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« Saturday Morning Coffee Break & Prayer Revival | Main | Gardening, Puttering and Adventure Thread, June 25 »
June 25, 2022

Where did Woke Business come from? What will happen to it?


Ronald Reagan and Clarence Thomas tried to move the EEOC off the path to wokeness a long time ago.

How many times have you heard GET WOKE, GO BROKE? How many times have you seen corporations (and other organizations) do it anyway?

Why did big business adopt wokeness?

In the June 6 Morning Report, J.J. Sefton put this piece above the fold: Wokeness, the Highest Stage of Managerialism by Malcom Kyeyune, a Swedish guy writing at City Journal.

Although this piece emphasizes the fate of capitalism, I started to see references to it by people trying to understand the increase in government entities such as schools and school districts contracting with people and organizations to help them become "woke". Why do schools think they need help from outsiders in order to hire only "woke" teachers, for example?

Okay, that's government. But it seems really irrational for most corporations to adopt ideas and policies recognized as "woke". What gives?

It can be easy to forget how new our political and culture-war conflicts are. Ten years ago, critical race theory was something you'd encounter only online or in academic settings, Democratic politicians were still talking about civil unions for homosexual couples, and the media and federal government were busy pointing out how far America had come in repairing the broken race relations of the past. Today, little remains of that old order. Just how fast has this transformation unfolded? Consider a simple measure of how frequently the word "racism" appears in the nation's four largest newspapers: after staying basically constant from the 1970s to 2010, its usage explodes around 2012, with the Washington Post and the New York Times leading the charge.

Though this "Great Awokening" has scrambled political coalitions and upended widely held truths, wokeness itself remains a muddled concept. . .

A lot has been written about "wokeness" as a belief system, but the author here proposes that it is also an institutional force. How did this happen so fast?

If wokeness is an institutional force, a comparative analysis can help describe it. Most Europeans can remember when America was considered stodgy and conservative, compared with progressive Western Europe. And yet, in 2022, the U.S. is experiencing deeper levels of polarization and social strife than other Western countries. Polls suggest a rapid loss of faith in public institutions. Americans identifying with either political party increasingly see the other party as a threat to democracy itself.

Why is it, then, that people in traditionally progressive countries--my native social-democratic Sweden being a prime example--can believe the same things, read the same books, and propound the same ideas as their American counterparts, without their societies experiencing the same sort of catastrophic polarization afflicting the U.S.? . .

Managerialism as foreseen in the time of FDR

The core thesis of James Burnham's 1941 The Managerial Revolution helps explain what is happening in the West today. A former Trotskyite who later became a leading figure in postwar American conservatism, Burnham argued in that book that Western society would not see the collapse of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. Instead, he maintained, America would likely see capitalism replaced by a nonsocialist successor--one dominated not by capitalists in the classical sense but by a class of managers that would come to control the real economy, regardless of formal ownership status.

This distinction--between ownership of, and control over, capital--was a topic of some discussion in the interwar years, with early analyses noting that apparatchiks in the Soviet Union had appropriated control over public resources. . .

Sounds vaguely fascist, too. I get the impression that something like economic fascism often sorta takes over "real communism" in communist countries.

Managerialism and Wokeness

Like the managerial ideology that Burnham anticipated, wokeness both asserts a wide variety of rights that supersede ownership and insists upon the creation of a permanent caste of managers to monitor the implementation of these rights. This tendency toward intermediation now extends to almost every facet of modern society, including in areas previously seen as foundational to the political system. Democracy, for instance, is now seen as needing various forms of intermediation so as to function properly. Without the input of managers, the thinking goes, the raw expression of the popular will can lead to aberrations, such as the election of Donald Trump or Britain's decision to leave the European Union. Calls are increasingly being made to impose a layer of experts qualified to judge just what political questions and issues could be safely left to purportedly benighted voters to decide.

Why do these ideas wreak more havoc in the USA than in Europe?

In my view, the material insecurity of the American managerial classes, whose numbers, as Peter Turchin argued, have grown too large to be absorbed by society in ways commensurate with their lofty economic expectations, helps account for this development. Consider Sweden, which is far less polarized and enjoys a much more sedate cultural environment than the United States. It operates a massive government machine to furnish the scions of the managerial class with all sorts of work. My own municipality, Uppsala, a city two-thirds the size of Reno, Nevada, employs almost 100 people as "communicators." Their official workload mostly consists of managing the municipality's social media accounts and writing policy documents. The communications department is notoriously dysfunctional; the municipality hired an outside consultancy to find out what all these employees do all day. But in at least one sense, it does what it is supposed to do: provide make-work jobs for university graduates who would otherwise risk going unemployed--and become potential social agitators.

Sweden is rife with various taxes, carve-outs, fees, and other accommodations that together form a massive patronage machine employing artists, bureaucrats, gender-studies majors, activists, curators, mindfulness consultants, environmental advocates, and much more. The state aggressively pays for art, education, NGOs, and even journalism--most major newspapers in Sweden depend heavily on subsidies to stay in the black. Perhaps the best illustration of the Swedish political economy is that Swedes pay in the neighborhood of $9 per gallon for gas. This massive cost difference owes almost entirely to taxes and fees, which fund social work. At first, the gas tax was intended primarily to pay for the maintenance of roads. Today, people argue for raising gas taxes to fund environmentalist causes. The managers running these causes are trying to fund themselves by imposing regressive taxes on their blue-collar countrymen. . .

Even if they were not designed with this purpose in mind, the social-democratic welfare states of Europe as a whole have been adapted to provide a new form of welfare for the college-educated, aspirational managerial classes. . .

How long do you think the Swedes can keep up that high-priced welfare program for college graduates? Do Americans think that something similar could work in a big country like the USA? Scale matters.

Here in the USA, school districts are just one example of government entities which are hiring college educated people to fill what seem to most of us to be make-work positions. Sometimes these people are administrators inside the district, and sometimes they are in private sector organizations. But wokesters are also being hired in big corporations (See Disney).

Still, it sounds like the Swedes are far ahead of the USA in providing for all of the college graduates who think they deserve good jobs.

Remember when Obama was urging every American child to go to college? See the agitation for student loan forgiveness today. Who is going to employ all those people in their dream jobs?

You may want to read the entire piece above. I wonder how the phenomenon of Elon Musk might fit in with these ideas?

* * *

If you would like to share this general concept with some member of a school district or the business community struggling with wokeness, you might turn to Free Black Thought:

* * * * *

The author of the City Journal piece above, Kyeyune, also recommends that we read the following piece on The Genealogy of Woke Capital by Charles Fain Lehman.

Reagan and Thomas tried to stop the 'diversity' train

Much has been made of the propagation of certain ideas--call them social-justice ideology, critical race theory, or wokeness--in American institutions. But surprisingly little attention has been paid to the question of why institutions "go woke." Some address this question in philosophical or ideological terms, noting the continuity between these ideas and the work of certain twentieth-century intellectuals, from the Frankfurt School in the 1920s to the critical race theorists of the 1980s. But a historical and sociological analysis can help explain why institutions accepted these ideas as legitimate in the first place.

Race-conscious policy has become a self-sustaining force in the modern workplace. Where companies once adhered to a paradigm of "compliance," in which they adopted affirmative action to satisfy a new legal regime, they now follow the rule of "diversity," which encourages race-consciousness as an end in itself. . .

Compliance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act became increasingly difficult for companies.

Yet large majorities of the country opposed affirmative action, which became a chief target of Ronald Reagan. On the campaign trail in 1980, he identified affirmative action as an example of government overreach and micromanagement, promising to roll back "bureaucratic regulations which rely on quotas, ratios, and numerical requirements." Once Reagan took office, an entrenched bureaucracy, a hostile Congress, and courts frequently thwarted his ambitious agenda. He did, however, ease compliance pressures for a time. William Bradford Reynolds, Reagan's appointee to run the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, publicly opposed the use of quotas and endorsed colorblindness in hiring. Then-EEOC chairman Clarence Thomas shifted the focus from big systemic cases to individual instances of discrimination and tried to minimize the use of "goals and timetables." The OFCCP downshifted, and both agencies saw their staffing and funding levels slashed.

If corporations were still complying with affirmative action merely because of legal pressures, this regulatory relaxation should have induced them to reverse course. But, astonishingly, they strengthened their commitment to affirmative action, even filing amicus briefs and sending telegrams to Reagan in support of it. . .

"Astonishingly" is right. Pursuing "diversity" was a big mistake. Expanding HR departments was also a big mistake.

* * *

A quote from Tal Bachman:

The strange figures known as Wokists currently destroying America aren't just reprises of earlier enemies. They represent something rather new. The political cult of Wokism combines the worst aspects of every political cult in history.

Whether they realize it or not, Wokists themselves combine the lunatic loyalty of the Manson family with the hollow pseudo-joy of Jonestown residents, the racism of National Socialists, the inhumanity of Mao Tse-Tung, the bratty tantrums of Veruca Salt, the nihilism of Bakunin-style anarchists, the totalitarianism of Stalin's Soviet Union, the child torture and sacrifice of the Mayans, the derangement of Heaven's Gate followers, the sadistic violence of the Jacobins, and the ruthless control-freakism of the current Chinese Communist Party.

Now add to that noxious syncretic blend the Wokist use of powerful communication technologies to shape narratives and meta-narratives, destroy opponents, and recruit new converts, and you've got yourself a thing.

How's that work'n out for the left?

Ace has done one piece, and has mentioned in another, Ryan Grim's lament at The Intercept that Meltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History.

Fun reading!


Woke Audubon Society!

Charles C.W. Cooke tried channeling an extreme wokist in response to Grim's piece, using lots of Woke lingo, characterizing big leftist non-profits as "the chamber of commerce":

Over at the Intercept, a privileged, cisgendered, straight, white person-who-does-not-menstruate named Ryan Grim has penned a fascist screed against the progressive working class that has to be read to be believed. . . Throughout his piece, Grim repeatedly centers Western imperialist conceits such as "effectiveness," while ignoring the lived experience of the marginalized people he has elected to attack. In an irony that has clearly been lost on the author, Grim's piece ends up demonstrating exactly why the debilitating internal revolts that he disdains have become so just and so necessary.

It goes on for a few paragraphs from there.

You've got yourself a thing there, leftists. Keep it to yourselves.

* * * * *

Clarence Thomas has been in the news this week. But he has been thinking about some general principles that aren't explicitly mentioned on the immediate court docket.

Clarence Thomas and The Administrative State

Even back in the Reagan era, corporations had started adopting "woke" ideas which would be detrimental to their own interests, though some of them believed that in the long term their policies would help them.

Clarence Thomas: Expanding the administrative state comes at the expense of the Constitution.

Michael Pack: Let me ask you about another set of issues that have come up. You've been a leader in the administrative state cases. What is at stake there? It seems to be a question of liberty again.
Clarence Thomas: The very people who say they don't want the government in their lives want this sort of expansive administrative state, which is in their lives, and then every aspect of their lives. And a lot of it comes at the expense of the very structure of the Constitution that is intended to prevent the government from coming in. The separation of powers, the enumerated powers, federalism. The whole point was to keep the government in this box. Justice Scalia and I often talked about that, that the structure was the main way to protect your liberty. The danger in the administrative state is seeing those powers all coalesce again in various agencies. If you think about your life today, there's very little major legislation that comes from the legislature. The legislation comes in the form of regulations from agencies. They tend to have all three powers. They have the executive power, the enforcement power, they have administrative judges to adjudicate, so they have all three. And the question for us is, where do they fit in the constitutional structure?

When a private right is somehow intruded upon by one of these agencies, what is the role of the federal courts? . . .

MP: I think it was James Madison who said that if you combine the executive, legislative, and judicial in one person, or branch, it's the very definition of tyranny.
CT: That's wonderful rhetoric, and it plays out that way when people look at agencies, and they think, "Of course I have no way to defend myself against an agency." And what we have simply been trying to do is to raise the question of what are the limits of that. There are different views about it. But at least when you look back at guys like [Frank] Goodnow or Woodrow Wilson or the Progressives at the close of the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century, at least you have the advantage of them being candid. To some extent, they meant "progress"--to progress beyond the Constitution. And how that is consistent with the Constitution is something I think is worth discussing.

Who else in Washington is trying to protect us from the excesses of the Administrative State?

* * * * *

California Update

Sorry that we have missed the first session of this spiritual feast. We still have time to audit the rest, though:

THEOLOGY of 1619 project.jpg

Also via J.J. Sefton, Victor Davis Hanson and the Sovietization of American Life

The American Commissariat

Experts become sycophantic. They mortgage their experience and talent to ideology--to the point where society itself regresses.

The law is no longer blind and disinterested, but adjudicates indictment, prosecution, verdict, and punishment on the ideology of the accused. Eric Holder is held in contempt of Congress and smiles; Peter Navarro is held in contempt of Congress and is hauled off in cuffs and leg-irons. James Clapper and John Brennan lied under oath to Congress--and were rewarded with television contracts; Roger Stone did the same and a SWAT team showed up at his home. Andrew McCabe made false statements to federal investigators and was exempt. A set-up George Papadopoulos went to prison for a similar charge. So goes the new American commissariat.

Examine California and ask a series of simple questions.

Why does the state that formerly served as a model to the nation regarding transportation now suffer inferior freeways while its multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project remains an utter boondoggle and failure?

Why was its safe and critically needed last-remaining nuclear power plant scheduled for shutdown (and only recently reversed) as the state faced summer brownouts?

Why did its forests go up in smoke predictably each summer, as its timber industry and the century-old science of forest management all but disappeared from the state?

Why do the state's criminals so often evade indictment, and if convicted are often not incarcerated--or are quickly paroled?

Why are its schools' test scores dismal, its gasoline the nation's highest-priced, and the streets of its major cities fetid and dangerous--in a fashion not true 50 years ago or elsewhere today?

In a word, the one-party state is Sovietized. Public policy is no longer empirical but subservient to green, diversity, equity, and inclusion dogmas--and detached from the reality of daily middle-class existence. Decline is ensured once ideology governs problem-solving rather than time-tested and successful policymaking.

In a similar fashion, the common denominator in Joe Biden's two years of colossal failures is Soviet-like edicts of equity, climate change, and neo-socialist redistribution that have ensured (for the non-elite, in any event) soaring inflation, unaffordable energy, rampant crime, and catastrophic illegal immigration. Playing the role of Pravda, Biden and his team simply denied things were bad, relabeled failure as success, and attacked his predecessor and critics as various sorts of counterrevolutionaries.

Biden rejected commonsense, bipartisan policies that in the past kept inflation low, energy affordable, crime controlled, and the border manageable. Instead, he superimposed leftist dogma on every decision, whose ideological purity, not real-life consequences for millions, was considered the measure of success.

The Caving of Expertise

Entire professions have now nearly been lost to radical progressive ideology. . .

There is much more.

* * * * *

Weekend Stuff

Somewhere in America, there is apparently a radio show called "Giovanni and Kim in the Morning. They recently asked "What corporate/buzzwords do you hate? These are some of the answers they got. What are your choices?

  • I hated when people were called resources
  • "Reach out to"
  • "Riding on the foreskin of technology."
  • deep dive, granular, transformative.
  • disruptive strategies
If I hear one more overly cheerful, perky customer service person say AWESOME or PERFECT when I give them my email address, I'm going to put my fist through the wall .

* * * * *


My sister has been teaching a workshop at the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest in Weiser, Idaho. Years ago, Mark O'Connor swept the field in Weiser as a young teen, soon after he learned to play the fiddle. And mandolin. And guitar.

This is a "show tune". It would not be acceptable for the contest, though contestants could play it for each other at "jams".

* * * * *

Hope you have something nice planned for this weekend.

This is the Thread before the Gardening Thread.

Serving your mid-day open thread needs

* * * * *

Last week's Thread, June 18, Journalism (and related media) 50 years after Watergate from Steven Hayward. Reuters Digital Media Report, with emphasis on the USA. People don't trust journalists much. Calls to censor renewable energy critics. The Country's in the Very Best of Hands.

Comments are closed so you won't ban yourself by trying to comment on a week-old thread. But don't try it anyway.

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posted by K.T. at 11:07 AM

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