WASHINGTON, September 22, 2017 – Last month, the Philadelphia Inquirer published what turned out to be a controversial op-ed piece by law professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander, under the headline “Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.”
In their article, these bi-coastal law profs – hailing from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the University of San Diego School of Law respectively – dared to defy today’s university, government and legal Stalinists elites by pinning the bulk of America’s social problems on the left’s systematic dismantling of this country’s traditional middle- and working-class values and ideals.
What were some of those now lost societal pillars? The authors lay out the scenario succinctly.
“That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.
“These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.
“Did everyone abide by those precepts? Of course not. There are always rebels — and hypocrites, those who publicly endorse the norms but transgress them. But as the saying goes, hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Even the deviants rarely disavowed or openly disparaged the prevailing expectations.”
Whether you agree with once was America’s cultural norm or not, any Boomer, at least, who reads these words will instantly recognize the bedrock principals, expectations and customs that underpinned the rise of the United States as a major international economic powerhouse after the Second World War.
So powerful were these precepts, attitudes and expectations and so dynamic was the economy that they created that they and the American people underwrote the postwar economic revival of Europe itself via the unprecedented Marshall Plan.
Fast forward to today’s America, a shattered and Disunited States in which groupthink crushes independent thought; joblessness, underemployment and stagnant wages hold families and individuals back from their true potential; and traditional marriage is viewed as archaic and quaint.
It gets worse. The left now views our laws as mere suggestions to be observed or casually disregarded according to whim of political dogma. Public schools, colleges and universities have altered their mission statements to minimize the acquisition of knowledge, logic and innovation and substitute social indoctrination and Reverse Jim Crow racism. Only politically correct language and dogma are acceptable. Everything else is heresy and must be crushed.
The results, according to the authors:
“Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.
“The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.”
Back to the future?
Do the authors think a simple return to the 1950s and 1960s would solve all our current problems”
“Was everything perfect during the period of bourgeois cultural hegemony? Of course not. There was racial discrimination, limited sex roles, and pockets of anti-Semitism. However, steady improvements for women and minorities were underway even when bourgeois norms reigned. Banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture. Quite the opposite: The loss of bourgeois habits seriously impeded the progress of disadvantaged groups. That trend also accelerated the destructive consequences of the growing welfare state, which, by taking over financial support of families, reduced the need for two parents. A strong pro-marriage norm might have blunted this effect. Instead, the number of single parents grew astronomically, producing children more prone to academic failure, addiction, idleness, crime, and poverty.”
This lengthy but telling paragraph perhaps unintentionally provides a hint as to what happened to our earlier value system by the simple introduction of this phrase: “bourgeois cultural hegemony.”
Gramsci and Alinsky: Cultural hegemony and the anti-American priesthood
This terminology directly derives from the great chain of Marxist being, which starts with Marx himself and embraces in succession Engels, Lenin, Stalin and that great Italian unknown, Antonio Gramsci. All endorsed some flavor of revolution that would break down existing elitist governmental and societal structures that oppressed the working classes. All, therefore, endorsed an entirely new society built on “people’s republics,” implemented and led by the proletariat.
But only Gramsci knew how to implement this revolution without violence in strongly traditional capitalist countries like the United States, whose middle- and working classes still largely supported their freely elected government even during the misery and privation of America’s Great Depression.
Gramsci gave considerable thought to why capitalist democracies were so impervious to revolutionary forces and, with brilliant insight, placed the blame for this squarely on the strength of Western democracies’ “bourgeois cultural hegemony.”
That last word, “hegemony” – difficult to succinctly define – means, in this context, the current value system, ideals, myths, stories and aspirations that define a given society. In other words, it defined the underlying essence of American culture. In that so recently bygone culture, those who traditionally defined and guarded that cultural hegemony were largely middle- and working-class, churchgoing pillars of local economies. They and their families generally thrived under the beliefs and ideals that drove them to work harder and strive for success and happiness.
What has happened to America’s cultural consensus, its traditional “bourgeois cultural hegemony,” is all too well known to us now. The authors provide us with a recap of the gory details.
“This cultural script began to break down in the late 1960s. A combination of factors — prosperity, the Pill, the expansion of higher education, and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War — encouraged an antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal — sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll — that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society. This era saw the beginnings of an identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender, and now sexual preference.
“And those adults with influence over the culture, for a variety of reasons, abandoned their role as advocates for respectability, civility, and adult values. As a consequence, the counterculture made great headway, particularly among the chattering classes — academics, writers, artists, actors, and journalists — who relished liberation from conventional constraints and turned condemning America and reviewing its crimes into a class marker of virtue and sophistication.”
Why did this really happen, seemingly overnight? It was all due to the evil genius of Antonio Gramsci, as implemented in the U.S. by his most obvious acolyte, Saul Alinsky – who, to my knowledge, has never really acknowledged his philosophical forbear.
Gramsci acknowledged the impossibility of violent revolution in countries like the United States, where the dominant bourgeois cultural hegemony remained a powerful force. His solution was deviously simple: replace the bourgeois cultural hegemony gradually over time, replacing each of its pillars with a new Marxist-socialist hegemony – a new set of beliefs and national myths as it were. In the process, all vestiges of the bourgeois cultural hegemony were to be ridiculed, discredited and written out of history so that only the new hegemony remained.
This bloodless cultural coup Gramsci envisioned would be like a cultural version of Mao’s later, revolutionary “Long March.” But this edition would be a Long March through America’s key institutions that would take place over time.
The rise of the Popular Front
This idea had its early beginnings here during the Great Depression, even before Gramsci’s writings had become well-known in Marxist circles. It began to take hold in the mid- to late-1930s during Stalin’s quietly effective “Popular Front” invasion of America’s government, legal systems and publishing industries. In Washington, Marxist sympathizers were quietly and gradually placed in or promoted to prominent positions in Federal and state governments. Just as gradually, they were appointed as judges to America’s Federal courts as well.
This quiet, almost unintended infiltration worked well at the outset, particularly under the autocratic, Democrat rule of the sainted President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a wealthy elitist. Like his successors today, Roosevelt, embodying the misguided noblesse oblige traditions of the guilty rich, began to create socialist institutions within the Federal government, perhaps as a way of assuaging his own “white guilt” over the social advantages to which he had been born. (That, however, is another topic.)
A second “Popular Front” front included establishing toeholds in the written word (journalism, poetry, novels and criticism) and in the entertainment industry, most particularly in the fast-growing Hollywood movie juggernaut. Entertainment, media and the written word would be directly, though subtly responsible for altering America’s bourgeois cultural hegemony by first eroding and then replacing America’s story.
The “Popular Front” movement petered out during the Second World War due largely to temporary international political necessities. But its cultural, judicial and political detritus was jolted powerfully back to life after the war, with the Federal court system, numerous unions and academia being added to the target list. The overriding idea was to control all aspects of the legal and cultural message in this country and gradually alter it, moving it away from capitalism and closer to the false utopian ideals of Karl Marx.
The tragic results of the left’s successful “Long March” through America’s institutions
Today, virtually all government employees vote a left-wing Democrat party line. Elsewhere in the governmental structure, it proves enormously difficult to promote conservative judges to America’s appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, all of which have either been dominated by or hemmed in by constitution-ignoring left-wing “activist” judges eager to thwart constitutional law in favor of socialist interpretations of that law that follow no known precedents.
Outside of government itself, as the conventionally liberal, even-handed, post-WWII professoriate has died out, it’s been replaced by a cadre of inferior academics dominated today by hardcore New Leftists – Baby Boomers and some Gen Xers marinated in the Marxist fervor that dominated college campuses during the Vietnam War era.
It is this current generation of fake academics, particularly those dominating what’s left of the humanities, that has transformed our colleges and universities into Marxist concentration camps where the prime directive is not curiosity and knowledge but indoctrination in the dogmas of socialism, Stalinism, groupthink and aggressive political correctness whose ultimate aim is to silence and then destroy all opposing thought.
As for journalism, entertainment and the arts, we have no further to look than the idiotic, anti-American pronouncements of movie stars, CNN and MSNBC fake-news analysts, and tedious late-night TV hosts who, arguably, would run out of material altogether today without a Donald Trump residing in the White House.
The consequences of this Gramscian-Alinskyite cultural transformation of America from its earlier “bourgeois” cultural traditions to an uncomfortable new cultural hegemony have not only been tragic, and the authors provide the uncomfortably familiar details in unusually forceful language:
“All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.”
I have tried to explain the dangerously transformative and corrosive effects of Gramsci’s and Alinsky’s philosophies and action plans for most of my adult life. Unfortunately, even Wax and Alexander failed to note the responsibility of this corrosive pair for providing the real basis of America’s destruction.
This is why I’m bringing up this key philosophical link again today. It’s only by addressing this root cause of America’s racial and cultural disintegration that we can begin to solve our longstanding problems by eroding the Marxist hegemony that’s gradually replaced our original American ideals.
While ignoring the true root cause of today’s reverse Jim Crow racism and the resulting violence and despair that are relentlessly tearing America apart, Wax and Alexander do recognize the difficulties inherent in taking America back, noting that
“…restoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics and the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden. Instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, they should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.”
Good luck with that, guys. It’s actually up to every one of us to stop these hard left cultural warriors by mounting a slow, relentless stealth attack on their message-control regime ourselves. Otherwise, they’ll finalize their victory, and very soon. If they do, we can all kiss our economic, academic and cultural freedoms goodbye for generations to come.
Note: Hat tip to Paul L. Caron of the invaluable TaxProf Blog for highlighting this topic and providing links to pro and con (frequently con) followups to Wax and Alexander’s courageous article. That op-ed has put them squarely in the crosshairs of the Marxists who dominate academia today, particularly in America’s fast-declining law schools.