14 Comments
May 30·edited May 30Liked by Thomas Prosser

As I find myself keep saying (to anyone who'll listen) Social Justice is better understood as a Psychology than as an Ideology. As an ideology it holds no water....in our time white people are not more racist than other ethnicities but less so.....homosexuality is not demonised but valorised etc etc. So the Social Justice belief system survives and thrives in spite of, not in accordance with the evidence. So why does it? Because it makes people FEEL good and FEEL sophisicated. It also gives its adherents a free pass to vent their bile and animus against their peers (as in Freud's Narcissism of Small Differences). On a theoretical level I would say that Lasch's 'Culture of Narcissism' has more depth than Henderson's (somewhat over-hyped in my view) Luxury Beliefs meme.

I understand though that your field is empirical research and so I would suggest that in order to understand what is driving its upsurge in recent times, the Social/Evolutionary Psychological disciplines are important avenues.

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author

Thanks Graham. In our forthcoming book, we have some very interesting findings related to psychology ;-)

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May 31Liked by Thomas Prosser

Seeing it as psychology makes a lot of sense (and the differences in my own psychology might explain why it doesn’t really appeal to me…)

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Thank you for your post. Despite my belief in the importance of Freud’s concept of the narcissism of minor differences, I have never read The Culture of Narcissism. I find that combining Freud with the importance of living the truth, as advocated by Solzhenitsyn and Havel, a decent basis for navigating life. Finding identity through minor differences is lazy. It allows one to avoid thinking and the subsequent cognitive dissonance of recognizing that those we hate often have legitimate perspectives. I think that you have added to my worldview.

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And Thank you for this kind endorsement. Given what you say, I think you would find both of these essays an interesting read: https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/p/are-we-making-progress and https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/p/love-of-the-people

And if you do I hope you will do a free subscribe.

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Jun 19Liked by Thomas Prosser

I never saw Henderson's LB idea as anything more than an observation. I've never seen him advance any actual evidence of real world causation for it. What would a test of its explanatory power even look like? (Rhetorical question).

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Yes, empirical work is needed! In a recent survey, we tested whether various measures of class/status where related to social justice values and didn't find anything. Of course, this is just one study and there are many other ways one could operationalize this. Hopefully, more work will appear soon.

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Given Bordieu's influence in sociology i would have thought there was a fair bit of empirical research done on something like luxury beliefs, which can be understood as publuc displays of cultural capital? To put it another way, has much research actually been done on how beliefs and cultural capital interact?

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Yes, there's an incredible amount of research on the Bourdieu hypothesis/the interaction between beliefs and cultural capital, even if there's nothing specific on luxury beliefs. And as much of this research affirms Bourdieu, it makes you think there's something to the luxury beliefs hypothesis. Indeed, certain liberals embrace Bourdieu yet look down their noses at Henderson; this doesn't seem consistent.

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Why is it preferable to the term woke? Aren't the two terms both arbitrary? Woke is shorter and easier to type/say, plus its brief and ungrammatical nature avoids people getting dragged into side-debates about what "justice" or "ideology" means.

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That's true, but I find that the pejorative nature of 'woke' puts some people off. Therefore, I prefer 'social justice ideology'.

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It won't help. What the woke object to is not actually being called "woke". This was originally a self selected term and just like politically correct or social justice warrior ,it's actually quite flattering. They are awake to reality vs everyone else who is sleepwalking, they are caped heroes fighting a war against injustice, they are more correct about politics than anyone else. These are not insulting terms, they are self-flattery.

In my experience and many others (see Freddie deBoer on this topic) what actually makes the woke melt down is being identified as having any belief system at all. For nice middle class champagne socialists the concept of ideology is distasteful to begin with, the idea they might BE ideological is unthinkably insulting. You say "ideological" and what they hear is "irrational". That's why the woke neither use the term woke nor any other term to refer to themselves. A basic tenet of wokeness is that it's not an ideology, it's just what nice people conclude about the world all by themselves because it's so blindingly obvious. When you label their belief system you implicitly claim it's actually not an obvious set of beliefs, nor unique to them, it's a socially transmitted meme that they have absorbed from those around them.

So by all means, replace woke with social justice ideology. It will be considered pejorative anyway. Any term will be. If you want to study or talk about wokeness or SJI or political correctness or leftism or whatever term one chooses, you will have to accept that it immediately makes you an enemy in their eyes. No way to avoid it.

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That’s fair enough but including justice in the term is also bias. A completely, or more, neutral term is needed. Perhaps ‘identity focus ideology’?

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I still think Cofnas has the best explanation. Certainly better than Noah Smith's. Social-justice leftism is just the equalitarian hypothesis taken to its logical conclusion. Hence why there's a nine-point IQ gap between left-wing and right-wing whites favoring the Left. Smarter, more politically passionate people are more likely to believe everybody's the same, and want to correct society's inequality.

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