Elizabeth Warren is not a happy woman. The Massachusetts senator went on a Twitter tirade yesterday against Donald Trump, calling him a loser, a business failure, as well as putting forth the typical suite of tired claims that he’s a racist, sexist, and so forth.
Warren has made her name positioning herself as a staunch defender of the little guy against large interests, Wall Street in particular. Her comments are not so out of the ordinary in that sense. What is peculiar is the seemingly hysterical manner in which she made them. This was an 11 tweet stream of consciousness that seemed to be coming out of desperation. The desperation, in turn, stems from the fact that is that Donald Trump, and all that he represents, is clearly not going away, and even stands a good chance of becoming president. I’ll go through some of her tweets to understand what she, and by extension what has become of ‘polite society,’ are so fearful of in a Trump presidency.
Warren’s tirade was split into two parts. The first focused on Trump’s business and personal failings, decrying him as a loser. It then transitioned into why such a loser would be dangerous for the country. The above tweet is at the beginning of that phase of the rant, warning Americans Trump is prepared to tear down America’s values.
Her specific wording is telling. ‘An America that was built on values like decency, community, and concern for our neighbors,’ refers to America is at it stands now. However, that is not the original America. That America was built on values such as individualism, personal freedom and self-determination.
The replacement of the original America with the one of which Warren speaks was a gradual one, and it spanned across economic and cultural milieus. More specifically, the rise of the Cultural Marxist viewpoint has come to form the backbone of modern Western values.
I referenced Cultural Marxism extensively in my piece last week about the cultural importance of a potential Trump presidency. I briefly described the role of Cultural Marxism as it applies to the current culture of perpetual outrage and victimhood. I’ll now spend some time going into the academic history behind cultural Marxism.
First, I must point out that leftists go to great lengths to try and pretend that the concept of Cultural Marxism doesn’t exist, and that those who use the term are merely right wing extremists who use the term as a dogwhistle to conceal their bigotry. This article from Jeremy Wilson of The Guardian is a good example of how far those lengths are. I mention it because in trying to discredit the concept, it also contains a quick and dirty summary of the origins of Cultural Marxism:
It begins in the 1910s and 1920s. When the socialist revolution failed to materialise beyond the Soviet Union, Marxist thinkers like Antonio Gramsci and Georg Lukacs tried to explain why. Their answer was that culture and religion blunted the proletariat’s desire to revolt, and the solution was that Marxists should carry out a “long march through the institutions” – universities and schools, government bureaucracies and the media – so that cultural values could be progressively changed from above.
Adapting this, later thinkers of the Frankfurt School decided that the key to destroying capitalism was to mix up Marx with a bit of Freud, since workers were not only economically oppressed, but made orderly by sexual repression and other social conventions. The problem was not only capitalism as an economic system, but the family, gender hierarchies, normal sexuality – in short, the whole suite of traditional western values.
The conspiracy theorists claim that these “cultural Marxists” began to use insidious forms of psychological manipulation to upend the west. Then, when Nazism forced the (mostly Jewish) members of the Frankfurt School to move to America, they had, the story goes, a chance to undermine the culture and values that had sustained the world’s most powerful capitalist nation.
The vogue for the ideas of theorists like Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno in the 1960s counterculture culminated with their acolytes’ occupation of the commanding heights of the most important cultural institutions, from universities to Hollywood studios. There, the conspiracy says, they promoted and even enforced ideas which were intended to destroy traditional Christian values and overthrow free enterprise: feminism, multiculturalism, gay rights and atheism. And this, apparently, is where political correctness came from. I promise you: this is what they really think.
The biggest point of contention Wilson seems to have is that the Frankfurt School thinkers were actively trying to destroy Western Civilization. That may be conspiracy, or it may be factual, but what isn’t up for debate are the ideas which were put forth.
One of the major ideas of Marcuse’s seminal work, Eros and Civilization, was that people in modern civilization suffered from what he called ‘surplus repression,’ a phenomenon which was at odds with Eros, the life force:
The distinction between rational and irrational authority, between repression and surplus-repression, can be made and verified by the individuals themselves. That they cannot make this distinction now does not mean that they cannot learn to make it once they are given the opportunity to do so.
According to Marcuse, a certain level of basic repression was necessary in order to achieve the ends of basic survival in a world of scarcity. This is obviously true on many levels, as progress in general in large part requires delayed gratification.
Marcuse argues that once this basic level of survival is achieved, continuing on in the ways of repression is detrimental, and against the nature of man. It is very much an argument against phenomena like the consumerist culture of the West. He writes:
And the fact that the destruction of life (human and animal) has progressed with the progress of civilization, that cruelty and hatred and the scientific extermination of men have increased in relation to the real possibility of the elimination of oppression — this feature of late industrial civilization would have instinctual roots which perpetuate destructiveness beyond all rationality.
Here he bemoans the fact that while humans have advanced, the advancement has not brought with it the liberation from repression. Instead, humans have been become even more prone to the ‘repression’ that makes people beholden to a work-spend-consume cycle of living.
Marcuse advocates a releasing of the Eros beyond the repressive states of the industrialized world as it stands. He outlines a course for that as follows:
The notion of a non-repressive instinctual order must first be tested on the most “disorderly “of all instincts – namely, sexuality. Non-repressive order is possible only if the sex instincts can, by virtue of their own dynamic and under changed existential and societal conditions, generate lasting erotic relations among mature individuals. We have to ask whether the sex instincts, after the elimination of all surplus-repression, can develop a “libidinal rationality” which is not only compatible with but even promotes progress toward higher forms of civilized freedom…
…This change in the value and scope of libidinal relations would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the private interpersonal relations have been organized, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family.
These prospects seem to confirm the expectation that instinctual liberation can lead only to a society of sex maniacs – that is, to no society. However, the process just outlined involves not simply a release but a transformation of the libido: from sexuality constrained under genital supremacy to erotization of the entire personality.
It is a spread rather than explosion of libido – a spread over private and societal relations which bridges the gap maintained between them by a repressive reality principle. This transformation of the libido would be the result of a societal transformation that released the free play of individual needs and faculties.
The takeaway here is that Marcuse wanted a society governed by the idea that if it felt good, it was good. He wanted the ‘pleasure principle’ to replace the ‘performance principle.’ Getting there required the dismantling of the old constructs. Monogamy and patriarchal families are specifically mentioned in this excerpt, but it also applies to concepts such as feminism, homosexuality, which Marcuse also deals with directly, and multiculturalism.
Furthermore, it is important to note that Marcuse, out of all of the Frankfurt school thinkers, was the one to gain the most currency in society as a whole, as the counterculture movements of the 1960s in both Europe and America were buttressed by his thinking on an intellectual level. Given that these same baby-boomers, now middle aged, are the ones who populate the cultural institutions from college administration to Hollywood, imposing their views on them, it is difficult to take Wilson’s claims that Cultural Marxism is a ‘conspiracy theory’ very seriously.
To further push these ideals onto society as a whole first required tolerance of them. Marcuse writes of tolerance in a 1965 essay called Repressive Tolerance, in which he outlines his view that tolerance and free speech are wholly dependent on dominant points of view, and as such true tolerance would require the repression of the dominant, ‘oppressive’ view. The very first paragraph is instructive enough:
This essay examines the idea of tolerance in our advanced industrial society. The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed.
In other words, today tolerance appears again as what it was in its origins, at the beginning of the modem period — a partisan goal, a subversive liberating notion and practice. Conversely, what is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.
Of course, according to Marcuse, the right is responsible for the oppression, and thus “liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left.”
The moves we have made towards this type of tolerance in 21st century have been pretty clear. Being tolerant today means elevating the non-male, non-white, non-heterosexual, non-Christian, and non-affluent above the male, white, heterosexual, Christian and affluent at all costs, regardless of merit. It is the Marcusian worship of the Eros at play, the feel-good, or pleasure principle taking precedent over the performance principle. This is what is currently considered to be ‘decent,’ and forms the basis of political correctness.
Such values of ‘tolerance’ are what Senator Warren fears will go by the wayside in a Trump presidency. She intensifies the scorn here:
To the extent terms such as racism, sexism, Islamophobia and xenophobia have any weight, it is because they represent the specter of oppression that cultural Marxists rail against. The individual who is guilty of the charge is therefore an oppressor and guilty of a grave crime, because that individual ultimately stands in the way of freedom through the liberation of Eros, to put a Marcusian bent to the analysis.
These words are tossed out like candy by Leftists in order to instantly shut down the opposition, which, according to Marcuse, they have the right to do given that their position is one of liberation. The Right leaning person who is invariably guilty of the ‘-ism’ charge is oppressive. Authoritarian tactics are thus valid on such a barbarian. Speaking of authoritarians:
Given support of Leftist ideals is not only fine, but the Marcusian definition of ‘tolerance’, the only reason Trump’s authoritarianism is to be feared is because it originates from the Right.
The issue that those such as Warren are ultimately going to have to make peace with is that the Frankfurt School ideals are bankrupt and unsustainable with respect to societal and civilizational progress. Consider Marcuse’s explicit call for monogamous and patriarchal family units to be dismantled as a precursor to his ideal world.
The patriarchal family unit had been a target for the Frankfurt school for some time, right from its origins around the time of World War I. Later on, in 1950, Adorno increased the level of contempt by suggesting that those who are raised in such conditions are likely to become racists and fascists.
This, as mentioned before, is unacceptable in that racists and fascists prevent progress and foster oppression. In this manner, the Frankfurt School was essentially declaring patriarchal families as breeding grounds for the personality disorder of authoritarianism and the mental disease of racism.
Given that the patriarchal family is the basis of civilization, the move to dismantle it ultimately results in the erosion of civilization. Once eroded, the Eros that Marcuse so wanted to liberate would have to return to its box so that society can be rebuilt. That logical progression is what ultimately dooms cultural Marxists and why their opponents actually possess the winning hand.
In the 50 or 60 years since Marcuse’s work began to permeate the culture, society has become more and more progressive. It has also begun to crack in ways it never has before. Just in the realm of feminism, the ‘liberation’ of women and their encouragement en masse to enter the workforce has resulted in nothing but sky high divorce rates, a reduced birth rate to the point that many Western nations are not reproducing at an above replacement rate level, and higher rates of birth defects in the babies that are born because women are having children later in life. Consider the following results of a study of the happiness levels of white collar workers in America:
Are you a 40-something year old single professional woman making less than six figures a year? If you are, you must be incredibly unhappy. This according to a recent survey which revealed the profiles of unhappy workers.
Those who were the unhappiest were single females, aged 42, in “professional” jobs (think doctor or lawyer), making less than $100k a year. What about the “happiest” person, according to the survey?
Well, that lucky worker is a 39-year-old male who’s married with a wife who works part time. He also has a young child at home and works in a senior management position, raking in around $150k-200k a year.
The woman described is pretty much the composite of what feminists would have you believe is the ideal woman. Yet she is the unhappiest. This fact is buttressed by the fact that there are record amounts of women currently taking antidepressant medicine.
The truth is that the feminist prescription for improving society is not in league with reality. Real women, when subjected to the ‘freedom’ from patriarchal ‘oppression’ seemingly don’t take very well to it. That hasn’t stopped progressives from continuing to push it, but it is an important point to make.
The ‘oppressive’ views of those like Trump, or indeed myself, are in line with reality. The differences between men and women are not socially constructed, but biologically constructed, and therefore are not open to adjustment.
Statements such as that are not controversial when viewed objectively, but in Marcusian terms, they are ‘repressive.’ However, if that repression results in societal advancement and harmony, there is nothing wrong with it. Liberation for liberation’s sake is pointless.
On a visceral level, Donald Trump represents something completely terrifying to the cultural Marxist view: an unapologetically confident man. He is the perfect embodiment of the aggression which Marcuse is critical of as it pertains to his ‘performance principle.’ Should Trump become president, he would be the most powerful individual in the world.
The mere presence of such a man totally antithetical to the cultural Marxist view in such a position could be enough to shift the tectonic plates of culture. The aggressively confident man represents oppression to the cultural Marxist, and thus Trump would stand in opposition to everything they have worked for over the last few generations.
The fear is that a Trump presidency might inspire others to follow in his footsteps, to strive to be better, and to accept nothing less. If in a generation this sort of man is the norm, as opposed to the limp wristed man who is the norm now, the liberation of society from cultural Marxist clutches will be likely, even certain.