With recent events (Trump’s election in particular), the Left has finally reached a point, it seems to me, where it has become clear to some (though not all) of them that the toxic discourse of identity politics is turning people against them. They are slowly coming to grips with identity politics as an issue that points to a deep fracture within their movement. The Left is, of course, an inherently fractured movement owing to its essentially dissolutive and entropic metaphysical nature; cancers of that sort only eat their host if they fail to eat themselves.
We have to look at the Left qua the ressentiment-driven movement that uses egalitarianism as a rhetorical tactic to exact its revenge. This, of course, is not the fundamental problem; anyone familiar with Stevensian thought can connect the dots between the toxicity of the human ego and the present manifestation of it (the Left), and this fundamental understanding is key to building a better society. However, in terms of diagnosing and treating the current problem, it is necessary to look at the particular psychological vector that allows Leftism to take shape, and make strategic decisions based on that. Thus, our analytic modality at present takes ressentiment-via-equality as a given, while studiously avoiding the mistake of viewing it as the fundamental problem. The method that pursues revenge for ressentiment via equality-as-rhetorical-weapon I will simply call egalitarianism. The reader ought to bear in mind that this use of the word is technical.
The basic fracture in the Left divides the movement into two halves. One the one hand, we have the “SJW” Left, which sees the world through a racial, sexual, and gendered lens. We’ll call this part of the Left IDpol (identity politics). For IDpol, non-economic identities are, at best, partially contingent on economic ones. On the other hand, we have what I will call the Old Guard, consisting of relatively orthodox Marxist and Anarchist theorists who take class as the fundamental determinant for all other identities. The Marxist perspective that sees class as the primary division between sections of society rings especially true for the Old Guard. Both halves, of course, are well-characterized by their basic method of pursuing their misplaced sense of revenge by means of equality – and this is where the trouble begins.
(Bear in mind, however, that all of these supposedly ideological motivations are rationalizations for more unsavory affective motivations.)
Egalitarianism only works under the following conditions:
- There exists a clearly visible enemy whom all parties loathe more than one another.
- That enemy can be constantly attacked in a manner that produces emotional satisfaction in the short term (remember that IDpol, in particular, is composed of people with high time preference) with impunity.
- That enemy constitutes the most convenient target, i.e. there are no easier pickings elsewhere.
If any of these conditions do not obtain, the result is splintering.
At present, the Left is splintering because criteria 1 and 3 are no longer present, and 2 is fading fast. Each of the myriad identities in IDpol refuses to define their main enemy as the rich or the the bourgeoisie because they have realized that the ultra-wealthy members of present societies are largely immune to any institutional attack whatsoever. That is the say, the ultra-wealthy are not a convenient target, so IDpol changes its definition of its enemy to “all privileged groups” in order to find an easier target, and then rationalizes this change of definition by means of the arcane and labyrinthine theory currently peddled in the humanities and social sciences. Emotionally-fulled movements (e.g. Occupy Wall Street) fulfilled criterion 2 by means of catharsis via dramatic street demonstrations, but quickly lost steam when it became all too apparent that these demonstrations had no effect on their intended target. If you only hate the haute bourgeoise, and they are beyond your grasp, then your ressentiment must eat its fill elsewhere. Enter contemporary IDpol rhetoric, aptly summarized in phrases like “check your privilege,” “die cis scum,” and so on. Because IDpol recognizes the near-invulnerability of the ruling class to their preferred means of attack, they are searching for easier pickings elsewhere, and they find those easier pickings mostly (though not entirely) in middle-class straight white males.
The Old Guard has the opposite problem. Unwilling to part with the old fantasy of a proletarian revolution, so many times failed, they insist on pursuing the original Marxist project of attacking the ruling class. However, what we can expect to see over the next decade or so is the slow, creeping realization by the Old Guard that a proletarian revolution is no longer an immediate possibility. Of course, such a thing is improbable even as a far-flung goal, but the Old Guard would rather die than accept that. Instead, we can expect to see them defer the proletarian revolution to what they imagine to be the near future, taking their short term goal as the subordination and re-absorption of IDpol into a cohesive Left. This will be justified as a necessary step toward The Revolution (TM), but within it carries the seed of what, from a Rightward perspective, is best described as a perfect storm.
Once the Old Guard goes through the stages described above and begins attacking IDpol in earnest, there is a distinct possibility that both halves of the Left will find that all three criteria are present once again – but in both cases, the clearly-defined enemy who can be easily attacked and constitutes the most convenient target is the other half of the Left! Meanwhile, the Right is continuously unifying…