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James Lindsay: How Critical Studies Led to Today’s Turmoil

Image via New Discourses

“This is an attempt at a social, cultural, and political revolution.”

On July 9th, Kevin Turner had a conversation with Dr. James Lindsay discussing the social and cultural movement that has gripped the nation since the death of George Floyd in late May. An author and mathematician by training, Dr. Lindsay has written six books spanning a range of subjects including religion, the philosophy of science, and postmodern theory. Dr. Lindsay’s upcoming book is Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody, which he co-authored with Helen Pluckrose of Areo. Dr. Lindsay is also the co-founder of New Discourses, a media website and educational resource for those who are “politically homeless.”

Dr. Lindsay describes the recent developments taking place across society as “terrifying” and goes on to say, “This is an attempted revolution to the ways that our society operates and functions.”

He traces the origins of this social upheaval to the academy:

“Late in the 1970s is when you start to see a set of academic disciplines rising such as ethnic studies, African-American studies, women’s studies, gender studies, masculinity studies (they all have the kind of a same flavor); identity studies, queer theory, post-colonial studies, feminist media studies, and so on.”

On how subjects such as critical race theory have impacted society outside the academy, Dr. Lindsay says that the new scholarship “…has used the emergence of social media—and the current events that are happening—in order to propel itself into the mainstream.”

He goes onto explain that to some, President Donald Trump’s election and actions in office have served as proof that systems of oppression (“sexism, misogyny, homophobia transphobia, ablism”) are embedded in American society, so advocates of this view can now declare that “…society is really racist; it is really misogynist, and now it is willing to come out and say so, whereas before was just hiding it behind a nice face.”

You can find a list of Dr. Lindsay’s books here.

Watch the full conversation below:

One thought on “James Lindsay: How Critical Studies Led to Today’s Turmoil

  1. I very much appreciate the opportunity to hear Dr. Lindsay’s analysis of the spread of what’s come to be referred to as identitarianism. I listened to his interview in its entirety and sent a link to several friends. I was disappointed, however, that he failed to speculate about the practical reasons why identity doctrines are being promulgated within the academy. Until these reasons are identified and vociferously called-out it will remain politically possible to promote these divisive ideologies.

    Toward this end we should remind ourselves that, over the last century, colleges and universities have become increasingly dependent on direct and indirect government subsidies, and that since the middle of the last century these subsidies have come to represent the preponderance of these institutions’ budgets. This has created a practical need to justify coercively extracting subsidies from the taxpayers, which in turn incentivizes academics to use the lecture halls to popularize redistributive economic schemes.

    But economic redistributionism itself needs to be justified, and this is where identity ideologies play a role. To justify forcing others to subsidize one’s own interests it is helpful to demonize some group that possesses the needed resources, in order to create the political will required to seize those resources. This can be done by dividing society into what someone (?) once referred to as a “blessed/damned dichotomy.” The damned will be forced to pay and the blessed will receive the payments.

    The creation of a blessed/damned dichotomy can be accomplished by dividing people into identity groups and then arguing that one group is comprised of evil oppressors and the other of blessed victims. The argument is then made that the oppressors should be required to compensate their victims through some form of reparations payments. This proposal can profitably be utilized by academic institutions by suggesting that reparations be paid in the form of free education for the victims. The financial beneficiary of this free education would be academia itself.

    And this is all but certainly the practical reason why academics are fomenting divisive ideologies on the campuses. Because they will need to demonize some group as long as they receive subsidies (It’s traditionally been academic Marxists fulminating against capitalism) the long-term solution is to privatize education at every level, and permanently prohibit the subsidy of education by legally “separating school and state.” Although this is an almost unimaginably radical suggestion it is important to maintain it ever in mind because, in the long term, it is the only solution that can make possible the moral reform of our educational institutions.

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