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“Woke” and “Anti-Woke” isn’t the only ideological game in town

For some time it has been one of those views that acquire the status of conventional wisdom that our politics has gone through a period of “re-alignment” and people don’t really divide on whether they are for a small State versus a Big State any more. For example, Stephen Davies at the UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs has been arguing that the divisions over Brexit, for example, have driven a 10-ton lorry through old divisions that have been in place for decades. I have heard Dr Davies make this argument many times.

It seems quite persuasive, although even when I first heard it I wondered how it will fit with issues such as Net Zero. All those “Red Wall” voters in the North and Midlands who shifted from Labour to the Conservatives did not seem all down with the idea of being forced to buy electric cars, install expensive heat pumps, and all the rest. Economics, in other words, still seems to count for quite a lot in framing political allegiance. The pandemic and the lockdowns reinforced how there are those who do very well out of Statist controls of lives, and those who don’t. While not always mapping along conventional party lines, Covid has again reminded us that economics is a big deal (which is all the more reason why it is appalling that the UK government has paid so little heed to it until relatively late.)

Anyway, I thought of these points when reading the daily CapX roundup of articles today, including this excellent item by Kristian Niemietz, also of the IEA and a colleague of Dr Davies:

It is a commonly held view that ‘socialism vs capitalism’ was yesteryear’s divide, while ‘woke vs unwoke’ is where the action is now: pronouns are the new tax rates, and cancellation is the new nationalisation.

The problem with this argument is that it is only true on one side of that divide, namely, the ‘un-woke’ or ‘anti-woke’ side. The opponents of Wokeness do indeed tend to get far more animated about the latest Culture War shenanigans than by the latest economic policy announcements. They also find it easy to form loose coalitions over a shared cultural outlook with people with whom they disagree on economic issues. (For example, a left-wing critic of Cancel Culture can easily get a piece published in a centre-right publication.)

But it would be a huge mistake to assume that something similar must be true on the other side of that divide, i.e. that on the progressive Left, woke identity politics has somehow crowded out socialist economics. Quite the opposite is true. It is hard to think of a prominent woke culture warrior who is not also a committed anti-capitalist.

This makes sense to me. I have noticed quite a few cases of people on the “right” almost sighing with joy at finding “un-woke” lefties with whom to hang out, seeing them as converts. Up to a point, Lord Copper. A person who has subscribed to Big Government views all their lives, but who has a nasty experience of being attacked for views on, say, transgender rights (JK Rowling comes to mind), does not therefore suddenly become a champion of classical liberalism, individual liberty and capitalism. Of course, their being bullied by advocates of Critical Race Theory or whatever might make them stop to reflect on whether some of their ideas on other subjects were also mistaken, but in all the recent jousting that has gone on, I haven’t come across many examples of socialists who have abandoned socialism, possibly apart from US personality Dave Rubin.

12 comments to “Woke” and “Anti-Woke” isn’t the only ideological game in town

  • Mila s

    “It is hard to think of a prominent woke culture warrior who is not also a committed anti-capitalist.”

    If there is no such thing as a woke capitalist then the recent behaviour of western corporations is certainly a mystery.


  • bobby b

    “But it would be a huge mistake to assume that something similar must be true on the other side of that divide, i.e. that on the progressive Left, woke identity politics has somehow crowded out socialist economics.”

    They perhaps don’t go through the mental process of identifying themselves as woke, but the ideas that make someone woke are so ingrained to them – they form their very concept of “moral” – that the influence is always there.

    It is their wokeness that allows them to see socialism as a goal. Wokeness doesn’t crowd out a love for socialist econ – it enables it. It’s not a completely different impulse – it’s just a deeper-level one that feeds the more superficial one.

  • Paul Marks

    I had a lot of problems with connection – two comments lost. But, try-try again.

    Mila s – I do not think it is a mystery. The corporations are dominated by “educated” people – filled with “Woke” doctrines by school and university, and they are afraid of offending the “Woke” mobs with lack of Woke purity.

    Also the corporations sometimes want a sort of “Davos” world – “Stakeholder Capitalism” (Corporate State Fascism) of Saint-Simon, Mussolini of Dr Klaus Schwab – never assure that “capitalists” support “capitalism” they often do NOT.

    Lastly they are dependent on the Credit Money of the Central Banks and Credit Bubble commercial banks – not honest (commodity) money and REAL SAVINGS. The Capital Structure has been utterly twisted and the monetary and financial system corrupted – in just about every country.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not believe that the analysis of Dr Davies fully holds up – after all the people who support British independence (“Brexit” is a daft, flippant, word – independence should be called independence) also tend to be opposed to “Net Zero” (high energy prices and power cuts, and unemployment, terrible poverty), and opposed to “Woke”, Frankfurt School Marxist, doctrine of wishing to exterminate Freedom of Speech – calling everything “racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia”, “Islamophobia”, and so on, under the Herbert Marcuse doctrine (to be found in such things as the Equality Act of 2010) that Freedom of Speech is Repressive Tolerance – because it “harms” “disadvantaged groups”.

    The odd thing is that Mr Johnson does not seem to fit this – as he is pro (not anti) Net Zero, and at least pretends to be “Woke” – very much part of the “liberal” (anti Classical Liberal) “Metropolitan Elite” – the “educated” people.

    But this is not really a mystery – as several Members of Parliament (Conservatives) have stated that Mr Johnson did not want independence to win in the 2016 vote, that his putting himself at the front of the independence forces was NOT motivated by conviction – but by calculations of personal advancement.

    Remember the promises to the fishermen, and the promises to Northern Ireland – no border down the Irish Sea.

  • Paul Marks

    There are still Classical Marxists – who reject Frankfurt School “Woke” Marxists, and reject “Net Zero”. And who reject the Corporatism of the “Davos” elite.

    But there are not many of such people.

  • Paul Marks

    In the 1970s the international establishment were pushing Global Cooling – a new Ice Age.

    What did they suggest as a response? They suggested the same thing that they (Dr Klaus Schwab and the rest) are suggesting now – Totalitarian Collectivism. The Corporate State – from the tradition of Saint-Simon and Mussolini.

    It is never about what they say it is about. It is always about Totalitarian Collectivism.

    “Ice Age” or “New Venus” – the “solution” is the same, Totalitarian Collectivism. Because that is what all this is really about with the international establishment – POWER.

    They do NOT care about women – see the total indifference to the mass rape and forced prostitution of young women in Britain (by so called “Grooming Gangs”).

    They do NOT care about homosexuals – see the indifference to the murder of homosexuals by Islamist movements (and others).

    They do NOT care Muslims – see the indifference to the slaughter of Muslims by the People’s Republic of China dictatorship (Dr Klaus Schwab’s favourite regime).

    They do not care about anything or anyone else – they care only about themselves and about POWER.

    They are the enemy – the international establishment (the “Davos” types), both government, corporate and NGO.

    They, like Plato or Rousseau’s “Lawgiver”, want to control every aspect of the lives of ordinary people – with the “will of all” (what ordinary people want) counting for nothing, and the “General Will” (what THEY order – for they are the “General Will”) counting for everything.

    They believe in “democracy” as long as the result of elections do not matter – with elected politicians always following the “advice” of officials and “experts”.

  • Paul Marks

    The average “Woke” activist may really care about women, homosexuals, black people, Muslims – and so on.

    But the people at the top of the “movement” (whether Frankfurt School Marxists OR Saint-Simon style Corporate Statists) NEVER cared – it was never really about women, homosexuals, black people, Muslims, and so on. It was always really about POWER.

    Total and absolute (totalitarian collectivist) power, for a small elite group.

    Death to the West, death to liberty, is their aim. The rest is just tactics to achieve the aim.

  • Paul Marks

    China – the People’s Republic of China Communist Party dictatorship.

    If the “Woke” leadership (not the ordinary activists – the people who control them) really care about what they say they care about, they would not support the PRC dictatorship – yet they do.

    The PRC dictatorship is not “Woke” – it could not care less about “Trans Rights” and so on, other than as weapon to use to undermine the West.

    And the PRC dictatorship pumps out vastly more C02 than anyone else – it cares about “The Climate Change Emergency” only as a weapon to use use to undermine the West.

    If the international establishment were sincere (sincere in their Wokeness or in their anti C02 position) they would hate the PRC dictatorship – but they love it and wish to impose a similar system everywhere.

    And the “international establishment” does not just mean Klaus Schwab and the sickening Corporations – it even, these days, includes the Vatican (read what they have said about the wonderful, lovely, PRC over the last few years) – indeed just about every institution (public and private).

  • Snorri Godhi

    It is hard to think of a prominent woke culture warrior who is not also a committed anti-capitalist.

    I dunno… I seem to remember that there were 2 guys commenting here a couple of years ago, Nullius in Verba and nensnake, who were woke but not anti-capitalist (or more correctly, not anti-free-market).
    One could argue, of course, that they are not “prominent”, but to me they are proof of concept.

    I suspect that what is going on is this:
    On the one side, *some* liberists (to use the Italian word for pro-free-market) feel the need, either out of guilt over their “privilege”, or out of expediency, to embrace wokeness; and then they are on the way to perdition: they gradually abandon their liberism. See The Economist.

    On the other side, some collectivists are awakening to the fact that the “woke” “left” is not the party of the people, and therefore reject wokeness — but without accepting liberism; at least not for now. JK Rowling is indeed an obvious example, but one older cousin of mine is also undergoing this transition.

  • Martin

    I think actually existing capitalism (ie what exists now) in the west is almost entirely woke. I know there are outliers and dissenters but there are more large corporations who are woke than there aren’t. I’ve heard it says such corporations donate to BLM, the democrat party, the trans-industrial complex and the like mostly to avoid boycotts, public controversy, unfavourable legislation, etc. This ignores that the woke groups would likely be dead in the ground if the corporate money dried up. I think corporate elite types lap up woke ideology. It reinforces globalist ideologies that benefit economic elites.

    I still am almost as anti-socialist as I was 20 years ago, maybe a teeny bit less so but not much. The difference now is I also find it hard to stomach what is capitalism these days.

  • TDK

    I think we need to distinguish between “consciously woke” and “instinctively woke”.

    A lot of people have absolutely no idea what identity politics is or critical race theory, or etc etc. Some of these will be uninterested or opposed. We are not talking about those people. In contrast others will have little to no idea but will say they support them because they assume a continuum between Martin Luther King and the campaigners of today. These people will still cleave to the ideal of a colour blind society and assume that critical race theorists are on the same page. They do not understand that critical race theory now deems colour blindness as racist. These woke people are supporters because they haven’t looked deeply enough. These are the people who say J K Rowling is transphobe but when you ask for transphobic statements point to a Guardian article wherein there are accusations but again, no specific quotes which prove the case.

    This is why the main flashpoints in the woke debates occur in Universities. People who imagine themselves on the left suddenly find themselves cast as evil people and they find themselves shocked. Woke versus anti-woke is a left wing schism.