E-Pluribus | November 30, 2021
The rise of the woke corporation; the left, the right, religion and liberalism; and the Church of Social Justice.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Charles Fain Lehman: The Genealogy of Woke Capital
“Diversity, equity and inclusion” are the watchwords of the day at many corporations trying to avoid conflict and being painted as racist, sexist and/or white-supremacy-adjacent organizations. Charles Fain Lehman at City Journal delves into the history of such programs and the forces that have been at work for decades that have brought us to where we are.
Corporations were not going to give up race-conscious policy just because Reagan told them to, but they needed a rationale for continuing to pursue it. The Reagan administration unwittingly handed them one with Workforce 2000, a 1987 report commissioned by the Department of Labor and authored by two fellows at the Hudson Institute that unexpectedly became a bestseller. The report’s blockbuster finding: by the end of the millennium, only 15 percent of those entering the workforce would be white men, while the large remainder would be women and minorities. This pending demographic tidal wave gave business leaders a new reason to care about race- and sex-conscious policy—namely, the need to create a workplace that could cater to a wide variety of workers.
Thus, the diversity paradigm was born. R. Roosevelt Thomas, the godfather of workplace diversity management, argued that affirmative action had been designed to help women and minorities enter a monolithically white and male labor market. But by 1990, women, immigrants, and minorities were part of the workforce and, Workforce 2000 argued, would soon be the overwhelming majority of new entrants. “Women and minorities no longer need a boarding pass,” wrote Thomas. “They need an upgrade.” Building a corporate culture that helped them achieve their full potential meant “managing diversity”—not only ensuring that the new, heterogeneous workforce was as productive as the old homogeneous one, but extracting the added value that this heterogeneity could bring. As one academic puts it, diversity management is “aimed at maximizing every individual’s potential to contribute towards the realization of the organization’s goals through capitalizing on individual talents and differences within a diverse workforce environment.”
The shift from compliance to diversity constituted a regime change. Compliance was naturally limited: businesses followed the rules to avoid legal and cultural strife. But diversity was potentially unlimited: one could always do more to make the corporate culture more welcoming to members of various identity groups. Unlike compliance, diversity had a business case: it was said to be the key to survival in the twenty-first-century economy. And diversity came to dominate discussions of race-consciousness in the workplace. One analysis of professional management journals found that discussion of diversity-related concepts was more or less nonexistent prior to 1987, but after Workforce 2000 appeared, it took off—a trend that has persisted.
Read it all.
Joseph Loconte: What the Left and the Right Get Wrong about Liberalism
Religion remains something of a third rail in politics, but Joseph Loconte at National Review jumps on that rail with both feet in his latest essay. Loconte argues that both the right and left misunderstand some fundamental truths about religion and the principles of classical liberalism that results in needless and unproductive tension and conflict.
On the Right, the rejection of liberal democracy is motivated by a yearning for a premodern world: a society animated by medieval concepts of virtue, faith, and authority. Catholic scholars such as Patrick Deneen argue that, under Christendom, the “cultivation of virtue” and “aspiration to the common good” served as bulwarks against tyranny. But liberalism dissolved these ideas, he writes, replacing them with “civic indifference” and “the unfettered and autonomous choice” of the individual. Likewise, Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule condemns the liberal project as the enemy of the historic church. “Both politically and theoretically,” he writes, “hostility to the Church was encoded within liberalism from its birth.”
Behind these views is a cluster of pious — and dangerous — falsehoods about the history of European Christianity. The Catholic medieval project brought with it great reforms in law and education; it abolished slavery and established institutions to care for society’s most vulnerable. Yet, for all its achievements, Christendom failed to uphold the most revolutionary tenets of Christianity — namely, the freedom and equality of every human soul.
The religious Right fails to grasp that, in a profoundly important sense, liberalism arose as a Christian response to the failures of Christendom. Although their political agenda remains murky, they seem enamored of the prospect of reestablishing a nationalist, religious vision: a Leviathan wearing the robes of a priest. Under this vision, the exercise of raw executive power would vanquish the enemies of cultural conservatism. Hence their uncritical embrace of Donald Trump, the self-styled defender of Christian values: “Nobody has done more for Christianity . . . or for religion itself than I have,” he recently boasted.
Meanwhile, by disregarding the biblical roots of liberalism, progressives seek to expunge religious ideals from our politics. By severing universal rights from the ballast of religious truth, they debase the concept of rights and transform it into a platform for social entitlements — enforced by the state. By quashing dissent from the new orthodoxy, they summon the spirit of the inquisitor. In their desire for a perfectly egalitarian society, Hobbes would be an ally: “And though of so unlimited a power men may fancy many evil consequences, yet the consequences of the want of it, which is perpetual war of every man against his neighbor, are much worse.”
Read the whole thing.
Jonathan Kay: Confession and Conspiracism in the Church of Social Justice
Speaking of religion, Jonathan Kay at Quillette examines the rites and observances (perhaps even sacraments?) of the present-day “church of social justice.” Despite the secular orientation of much of the progressive movement, similarities have emerged in woke culture that mirror some of the practices of organized religion.
A true and sincere confession of one’s actual sins and cruelties is a courageous act that leaves the confessor vulnerable and exposed. The ritualized anti-confession of social-justice liturgy, by contrast, is performed with the opposite purpose: It insulates the confessor by dispersing responsibility for his or her (invariably unspecified) sins among the hundreds of millions of other Earthlings who happen to share the same skin color. “I rear-ended your car” is a true confession. “I have failed to use my white privilege to address our structurally racist highway system” is not.
Ordinary people aren’t stupid—even those of us who have never been properly instructed in the correct manner to exorcise our white, cis-gendered, able-bodied settler privilege. And so we recognize these self-aggrandizing grifts of language for what they are. We also instinctively recoil at the dehumanizing, sterile and joyless nature of this idiom. To read something like “By naming my whiteness and the implications of doing this research, my aim is to challenge the structure of white supremacy in the university and provide an understanding of how white educators can be more informed of the violence they cause in the university” is to imagine the writer being a sort of wind-up talking box, like the windbag party hack in Nineteen Eighty-Four holding forth in the Ministry of Truth cafeteria, who strikes Winston Smith as “not a real human being but some kind of dummy. It was not the man’s brain that was speaking, it was his larynx. The stuff that was coming out of him consisted of words, but it was not speech in the true sense: it was a noise uttered in unconsciousness, like the quacking of a duck.”
Yet it sometimes does come to pass that this kind of duck will suddenly stop quacking, and start speaking of real human thoughts and emotions. And when this happens, the effect can be illuminating.
Read it all here.
On October 25 (item #3), via the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Pluribus related the story of a professor in hot water for his reaction to some oversensitive students. This week, FIRE proclaimed victory in the case:
As the battle over “Critical Race Theory” in public schools continues, a report out of Tennessee on how some interpret that state’s new law will raise some eyebrows:
Doctor and cable news commentator Esther Choo has a thought about anti-racism and medical school, and Peter Boghossian has a thought in response:
Finally, if you’d like a definition of what “cancel culture” is clearly not, here’s Rep. Lauren Boebert (via Jonathan Chait):