Helen Pluckrose on Group Identity Theory as Reified Post-Modernism
"In June of 2020, Helen Pluckrose gave a talk on the evolution of Postmodernist thought, highlighting three distinct periods of this evolution, ending with the current period which she and James Lindsay, the co-author of Cynical Theories call Reified Post-modernism. This talk offers a useful overview of the origins of words, phrases, beliefs about reality, activist strategies and behavioral practices of a very specific ideological framework called Critical Social Justice which draws much of ideas from three different historical phases of Post-modernist thought. Two of the most fundamental ideas in this framework is that there is no objective reality and that there are no universal human experiences." (http://socialjusticeevolution.org/home-page/blog-page/)
"There is a movement that presumptuously labels itself Social Justice as though it alone holds the key to this, as though everybody else is actually seeking something different. This movement is not conservative, although it shares some values around segregation and purity with the far-right. It’s not liberal, although it speaks a liberal language of diversity, plurality, and inclusion. And it’s not Marxist, although it pays some lip service to anti-capitalism.
Social Justice is a highly counterintuitive movement which speaks its own language and has its own conceptions of the world. Accordingly, it is frequently misunderstood, miscategorized and attempts to counter it frequently fail. Conceptions of social justice that are rooted in Critical Theory don’t look much like the common understanding of social justice. People see the symptoms of the Social Justice movement quite clearly. They might refer to them as identity politics or political correctness, callout culture, or cancel culture.
It’s been hard to miss the demands to decolonize everything from curricula to hairstyles, and the tearing down of statues, defacing of paintings. Pronouns have become a matter of paramount political importance. They’ve also become much harder to navigate and use correctly in both their political sense and a grammatical one. It’s common now to hear that all men are sexist, and all white people are racist. If one protests at this, one is told it’s simply impossible not to be, due to the system of socialization that we’ve all been through. It seems that every day we hear news of a comedian being cancelled for a problematic joke, or a celebrity offering a groveling apology for the unintended misuse of a word, or that someone in the public eye has been found to have said something twenty years ago, which is now considered racist, sexist or homophobic. Artists of all kinds are frequently held up for criticism either because their work has not included a diverse range of people — in which case there’s a failure of representation — or because it has, in which case its cultural appropriation. Anyone who addresses political or cultural issues at all is likely to attract swarms of Social Justice activists to problematize, call out, distort, and misrepresent their arguments.
This is enabled largely by social media where activists can congregate and highlight the tweets or essays they have a problem with. Dog-piles are common, and it seems not to matter whether one is a prominent person or a private individual sharing their own experience on their own Twitter account. Even when speaking on your own account, you are likely to be accused of dictating to, or speaking over, marginalized people or you could just—we could just—go straight to white supremacist, misogynist, transphobic, fascist. It is becoming increasingly daunting, particularly for those with businesses or jobs they’d like to keep, to speak publicly at all. The approach of the social justice activists is uncharitable, unreasonable, frequently uninformed, unjust and unforgiving.
But what has caused this intense focus on identity, knowledge, language and the power structures? That’s what I’m here to talk about."