I will never understand how one can justify means with goals.
It can't work because means are to goals what seeds are to plants, what causes are to effects.
Yet... people happily join a cancel mob... to prove they are "inclusive".
It must be a post-modernism thing, a refusal of logic as a tool of the white-male... I don't know.
But I'd really like a computer running without such logic.
I think it really just boils down to the evaporation of nuance and a black and white mentality where nothing exists in the middle lest it show sympathy to the other "evil" side. So if you dont jump on the bandwagon and what it stands for you are assumed and treated like you are on the opposite side. So you do it so you arent left out by "your people"
Take RMS as an example, to the cancel crowd it boils down to: RMS supports pedophilia, is hurtful to sexual assault victims, and hates women. So in their mind you are either pro social justice and women's rights and thus want to cancel RMS, or you are a rapist or rapist apologist and want to support him. There is no inbetween, there is no nuance. So unless the american liberal mentality is the group you are already outside of and dont associate with you will jump on board or be considered the bad guy, so you jump on board, even if you do have a sense of the nuance, you wont date say it.
This happens from the conservative side too on other issues, and this one. If you may not want to cancel RMS but still dont agree with him the conservative american crowd might just equally consider you the enemy (though there are issues they care more about than this one).
In the end the people who have it the worst are the ones in the middle who actually see the nuance and talk about it. Those are the people both groups (who make up 98% of americans) will hate. Each will see them as a member of the other group when in reality they are hated by both. So the true social suicide in america is caring about details, nuance, and not being extremist on every issue... and the result is massive toxicity.
@Shamar @freemo @xj9 The woke ideology derives mainly from two schools of thought, one is postmodernism, the other is Critical Theory.
The term “Critical Theory” commonly causes confusion because it can refer to the Frankfurt School of Marxist critics, including György Lukács, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse (see also, neo-Marxism and New Left), or it can refer to the use of other similar—but distinct—critical social theories, such as those that have their roots in postmodernism, such as postcolonial Theory, queer Theory, critical race Theory, intersectional feminism, disability studies, and fat studies (see also, Theory and post-Marxism). Sometimes this confusion is expressed disingenuously by academics who dislike criticism of critical theories, and sometimes it is expressed sincerely by those whose fields of philosophy have not kept up with the fast development of Social Justice scholarship.
The Critical Theory of the “Institute for Social Research,” which is better known as the Frankfurt School, focused on power analyses that began from a Marxist (or Marxian) perspective with an aim to understand why Marxism wasn’t proving successful in Western contexts. It rapidly developed a “post-Marxist” position that criticized Marx’s primary focus on economics and expanded his views on power, alienation, and exploitation into all aspects of post-Enlightenment Western culture. These theorists sometimes referred to themselves as “cultural Marxists,” and were referred to that way by others, but the term “cultural Marxism” is now more commonly used to describe (a misconception of) postmodernism (see also, neo-Marxism) or a certain anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. The big-picture agenda of the Frankfurt School was to marry Marxian economic theory to Freudian psychoanalytic theory in order to explain both the rise of fascism and the reasons that the communist revolutions were not taking place in Western democracies as had been predicted.
Max Horkheimer defined a “Critical Theory” in direct opposition to a “Traditional Theory” in a 1937 piece called Traditional and Critical Theory. Whereas a Traditional Theory is meant to be descriptive of some phenomenon, usually social, and aims to understand how it works and why it works that way, a Critical Theory should proceed from a prescriptive normative moral vision for society, describe how the item being critiqued fails that vision (usually in a systemic sense), and prescribe activism to subvert, dismantle, disrupt, overthrow, or change it—that is, generally, to break and then remake society in accordance with the particular critical theory’s prescribed vision. This use of the word “critical” is drawn from Marx’s insistence that everything be “ruthlessly” criticized and from his admonition that the point of studying society is to change it. Of note, then, a Critical Theory is only tangentially concerned with understanding or truth and has, as Hume might have it, abandoned descriptions of what is in favor of pushing for what the particular critical theory holds ought to be. The critical methodology, then, is the central object of concern, and it is the tool by which Social Justice scholarship and activism proceed.
The Critical Theorists of the Frankfurt School primarily looked at systems of power in terms of how they exploited and oppressed the working class and, more broadly, the everyday citizen, or certain everyday citizens (as opposed to members of the various elite classes). Speaking very generally (thus charitably), the purpose of critical theories (including the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School) is to make visible the underexamined or invisible presuppositions, assumptions, and power dynamics of society and question, criticize, and, especially, problematize them. Indeed, the primary objective of critical theories is problematization (identifying something as “problematic,” which means it stands against the normative vision adopted by the critical theorists in question, and this, in turn is understood to mean in support of any unjust assumptions or power dynamics).
One of the ambitions of the Critical Theorists of the Frankfurt School was to address cultural power in a way that allowed an awakening of working-class consciousness out of the ideology of capitalism in order to overcome it. Particularly, these theorists had decided that the reason the communist revolution had not yet successfully spread throughout the West is that something in liberal Western culture must be preventing it. The goal of the Critical Theory (of the Frankfurt School), in that sense, was to identify what those issues were and find ways to dismantle them. As such, the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci’s, concept of hegemony—the dominance of one particular set of ideas over all others in a society—has been influential on the development of Marxist and post-Marxist critical theory and also on the development of the (structuralist) critical methods of postmodernism. Among their conclusions is that the dominance of hegemonic ideas in society leads to the marginalization of other ideas, thus preventing change and maintaining oppression.
Critical theories in a broader sense are largely understood to be the critical study of various types of power relations within myriad aspects of culture, often under a broad rubric referred to in general as “cultural studies.” These moved the question of power dynamics away from generalized hegemony and into the various hegemonies created and maintained by and over the various identity groups in society (see also, knowledge(s), ways of knowing, epistemic injustice and epistemic oppression). These include postcolonial theory, queer theory, critical race Theory, intersectional feminism, and critical theories of ableism and fatness. They are to be found within many disciplines and subdisciplines within the theoretical humanities, including cultural studies, media studies, gender studies, ethnic/race/whiteness/black studies, sexuality/LGBT/trans studies, postcolonial, indigenous, and decolonial studies, disability studies, and fat studies. Critical theories of various kinds are also to be found within (but not necessarily dominant over) other fields of the humanities, social sciences, and arts, including English (literature), sociology, philosophy, art, history and, particularly, pedagogy (theory of education).
The use of critical theories within these disciplines leads to a highly theoretical, ideological, and interpretive approach to cultural, artistic, and identity issues, all of which are to be studied in a critical way, not necessarily rigorously. The meaning of the word “criticism” here is specific, not as one might expect it to be used in the common parlance, and refers to seeking out ways in which problematics (according to some normative moral vision for society) arise within functional systems, particularly the systems of social and cultural power in liberal, Western, and scientific settings. There is, in the critical method (as noted above), no need to understand these concepts or structures; only a need to pick at the ways in which they can be construed to be imperfect.
The focus on identity, experiences, and activism, rather than an attempt to find truth, leads to conflict with empirical scholars and undermines public confidence in the worth of scholarship that uses this approach. Because critical theories nearly always begin with their conclusion—their own assumptions about power dynamics in society, how those are problematic, and the need for their disruption or dismantling—and then seeks to find ways to read them into various aspects of society (see discourse analysis and close reading), the body of scholarship that has been growing for the last fifty years has become a towering and impressive mountain with very insecure foundations.
@Shamar @freemo @xj9 The notion of “Problematize”
Problematizing is the functional core of Critical Social Justice and its Theory and activism. To problematize something is to look for, identify, manufacture, and/or “expose” the “problematics” in it or associated with it. Problematics are ways in which the phenomenon, entity, person, circumstance, object, etc., under examination falls short of the moral agenda that necessarily lies at the heart of the critical theory examining it (by definition of a critical theory, which must be normative against what it sees as “oppression”). Of particular interest are ways in which those things might marginalize, exclude, minoritize, harm, cause oppression, or maintain or legitimate dominance and injustice through the machinations of systemic power.
Problematizing is, as adherents to Critical Social Justice and other critical theories would say, the process of making those oppressions (and other moral failings) “visible.” Put otherwise, problematics are what critical theories criticize, and problematizing is how it does its criticism. The goal of this activity is to replace false consciousness (especially internalized oppression) with critical consciousness (i.e., wokeness) and thus agitate for a social and cultural revolution.
It is impossible to overstate the central relevance of problematizing to the Theory and praxis of Critical Social Justice. This is because problematizing is the chief epistemological tool of any critical theory, which is taken to a particular extreme in the critical Theories of Critical Social Justice (e.g., critical race Theory, postcolonial Theory, queer Theory, whiteness studies, fat studies, disability studies, gender studies, women’s studies, masculinity studies, media studies, and critical pedagogy). That is, problematization is the primary, if not sole, means by which a critical theory decides whether or not a concept is valid and thus constitutes authentic knowledges (or “truths”).
To understand this, it is helpful to understand how other systems of thought utilize similar tools. Consider two other domains: philosophy and science. The primary means utilized in this regard in philosophy is called defeasibility, which is a process where an idea is challenged by potential “defeaters,” which are statements that, if true, would either contradict the existing claim or that expose failures of logical validity or argumentative soundness. Philosophical ideas that survive this process are, until that changes, provisionally granted the status of not being defeated, which is to say potentially good ideas that one can treat as knowledge. In a sense, then, rigorous philosophy proceeds by defeating (anti-verifying) bad ideas and retaining as good ideas (knowledge) those that still survive the relentless anti-verification process of defeasibility.
In science, defeasibility isn’t considered enough because it is possible for something to be perfectly logically acceptable and yet out of correspondence with reality. Truth and falsity therefore take on a different meaning under scientific approaches to knowledge that is described by the “correspondence theory of truth,” which roughly states that that which is true is that which corresponds with reality in some way. Thus, the scientific method, in addition to theoretical defeasibility, adds an extra dimension called falsifiability. A perfectly undefeated hypothesis in science can still be falsified by testing it empirically and finding out that it does not correspond with the results of experiment, which are taken to be reflective of reality (see also, objectivity and positivism). This circumstance was, perhaps, most eloquently expressed by the physicist Richard Feynman, who remarked, “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”
In critical theories, problematization plays an identical role as defeasibility in philosophy (and theoretical science) and as falsification in (experimental) science. Those are processes within those domains of thought that allow people utilizing them to decide which ideas are bad, thus anti-verifying them. Ideas that have heretofore survived this process are provisionally considered “good” in some sense. In both philosophy and science, that status of “good” results in being considered “truth” or “knowledge.” In critical theories, by their very definition, truth and falsity are, however, largely beside the point, and in postmodern critical theories, like the Theory of Critical Social Justice, they are entirely beside the point. Ideas are either problematic or not (yet) problematic, and the effort to produce “knowledge” is establishing which ideas have not (yet) been problematized out of the possibility.
Understanding this requires understanding critical theories and their differences from what were offered up as a comparative alternative, traditional theories. Philosophy and science, relying upon defeasibility and falsifiability, are both traditional theories, which seek to understand the truth and reality of a situation, circumstance, phenomenon, etc., as fully as possible in as perspicacious terms as possible. That is, they seek to understand their object at hand in as much detail as possible and to do so in as objective a way as can be managed. This is especially true of the sciences. Critical theories—or, specifically, Critical Theory (see also, Frankfurt School and Neo-Marxism)—were introduced (by Max Horkheimer, explicity) in the 1930s as a kind of companion to traditional theories that could highlight the moral shortcomings (according to Neo-Marxist morals) of traditional theoretical understanding and thus refine knowledge not just to be informative but also liberatory from oppression and injustice.
Originally, Critical Theories were supposed to be used in tandem with traditional theories, which care about that which is true and that which is false, while introducing problematization as an additional means by which we might sweep “bad” (now, morally bad, not epistemologically poor) ideas off the table to create a better system of knowledge that is simultaneously effective and moral (again, according to Neo-Marxist morals, though this could certainly work with many other moral agendas). Even within the context of the Critical Theory movement itself (see, New Left), however, anti-intellectualism slowly took over (this is unsurprising, given what is being outlined here), leading one of the chief Critical Theorists in history, Herbert Marcuse, to bemoan the anti-intellectualism in radical and liberation movements by the early 1970s (see also, radical feminism, black liberationism, black feminism, liberation theology, postcolonialism, and liberationism).
To explain how this eroding intellectualism in critical movements at a guess, problematization is a much easier (and subjective) approach to disqualifying statements than defeasibility and falsifiability. All it requires is the capacity to claim offense or blame a system, or to do so on behalf of someone else or an identity group. In other words, traditional theories are hard, requiring setting aside one’s feelings and ego, usually obtaining significant education and training, and proceeding with extreme caution and care. Critical theories are comparatively easy, requiring only the ability to complain and somewhat plausibly connect one’s complaints to the system of power being critiqued by the critical theory (be that ideology, economic, knowledge, discourse, government, or some combination thereof). In the hands of intellectuals, then, critical theories will be one thing, but in the hands of non-intellectuals (or people pretending to be more intellectual than they are), they are quite another. (One will notice this simple observation explains much over the last half century.)
With regard to Critical Social Justice, the anti-intellectualism and centrality of problematization via the (highly interpreted – see also, authentic) “lived experience” of oppression (see also, knower, ways of knowing, and standpoint epistemology) reaches an altogether new height because of the profound influence postmodern Theory has had upon it. Critical theories absent postmodernism have always been constrained by their relationships with traditional theories—thus truth, falsity, and reality—even in the hands of anti-intellectual radical activists. What’s true still mattered. The central contention of postmodern philosophy, however, is an extension of the critical ethos: what’s true is beside the point (see also, Foucauldian, episteme, and power-knowledge). Postmodern Theory sees knowledges as culturally contingent and socially constructed (see also, social constructivism), and thus the correspondence between truth and reality becomes irrelevant as compared with the political application of propositions that have been authenticated and legitimated as “true” by the (powerful elites in the) culture that recognizes them as such (see also, discourses, narrative, and metanarrative).
The Theory of Critical Social Justice can be understood most simply as the fusion of this simplified understanding of postmodern Theory and critical theory with the intention of achieving what it calls “Social Justice” through identity politics. In this sense, the relevance of postmodernism is that it allows the critical theory of Critical Social Justice to set aside matters of truth and falsity altogether (because they miss the point, because objectivity is impossible anyway but politics aren’t), thus problematization becomes the core and chief epistemological tool of the entire program. Thus, in Critical Social Justice and its Theory and activism, ideas that are in any way problematic are deemed invalid whereas ideas that are not (yet) identified as problematic are valid, and this process is (nearly) wholly unconstrained from matters of truth and falsity in reality (and objectivity is seen as an undesirable myth claimed only to maintain hegemonic power, which is itself problematic). The result is that problematizing (through discourse analysis, close reading, and other critical qualitative methods) becomes the chief occupation of anyone in Critical Social Justice who is interested in producing “knowledges,” including by disqualifying actual knowledge from that status.
There are many direct results of this elevated epistemological status of problematization that, once understood, render many perplexing features of the Critical Social Justice project surprisingly comprehensible. For example, intersectionality becomes both inevitable and irresistibly popular because it is a means of doing cross-discipline application of problematization to other critical theories. (The “margins” spoken of in Kimberlé Crenshaw’s most famous paper, “Mapping the Margins” (1991), wherein she laid out in great detail what intersectionality should do, are the margins of (white) (radical) feminism and of (male/masculinist) black liberationism, both critical theories of identity. Thus, the purpose of intersectionality was, ultimately, to problematize each of these critical theories for being insufficiently critical.) This is believed to refine the knowledges of those critical theories by applying the core epistemological tool in ways that had been overlooked (due to influences of hegemonic power and willfully ignorant self-interest, of course).
The resulting elevation of intersectionally modified standpoint epistemology through the constant engagement of one’s positionality (relationship by identity to systemic power) is also utterly predictable. Engaging positionality becomes a chief occupation of Critical Social Justice in Theory and praxis because the lived experience of identity-based oppression is deemed to be the most authentic means by which someone can identify problematics or admit their inability to do so (due to internalized dominance), thus establish their status or limits as a knower. This also explains why engagement with the literature and views of Critical Social Justice only counts as legitimate if one ends up agreeing with it: it only accepts problematizing (i.e., critical) epistemologies as the way to do critical theories.
In summary, problematizing is the critical-theoretical equivalent of falsifiability in science, which is to say the primary means by which it disqualifies hypotheses and other propositions from being considered knowledge. Unlike in traditional theories, however, problematization can apply not just to ideas but to the people who produce them, perhaps as a result of the explicit adoption of Freudian psychoanalytic theory into Critical Theory by the Frankfurt School, meant as a corrective to Marxian thought. Thus, people must engage their positionalities, which can render them unqualified as knowers due to the influences of willful ignorance, hate, and internalized dominance, thus designating their claims on relevant topics as problematic and inadmissible as knowledges. They must “stay in their lanes” and “shut up and listen.” People who expose themselves (or are exposed – see also, mask) as sufficiently problematic are to be called out and summarily canceled due to the fact that this identifies them as so complicit in hegemonic power and thus oppression that they must have their status as a potential knower (permanently) revoked to prevent further harmful malpractice and contamination of the discourses.
This means the chief practical activity of activists and Theorists in Critical Social Justice—that portion of the demand of critical theories that calls for praxis—is problematizing. Every possible cultural product (as understood under radical social constructivist assumptions) must be examined, critiqued, and problematized to the full extent that Theory indicates. This imperative therefore hijacks the epistemological and ethical engine of liberal societies and turns them into dysfunctional critical ones. It is in this vein that they attempt to seize every means of cultural production and turn them to critical theory (see also, critical pedagogy and decolonize).
To me, the dynamics of powers and the importance of problematization of them in culture and praxis is pretty important (that’s something I actively do in many context) but I see it as a step (and a method) toward the effective modelling of truth (the search for truth, for falsifiable knowledge, the aim of #hackers’ #curiosity), not to as renounce to it.
At the end of the day, for a hacker, “You cannot argue with a root shell” is a fundamental epistemic rock to build upon.
That’s why, probably, despite being an oppressed and marginalized minority, hackers are not going to be loved by SJW. Because we cannot renounce to the search for truth, without renouncing to be hackers at the same time.
I just have a question on what you wrote: who first proposed the “manufacture” of problematics and truth (that is lying) as a method for political identity activism?
I’d like to find a clear statement about this.
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