YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

June 23, 2013

The origins of political correctness

Glitterati crushing The People

Glitterati crushing The People

I asked Facebook friends where they thought “political correctness” came from, and I was referred to three authors: William Lind, Roger Kimball, and Diana West. I am in sharp disagreement with their work, which is all too reminiscent of the John Birch Society, “paleoconservatism,”  and the most paranoid populism. (The second in this sequence is http://clarespark.com/2013/06/30/the-origins-of-political-correctness-2/. A must-read on the origins of “cultural Marxism” is found here: http://clarespark.com/2013/07/31/the-nefarious-cultural-marxists/.)

In fact, it was the moderate conservatives, who then called themselves the Progressives, who imposed speech rules in academe. Their sources were the Counter-Enlightenment German Romantics, who invented the fields of cultural anthropology, comparative literature, and popularized the notions of national and racial character, also Zeitgeist (the mythical “spirit of the age”). These were all collectivist, organicist notions directed against the “atomizing” forces of modernity, including “capitalism,” science and technology, mass literacy and mass numeracy, the emancipation of Western European Jewry, the rise of the modern woman, the self-organizing of former slaves in America, and the growing labor movement. Ultimately, the pseudo-progressive target was equality under the rule of law, most importantly as embodied in the American Constitution, including its Amendments.

It should not be surprising that modern conspiracy theorists, emboldened by the internet and social media, have pinned rules forbidding “hate speech” on powerful, omnipotent ‘Jews’ on the lam from Hitler (i.e., “cultural Marxism” as brought by the Frankfurt School critical theorists). What these refugees accomplished was continuous with the German Enlightenment and its mystical, German Idealist notions that were demonstrably protofascist. The importance of language and images in the constituting of a deceptive “reality” (to be “deconstructed”)  stems from German Idealism.

Before the bad demonic Frankfurters arrived, moderate conservatives everywhere during the Industrial Revolution had already figured out that religion could keep the working masses in line, hence such movements as Christian Socialism (in Britain) or the Social Gospel (in America) were in place, and formed the matrix of the progressive movement, which was always elitist, manipulative, and “pragmatic” whether it was in its initial anticommunist phase, or its anti-imperialist New Left phase. Voltaire, while preaching freethought in his anonymous works, advocated religion to keep the lower orders in line. He didn’t like Jews either. Religion, for Voltaire and for his successors, was purely instrumental: i.e., it was not grounded in a system of ethics, but as a means to an end: social cohesion and political stability. The search for truth, the Head and Heart of the Enlightenment, was off limits to these “freethinkers.”

http://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/

http://clarespark.com/2009/06/04/modernity-and-mass-death/

http://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/ (this quotes conferences from 1968, showing the buying off of black power advocates with separatist black studies programs)

http://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/ (This is about the “culturalist” turn in history ca. 1939, before the “cultural Marxists” established themselves in academe. It was carried out by social psychologists close to the New Deal.)

http://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/ (especially http://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/, and http://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/.)

http://clarespark.com/2012/01/21/the-persistence-of-white-racism/

http://clarespark.com/2012/12/18/blogs-on-mental-health/

http://clarespark.com/2013/03/18/babel-vs-sinai/ (mentions political correctness as the mode preferred by “Babel” not “Sinai”)

(to be continued)

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7 Comments »

  1. I find your historical labels to be confusing. The use of “conservatism” in the European context is misleading, since it tend to be confused either with monarchism/aristocratic parties, or more commonly with fascism. That is totally misleading, of course. It would help a GREAT DEAL if you added a parenthesis after such terms with the name of an exponent of the “conservatism” you are referring to. Was Goethe a conservative? Yes, the later Goethe certainly was, and he was also a great exponent of the European Enlightenment who was horrified by Napoleon. Was Bismarck a conservative? No, not at all in the sense of Goethe. He was a raw power worshipper who came from the Juncker class, which was reactionary-militaristic. Edmund Burke, Thomas Jefferson, Wolfgang von Goethe, Abraham Lincoln were conservatives in our sense of the word. Not the imperialistic Bismarck.

    These major differences are apparently fuzzed over in your nomenclature.

    Comment by bernardjbaars — December 16, 2013 @ 6:36 pm | Reply

    • The thrust of the blog was to identify “progressives” in America with moderate conservatism, which is what they called themselves. However, the distinctions you make between European great men is agreeable to me. But I would add that Bismarck was a great inspiration to American progressives, as was Disraeli before him. Both attempted to avert the red specter.

      Comment by clarelspark — December 16, 2013 @ 8:32 pm | Reply

  2. […] “hate speech” and “political correctness” to the headlines. In part one of this sequence (http://clarespark.com/2013/06/23/the-origins-of-political-correctness/) I tried to correct the widespread impression on the Right that “cultural Marxism” was […]

    Pingback by The origins of “political correctness” (2) | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — June 30, 2013 @ 7:40 pm | Reply

  3. You’ve addressed the concept; the term first appeared in print in Izvestia in 1933 (reported in the Christian Science Monitor that same year). It was also picked up (or possibly re-invented) by Chairman Mao, and others who found the concept useful. In any event, it’s certainly a way of suppressing – or controlling – speech, which is a way of controlling thought. After all, if you can’t talk about something, it’s hard to think about it.

    Comment by ZZMike — June 27, 2013 @ 1:37 am | Reply

  4. Re: “it was the moderate conservatives, who then called themselves the Progressives, who imposed speech rules in academe”… Didn’t the Progressives emerge with the tenement situation in NYC around 1890 or so? I am not sure who you are referring to when you cite the moderate conservative, what era are we talking about?

    Comment by Dennis — June 24, 2013 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

    • The Progressives did emerge at the end of the 19th century, and their project was to erase class as an analytic category in favor of “ethnicity.” Thus, long before the late 1960s “progressives” came up with rules against “hate speech” the moderate men were protecting their class positions as a ruling elite. I spelled this out in my book on the Melville Revival, but posted this excerpt on the website: http://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. As early as 1916, ethnicity (the German Romantic style of the rooted cosmopolitan) was lauded by such as Randolph Bourne and Horace Kallen (not in this blog, but in other ones).

      Comment by clarelspark — June 24, 2013 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

  5. […] Although Sir Brian Urquhart has written a commendable biography of Bunche, no one can write a complete biography as long as his voluminous  letters to his wife are sealed until the death of his children, Ralph Jr. and Joan. I would like to have been the one to have written that biography, but it cannot be. Still, the many months I have spent in his papers are a highlight of my years in research, and did much to dispel the lingering racism that was my unfortunate inheritance as a student in the 1940s and 1950s. One more memory before Black History Month disappears: the professors I mentioned above are disturbed by the lingering effects of racism into the present, though they are vague about precisely what that entails beyond “race inequality.” Bunche had no doubt on that score: 19th century job competition between black and white workers bred bitterness, he thought, and it would take work to overcome that cultural inheritance. But that kind of talk is forgotten in the age of liberal guilt and “reparations” that do not, and cannot, repair. See http://clarespark.com/2013/06/23/the-origins-of-political-correctness/. […]

    Pingback by Remembering Ralph Bunche, American | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — June 24, 2013 @ 1:16 am | Reply


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