for the elite”? These are some important questions we must answer.
But I am not going to deeply go over the philosophical reasons for this phenomena (as that would be another article altogether). Instead, I’m going to explain to you why the American bourgeois elite and its strivers have chosen Wokeness as their dominant ideology.
Broadly speaking, Wokeness helps distract from Class divides, helps maintain the elites’ Class status without any noblesse-oblige, helps accelerate the atomization caused by Liberalism and Capitalism, and helps reinvigorate US imperialism.
Distraction from Class
As previously mentioned, Wokeness contains within it the idea of Intersectionality, which is defined as, “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”.
I find this ideological view hilarious not because I think “racism is fake” or some boomer-con talking point, but because it tries to link concepts like race (consumer demographic), gender (fashion), and sexual orientation (consumer demographic) as inextricable from class (material conditions).
You can pretty much see why it would be easy for elites to “coopt” intersectional discourse, because it is their discourse to begin with. The ideology was developed by an Elizabeth Warren-voting lawyer that studied in Cornell and Harvard, and that works in UCLA and Columbia —all esteemed American institutions that gets billions in endowments— so I’m sure the world’s foremost capitalist state would really be okay with the propagation of an ideology that tells them to diversify their elite by race/gender, instead of calling for a Soviet-style class-based socialist revolution.
As Karl Marx himself said:
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.
Naturally, bourgeois elites would love an ideology that blurs the line between material conditions and consumer demographics, and tells people that poor whites are more privileged than black members of the bourgeoisie. In fact, studies show that teaching liberals about “White privilege” reduces empathy for poor white people:
Studies revealed that while social liberals were overall more sympathetic to poor people than social conservatives, reading about White privilege decreased their sympathy for a poor White (vs. Black) person. Moreover, these shifts in sympathy were associated with greater punishment/blame and fewer external attributions for a poor White person’s plight.
Among social liberals, White privilege lessons may increase beliefs that poor White people have failed to take advantage of their racial privilege—leading to negative social evaluations.
Voila. You have successfully helped reduce empathy for certain sections of the lower class, simply based on their skin color. The job is done, and class unity is dismantled.
It is no surprise that this discourse was pushed right after a genuine threat posed by the class-based Occupy Wall Street protests in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. While certainly those protests collapsed due to the anarchist and anti-hierarchical methods used by its members, it is evident that race-based discourse was accelerated by mainstream media to prevent any such movement from gaining steam again.
Zach Goldberg in The Tablet shows data that proves this claim. Take a look at these graphs below, which show an increase in race-based discourse in mainstream media and a rise in viewing racism as a “big problem” among all political ideologies (but especially White Democrats/Liberals). Notice how this all accelerated after the 2008 financial crisis, and more after Donald Trump announced his candidacy.
The very same people who called poor whites “White trash” from the 1990s to the 2000s are now calling them “White supremacists profiting from White supremacy” when their living conditions, share of wealth, and income decreased in the last few decades. This, of course, doesn’t help poor Blacks or Hispanics in any way either.
Effectively, those who assert that the material conditions of poor Whites & poor “People of Color” (PoCs) is not the same, don't want to uplift material conditions of either. Instead they throw in buzzwords like “White privilege”, and distort well-meaning words like “decolonization”, to maintain the status-quo.
No wonder the organizations at the forefront of “social justice” are not members of the working-class, but are instead banks, universities, Silicon Valley, and the oligarchic Democratic Party. A serious challenge to the elite indeed!
Maintains Class Status Without a Noblesse-Oblige
Continuing from my previous point on how Wokeness distracts from Class, it is also important to note how Wokeness maintains existing Class hierarchies while lowering the obligations of the elite towards their subjects.
Think of it this way: if a nation and its people were fundamentally racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic, why should they be owed anything? Shouldn’t they instead be disciplined and taught what’s right? This is the logic of Wokeness: the people have a wrong sense about their current beliefs, traditions, and cultures so they must first be disciplined into the right beliefs before we can give them noblesse-oblige, if any.
Wokeness comes across the same way that the American Prohibition movement did in the 1900s: a huge, paternalistic social experiment waged by elites against workers —that does nothing to solve material issues— and whose consequences the bourgeoisie will itself avoid. The American elite understands this “social justice” as occurring through moral reform within the self, but believe this personal transformation must be directed by “morally enlightened elites” wielding state/corporate power to prohibit the masses from engaging in “bad behaviors”.
Which is precisely why the elite is more focused on cultural placations rather than material relief; the culture war is their class war against the lower and middle classes. They downplay class & instead elevate “gender”, “race”, "sex work", “intersectionality” and “mental health”. This allows the participants to see themselves not as guilty children of the elite, but as subjects of a politics of anti-oppression in their own right.
Therefore, Wokeness today represents the aristocratic luxury beliefs of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Which is precisely why those that wish to join the elite tend to emulate them. Take for example the rhetoric of “White privilege”. Who is pushing this the most? It’s not the Black underclass, but the progressive aspiring-elite with college degrees that fear proletarianization.
In essence, mediocre college-graduated urban White people promote “White guilt” because it allows them to be clubbed in the same cohort of what they perceive as “successful White men” (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt), while signalling that their own status is above that of poor “White trash” in trailer parks. This helps maintain their own class status (“I have a college degree” vs the “stupid deplorable”) as it signals their ability to launder elite discourse to assert their dominance over others.
This way, Wokeness is used by the American elite (and its aspirants) to maintain their class status, while not offering material placations by pushing culture war narratives.
It Helps Atomize and Accelerate Liberalism and Capitalism
This may come as a surprise to some of my readers on the Right. Why would I consider Wokeness to be the natural conclusion of Liberalism and Capitalism? The argument is fairly simple.
Liberalism is about, well, liberty. Liberty means one must be autonomous and “free” (you do not have the choice to “not be free”, ironically). Its end goal is that it seeks to atomize individuals as “blank slates”, free from any groupings or biases, so they can be “rational individual actors”.
Check out Liberal philosophers and theorists admitting this in their own words. Joseph Raz in his work The Morality of Freedom says:
One common strand in liberal thought regards the promotion and protection of personal autonomy as the core of the liberal concern.
A person is autonomous if he can become the author of his own life.
And Bruce Ackerman in his work Social Justice and the Liberal State says:
[Liberalism is] an individualistic political morality... concerned primarily with protecting and promoting the autonomy of individuals.
As my friend Apex eloquently summarizes in his own Substack, “autonomy demands atomization because any bond that is not chosen represents a limitation on one's free actions”.
But how does this relate to Capitalism? Let’s take a look at what Capitalist economists have to say, shall we? George Stigler from his The Theory of Price says:
Economic relationships are never perfectly competitive if they involve any personal relationships between economic units.
And Marshall McLuhan says:
In order to have a highly industrialized or marketing life, you have to devise very superficial relationships for people.
Effectively, Capitalism demands the destruction of bonds and relationships; it demands atomization. Karl Marx was one of the first people to claim that Capitalism helps destroy the traditional bonds that held society together, saying:
All that is solid melts into air, all that is sacred is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
In this sense, Liberalism offers the ideological grease for Capitalism to dissolve traditions. Of course, one can be a Capitalist state without being a Liberal one (such as Saudi Arabia, China, and to an extent Hungary under Orbán) but that doesn’t stop Capitalism from destroying traditions; it just happens at a slower pace. Just look at Saudi Arabia who, after discovering that they must divest from oil for future sustenance, just had to open their economy to greater female labor force participation (allowing women to drive, leaving their houses without permission from male guardians, etc) while at the same time liberalizing cultural norms to allow general tourism into the country while making the hijab non-mandatory and opening movie theatres.
Meanwhile in liberal-democratic India, a country that has a GDP/capita of $2100, one can witness cultural discussions similar to those in the West (for example the TISS case where academic papers said India was a colonial power in Kashmir). Liberalism has given India the cultural degeneracy of the West while we have the economic standards of Africa. A great recipe for balkanization. This shows us that Liberalism plays an important part in speeding up this atomization and undermining of institutions.
Now that we have established this, how does this relate to Wokeness? Well for starters, let’s look at the Black Lives Matter movement. The institutions promoting Wokeness in the US are corporations themselves. Demands such as “abolishing the nuclear family” are then made by these Woke groups. In this sense, all identities and bonds must be chosen (including one’s “family”). And if they are chosen in a world where we are atomized by Liberalism and Capitalism, then they are chosen according to market logic. In other words, they are consoomed as consumer identities.
This allows corporations and oligarchs to have workers without any bonds, so workers can focus on wage-slaving away. Think about it. Would your boss like if their female worker spent one hour with their family and children, or one extra hour in the office/factory? Naturally, it would be the second option. But don’t take this from me; take it from the words of Mark Zuckerberg himself, who wishes for his workers to have a life without any material or familial possessions!
We may not own a car. We may not have a family. Simplicity in life is what allows you to focus on what’s important.
This can further be confirmed when we see another one of their demands: “Abolish the Police”. Abolishing a public institution and public good under Liberalism and Capitalism leads to its replacement by a privatized good. The actor with the most power in the market sets the terms, and in this case it is the Capitalist himself. This is why Black and working-class voters in the recent NYC mayoral election flocked to Eric Adams, a tough-on-crime candidate. Maya Wiley, who supported BLM and initiatives such as defunding the police, was backed by George Soros. She grossly underperformed.
Let’s take a more controversial example: puberty blockers for trans kids.
This is but the natural conclusion of Liberalism. Everyone MUST be “free” & “autonomous” to make decisions, including children, even if the child does not have the ability to voice an informed opinion. Any bonds, such as that of a parent, that stand in the way must be destroyed. This is also promoted by manufacturers and lobbyists who want puberty blockers to be sold and sales to increase. And just to clarify, I do support LGBT rights but I do not think any child has the ability to voice an informed opinion on this (just like a child is considered a child in any other sphere). Puberty blockers have permanent consequences that no child can meaningfully consent to.
In this sense, we can clearly see how Liberalism and Capitalism work together to atomize society by destroying the traditional bonds that hinder its path towards its goals of individualism and profit.
Wokeness Rebrands American Imperialism
Ever since the beginning of the Cold War against the Soviets, the United States has been adamant in exporting its model of Liberalism and Capitalism worldwide (even when, for example, countries like Iran and Chile elected leaders who decided to nationalize their natural resources, they were removed with direct CIA assistance).
But this can be best seen with the ascendancy of Neoconservatives in American foreign policy following Ronald Reagan. These Neocons were former Trotksyists who, after their disillusionment with the USSR and then Marxism itself, took Trotsky’s call for a “global proletarian revolution” and changed it to “global promotion of liberal democracy”. Their beliefs dominated the halls of US foreign policy, and elevated nonsensical ideas such as the Democratic Peace Theory (whereby we would achieve world peace if every country in this world were to be a liberal democracy).
This was best expressed right after the collapse of the USSR, where American hegemony and the peak of Neoliberalism resulted in unchallenged regime-change wars under the guise of promoting this “liberal democracy”. Wars such as those in ex-Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria along with color revolutions in China and post-Soviet countries are prominent examples of the implementation of this belief.
As Liberalism and Capitalism evolved towards Wokeness, the fundamental beliefs of both have not changed. This is their new branding, and their ultimate conclusion:
This Woke foreign policy blob is against all challenges to American financial and cultural hegemony, no matter if it comes from the Right or the Left. Let’s start with Hungary under a non-liberal conservative leader Viktor Orbán. Orbán has refused to teach gender ideology to kids, refused to accept the EU’s migrant quota, and heavily restricted NGOs sponsored by oligarchs like George Soros. Joe Biden, during his campaign called Hungary a “totalitarian regime” (so we all know what he means by this). Hungary, by the way, is a NATO member.
There are even calls for American intervention in India because its leader Narendra Modi is apparently a “fascist”:
Now let’s turn our attention to the 2019 coup in Bolivia where popular leftist leader Evo Morales (responsible for skyrocketing Bolivia’s economy, nationalizing key resources, and drastically reducing economic inequality) was ousted in a military coup, and replaced by “women’s activist” Jeanine Añez.
Añez would go on to cut ties with Venezuela and ask Cuban doctors to leave. She would then be in charge of countless massacres against indigenous people and supporters of Evo Morales. But all that was okay as she was admired by the American foreign policy establishment, who would have loved access to Bolivia’s vast Lithium reserves and privatized resources. But in 2020, after a snap election was called, Morales’ party won with Luis Arce as their leader. Morales, who had fled the country, returned back home while Añez was thrown in prison.
So while this Woke branding is new, it’s not that hard to see where it will end up and for what ends, even based on some trajectories today. Wokeness is going to be the new ideological casus belli for American intervention and domination; America’s ideological champions are going to be Dick Cheney and Ibrahim Kendi, sponsored by Wall Street and Big Tech.
Wokeness is nothing but the natural outgrowth of Liberalism and Capitalism, and has been the result of the turn to Neoliberalism during the reigns of Reagan to Obama. As economic opportunities have died out for the American working-class and the progressive and upper-middle class fears proletarianization, Wokeness has become the ideology of choice.
While many may characterize this as a sort of Cultural Revolution (witnessed in Mao’s China), there are key differences to note. The Chinese version was Mao using students, workers, and loyal bureaucrats to purge capitalists, disloyal bureaucrats and elites who threatened his power. The American version rather resembles a Cultural Counterrevolution, in that it is the elite using students, capitalists, and loyal bureaucrats to punish disloyal bureaucrats, small business owners, and workers for wrongthink. Effectively, the coalitions in the US are almost completely the opposite.
Hence, we can see and conclude that Wokeness helps distract from Class divides, helps maintain the elites’ Class status without any noblesse-oblige, helps accelerate the atomization caused by Liberalism and Capitalism, and helps reinvigorate US imperialism. It is no surprise that the American elite and their institutions have been so supportive of this ideology; it is the natural outgrowth of American Liberalism and Capitalism
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