At its core, postmodernism rejected what it calls metanarratives—broad, cohesive explanations of the world and society. It rejected Christianity and Marxism. It also rejected science, reason, and the pillars of post-Enlightenment Western Democracy. (Pg.16)
..postmodernism applied its cynical Theories to deconstruct what we might agree to call “the old religions” of human thought—which include conventional religious faiths like Christianity and secular ideologies like Marxism, as well as cohesive modern systems such as science, philosophical liberalism, and “progress”—and replaced them with a new religion of its own, called “Social Justice.” This book is a story about how despair found new confidence, which then grew into the sort of firm conviction associated with religious adherence. The faith that emerged is thoroughly postmodern, which means that, rather than interpreting the world in terms of subtle spiritual forces like sin and magic, it focuses instead on subtle material forces, such as systemic bigotry, and diffuse but omnipresent systems of power and privilege. (Pg.17)
Is Social Justice Just? The Origins of Social Justice [POLICYbrief]
Although many of us now recognize these problems and intuitively feel that such ideas are unreasonable and illiberal, it can be difficult to articulate responses to them, since objections to irrationalism and illiberalism are often misunderstood or misrepresented as opposition to genuine social justice—a legitimate philosophy that advocates a fairer society. This dissuades too many well-intentioned people from even trying. In addition to the danger of being labelled an enemy of social justice that comes with criticizing the methods of the Social Justice Movement, there are two other obstacles to effectively addressing them. First, the underlying values of Social Justice are so counterintuitive that they are difficult to understand. Second, few of us have ever had to defend universally liberal ethics, reason and evidence against those claiming to stand for social justice. (Pg.19)
Perhaps most famously, the liberal progressive philosopher John Rawls laid out much philosophical theory dedicated to the conditions under which a socially just society might be organized. In this, he set out a universalist thought experiment in which a socially just society would be one in which an individual given a choice would be equally happy to be born into any social milieu or identity group.2
Another, explicitly anti-liberal, anti-universal, approach to achieving social justice has also been employed, particularly since the middle of the twentieth century, and that is one rooted in critical theory. A critical theory is chiefly concerned with revealing hidden biases and underexamined assumptions, usually by pointing out what have been termed “problematics,” which are ways in which society and the systems that it operates upon are going wrong.
Postmodernism, in some sense, was an offshoot of this critical approach that went its own theoretical way for a while and was then taken up again by critical social justice activists through the 1980s and 1990s (who, incidentally, very rarely reference John Rawls on the topic). The movement that takes up this charge presumptuously refers to its ideology simply as “Social Justice” as though it alone seeks a just society and the rest of us are all advocating for something entirely different. The movement has thus come to be known as the “Social Justice Movement” and its online critics often refer to it, for brevity, as “SocJus” or, increasingly, “wokeism” (due to its belief that it alone has “awakened” to the nature of societal injustice). Social Justice, as a proper noun with capital S and capital J, refers to a very specific doctrinal interpretation of the meaning of “social justice” and means of achieving it while prescribing a strict, identifiable orthodoxy around that term. Although we are reluctant to seem to concede the essential liberal aim for social justice to this illiberal ideological movement, this is the name by which it is known and so, for the sake of clarity, we will refer to it as capitalized “Social Justice” throughout this book. “Social justice” in the lowercase will be reserved to describe the broader and generic meanings of the term. Let us make clear our own social and political commitments: we find ourselves against capitalized Social Justice because we are generally for lowercase social justice. (Pg.14)
It is becoming increasingly difficult to miss the influence of the Social Justice Movement on society—most notably in the form of “identity politics” or “political correctness.” Almost every day, a story comes out about somebody who has been fired, “canceled,” or subjected to a public shaming on social media, often for having said or done something interpreted as sexist, racist, or homophobic. Sometimes the accusations are warranted, and we can comfort ourselves that a bigot—whom we see as entirely unlike ourselves—is receiving the censure she “deserves” for her hateful views. However, increasingly often, the accusation is highly interpretive and its reasoning tortuous. It sometimes feels as though any well-intended person, even one who values universal liberty and equality, could inadvertently say something that falls foul of the new speech codes, with devastating consequences for her career and reputation. This is confusing and counterintuitive to a culture accustomed to placing human dignity first and thus valuing charitable interpretations and tolerance of a wide range of views. At best, this has a chilling effect on the culture of free expression, which has served liberal democracies well for more than two centuries, as good people self-censor to avoid saying the “wrong” things. At worst, it is a malicious form of bullying and—when institutionalized—a kind of authoritarianism in our midst.
This deserves an explanation. In fact, it needs one because these changes, which are happening with astonishing rapidity, are very difficult to understand. This is because they stem from a very peculiar view of the world—one that even speaks its own language, in a way. Within the English-speaking world, they speak English, but they use everyday words differently from the rest of us. When they speak of “racism,” for example, they are not referring to prejudice on the grounds of race, but rather to, as they define it, a racialized system that permeates all interactions in society yet is largely invisible except to those who experience it or who have been trained in the proper “critical” methods that train them to see it. (These are the people sometimes referred to as being “woke,” meaning awakened, to it.) This very precise technical usage of the word inevitably bewilders people, and, in their confusion, they may go along with things they wouldn’t if they had a common frame of reference to help them understand what is actually meant by the word.
A brief history of Social Justice and “Social Justice Warriors”
Not only do these scholar-activists speak a specialized language—while using everyday words that people assume, incorrectly, that they understand—but they also represent a wholly different culture, embedded within our own. People who have adopted this view may be physically close by, but, intellectually, they are a world away, which makes understanding them and communicating with them incredibly difficult. (Pg.15)
This book, then, ultimately seeks to present a philosophically liberal critique of Social Justice scholarship and activism and argues that this scholarship-activism does not further social justice and equality aims. There are some scholars within the fields we critique who will be derisive of this and insist that we are really reactionary right-wingers opposed to studies into societal injustice experienced by marginalized people. This view of our motivations will not be able to survive an honest reading of our book. More scholars within these fields will accept our liberal, empirical, and rational stance on the issues, but reject them as a modernist delusion that centers white, male, Western, and heterosexual constructions of knowledge and maintains an unjust status quo with inadequate attempts to incrementally improve society. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,”3 they will tell us. To them, we concede that we are far less interested in dismantling liberal societies and empirical and rational concepts of knowledge and much more interested in continuing the remarkable advances for social justice that they have brought. The master’s house is a good one and the problem has been limited access to it. Liberalism increases access to a solid structure that can shelter and empower everyone. Equal access to rubble is not a worthy goal. Then there will be a few scholars in these fields who believe our criticisms of Social Justice scholarship have some merits and will engage with us in good faith about them. These are the exchanges we look forward to and the ones that can set us back on the path of having productive and ideologically diverse conversations about social justice. (Pg.20)
WE&P by: EZorrilla.