Critical State Theory

I’m going to start with the conclusion of this note, because otherwise I think readers from on
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Comments

  1. Thanks Ben for the thoughtful note. I find the arguments for homeschooling salient enough for me to *nudge my wife to continue our conversation whether homeschooling is right for us.

    Somewhat unrelated but I find it interesting that white America talks about racism in the past tense (history of racism) while African Americans talk about racism in the present tense. To African Americans racism is a reality that has evolved and changed but ever present.

    It’s only words, but …

  2. I agree that words matter greatly, as we are animals of language. “Racism is” is so very different from “racism was”.

  3. Wow. Only two comments. I guess everyone is stuffed and can’t move from the couch! :slight_smile:

    Ben, I think it would be extremely beneficial for you to interview James Lindsey and (hopefully) have a thoughtful conversation. I know yall have had some dustups on twitter, but I think there is a lot of light to be gained by you interviewing/challenging him.

    And for the record, I am in the Lindsey/Rufo camp, but I respect the hell out of your perspective & would like to hear a dialogue between you and one of them.

    I think a Dr. Hunt Dr. Lindsay dialectic would be fruitful!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Paul

  4. I recall some press pieces immediately after the most recent Virginia election arguing that the after analysis positing that there pre-election focus that there was no ‘there’ there with Critical Race Theory! TM was a mistake, and that the focus for Dems should have been on actually hearing the parents’ concerns. That may be largely true, but I tend to think the answer to how to think through what happened, as a post mortem, is indeed a both/and, not so much an either/or, but the part about parental concerns would still dominate the majority of the blended argument. Maybe even most of it. Which I think Ben’s argument here does a great job of illustrating.

    I’m not a parent, and five plus decades on Earth now I’m almost certainly never going to be. No siblings either, so unfortunately no nephews/nieces for me to have a lifelong semi-shared experience. So for the most part, as a voter this argument does not and would not resonate for me. But I do have plenty of friends and colleagues, of course, with kids, and I listen to them so I get how the meme hit at a visceral level. I also live right next door to Virginia and work with boatloads of Virginians so I got to listen a lot to how the positions resonated or not with people in my orbit.

    Each word of the meme serves a purpose, and in different ways galvanizes a spectrum of definite, probably, possible, and even unlikely voters, to either re-enlist (so to speak), feel justified about their choice, rationalize themselves into ignoring what is happening within the GOP write large, finally find a motivation that gets them to the polls, or even feel courageously doing ‘truth to power’ and sending a seemingly ‘safe’ message of dissatisfaction to the party they just voted for in November 2020.

    Thematically, the meme can be perceived as extreme, inflammatory, a dog whistle, rational, concerning, motivational, a tipping point, and/or an opportunity, depending on who is doing the hearing. Its really quite flexible.

    At the national level every one of these themes will be used in differing combinations. In many instances, quite effectively. The Left will be challenged to craft their gameplan, which will be better organized locally than at the national level, given the multiplicity of lines of attack. Without a gameplan the meme will pull many of the politicians on the left more to the center, and in a defensive posture, which is in itself its own ‘win’, setting and reinforcing favorable conditions for debates, rallies, interviews, and ultimately, results.

    Footnote: As a lifelong student of (gasp) continental philosophy and a currently a part-time PhD pursuer in (wait for it) Critical Security Studies, outside of my day job, I did find the related and all too brief attacks and defenses of Immanuel Kant on the bird app after the election quite amazing as one sub tribe of the masses were hilariously continuing to try to either justify their use of what they think is some form of Critical Theory, or, also hilariously, think they are ipso facto’ing some definitive refutation of the authenticity of what’s happening.

  5. Thanks for the note, Ben. You eloquently put into words some of the conflicts I have been feeling in listening to the news about critical race theory. We also homeschooled our three children for most of their pre-college days. All of them had very socially and academically successful collegiate experiences since. I also simultaneously believe that parents are responsible for their children’s education AND that it’s important to understand real history to understand the present especially the eugenics movement and race relations. In our homeschool, we highlighted race issues via some excellent podcasts like those from Stuff You Missed in History on the Wilmington Insurrection and the Tulsa Massacre and subsequently had good discussions about history without having to decide if we were democrats or republicans. BTW I registered as independent after getting frustrated with the Republican party around 2013-14.

  6. With all due respect Ben - and I have enormous respect for you and your normally extremely well thought out views - I strongly disagree with your characterization of Critical Race Theory as being about acknowledging the racism in our country’s past (or present), or events like the Tulsa massacre. That is not what it is about. That is what its proponents are trying to shift the narrative to, but the core of CRT is that our system is irredeemably ‘racist’, that people are either ‘oppressors’ or ‘oppressed’, and that Martin Luther Kings dream of a colorblind society and the idea of equality under the law is impossible. That strikes at the very foundations of our society, is absolutely incompatible with our current constitutional system, and if the mainstream Democrats continue to allow this radical wing to push this poison, then the risk of open civil conflict will continue to increase.

    Frankly I think that CRT is one of two existential threats to America (the other being China), and it is old school liberals and moderate Democrats that have to be the ones to step in and end this fight by rejecting CRT. If this becomes entrenched as a ‘Republican vs Democrat’ issue, then we are truly staring into the abyss. Does more work need to be done to address racism and improve opportunities for some minorities? Absolutely. But that work has to be done in accordance with the ideals of equality under the law. Rejecting that and ripping up the Constitution is a recipe for outright conflict, as there are probably 100m+ people in this country that will fight - literally fight - to preserve the Constitution and equality under the law. CRT is not a ‘Civil Rights’ movement, it is a radical revolutionary movement. The Civil Rights movement succeeded because it simply asked that the rights promised under the Constitution be extended to all people, regardless of race or sex. It asked America to uphold the ideals that it claimed to be founded upon. That is not what CRT proponents are asking for. They are rejecting the Constitution and trying to replace it.

    With respect, I suspect that the open racism that you saw growing up in Alabama has blinded you somewhat on this issue.

  7. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    I understand perfectly well what Critical Race Theory claims, and I think it’s like pretty much every other Critical Studies argument in academia – a post-Marxist, post-modern strawman argument that takes a thread of truth and weaves it into a vast nonsense tapestry. Welcome to academia!

    My note is not about Critical Race Theory, which I think is ridiculous. It’s about Critical Race Theory! TM - a mainstream, non-academic political narrative that highlights the ridiculousness of CRT and creates a politically useful boogeyman of Our Children Are In Danger! TM.

    Exactly the same thing happened in the 1950s around the original Critical Studies subject - Marxism. It was a political gambit then and it’s a political gambit now, but it’s far more effective today because of systemic changes in media availability and consumption.

  8. Here’s how this works, and it’s pretty obvious to anyone paying attention:

    1. Thing That People Object To isn’t real.
    2. Thing That People Object To is real but nobody is doing it.
    3. Akshually it’s a good thing that the Thing That People Object To is being done, we never said it wasn’t, and frankly we think it’s pretty [insert undesirable ism] that you’d even object in the first place.

    The playbook is pretty standard and frankly it bores me that nobody has come up with anything more clever than this.

  9. Thesis (CRT), antithesis (anti-CRT), synthesis (this). The Gnostic dialectic is so embedded in how we moderns think that we cannot have a conversation about the dialectic without using the dialectic nor can we see this.

  10. Avatar for Zenzei Zenzei says:

    Amen. I think a lot about the prison of the binary, the cage of duality.

  11. Right. In reality, reality is not binary. At least that is the Christian assumption that lies at the foundation of our culture and society.

    I think I am describing this properly, but oftentimes the two opposites are showing different sides of the same thing and you do NOT arrive at what that thing is via the dialectic method. You probably just make something up.

  12. I think you would enjoy Mattias Desmet’s research into Mass Formation as it deals specifically with Mass Media taking advantage of a crowd. He’s done some great podcasts and is coming out with a book in English soon. His research is built upon the work of Hannah Arendt and Gustav Le Bon.

    In regards to teaching racism, my understanding is that both liberal and conservatives generally agreed that our country had a legal issue with racism until the Civil Rights Act. Afterwards, there were some societal problems that were more cultural than legal.

    I think what people are missing in this conversation is a part of our culture that we have lost recently and cannot understand our past without it. In the past, I think we knew we used to have a legal problem, and after we by and large did not, it was up to us as Christians to judge each other by our character and not our skin color. Without this, we seem to be focusing on finding disparities everywhere in life in a political fashion and not focused on treating each others as Images of God. I think this switch in focus is what most people object to, and then of course the introduction of affirmative action into the workplace will cause an uproar.

    If we include this Christian framework, our past makes more sense. If we do not, then we must have been racist because we were not actively seeking to demolish all group differences from all areas of life and creating political movements to do so.

    Parents just want their kids to be treated well and not feel guilty for something they did not do, though I am sure textbooks could be improved, government programs, especially, improved, etc.

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