[P2P-F] analyzing wokism

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 3 16:06:10 CET 2022

Below is a class analysis of the current form of identity politics based on
neo-racism and neo-segregationism, i.e. the ideology that claims that
people should be treated and interpreted on the basis of their group
characteristics, and on their differences instead of their commonalities.

Peer to peer dynamics and commoning require that people are recognized as
equipotential persons, since the basis is the free association of people to
common projects. An ideology that claims that people are representatives of
their group and must behave according to group norms, and interpreted on
that basis, is not compatible with commoning as a set of ideas or practice.

I spent some time analyzing the Evergreen State College events, and what
the behavior of the actors expresses in terms of political principles,
which you can find here, at https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Woke_Ideology.
These practices based on racial and other forms of scapegoating and
hierarchisation are probably the closest one can find to the racist and
anti-semitic movements of the 1930s. They 'cancel' people they disagree
with, aiming for the reputational and economic destruction,  use violence
and intimidation, are pro-censorship. They are an entirely illiberal
tendency, and a clear and present danger to any social advance.

It is important to know that there is a solid progressive,
black-liberation, socialist and Marxist critique of this middle class
ideology of the professional and managerial classes, which you can find in
this depository, https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:Identity_Politics

For those wanting to learn more about the genesis of this neo-racist and
segregationist movement, I recommend the following three books, none of
them are perfect, but they are quite good:

1) Cynical Theories gives the ideological evolution from the postmodernism
of the 70s, in 3 stages, i.e. from deconstructive to agentic or applied
postmodernism, and from applied to reified postmodernis, which consciously
decided to essentialize biological characteristics and create race and
gender hierarchies based on them. Stage 1 and 2 are entirely compatible
with progressive thinking in its pluralist variety, but stage 3 thinkers
overturn the principles of egalitarianism and universalism, and chose to
fight for zero-sum games in favour of PMC elites. The book extensive quotes
the actors and thinkers in the movement, in their own words

2) The Coddling of the American Mind, gives the sociological background
which is essential the story of the culture of fear which started already
in the 80s, but became hegemonic pretty much exactly in 2013-15, when GenZ
entered the universities, the first generation  to be socialized not on the
internet but on mobile social media, and demanded the culture of fragility
which is now the norm. It also explains the psychological mechanisms that
are at work, and are the opposite of the ones creating resilience.

3) As of 2017, this generation entered the workforce, with one third being
strongly supportive of authoritarian censorship. This is the story told by
the Madness of Crowd.

You may also want to check out the book of Erec Smith, outlining the
disempowering effects of the new ideology on minority students, and the
books of father Toure and son, as representatives of  the class-based black
liberation traditions.

The majority of students and professors in anglo-saxon countries now
declare that they are no longer free to speak their mind, and thousands of
progressives have been eliminated from academia. This is why the marxist
Jacobin and its theoretical magazine Catalyst, and their Youtube channel,
are one of the best sources for continued progressive resistance against
the Successor Ideology. The book Woke Inc is an insider account of the
switch of the ruling class elites to the new ideology, as a conscious
response to the 99% challenge of the Occupy movement. Cornell West,
Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Matt Taibi and Glenn Greenwald are just some of the
voices who have spoken out against identity politics and cancel culture and
noted the political inversion, i.e. of people claiming to be progressive
but favouring all the themes that used to be right-wing.

Denialism is not a strategy: all the surveys, electoral  and sociological
research point to a consistent picture: identitarian ideology leads to a
systematic weakening of the left and guarantees electoral defeats. Vivek
Chibber, who agrees with Wallerstein that this will delay social change for
at least a generation, explains very well the political dynamics and how it
creates a blackmail situation towards the social left: whenever a
left-populist champion appears, as Sanders in the US or Corbyn in the UK,
the thematic is used to discredit them. This is how Sanders, who had won
the first one third of the primaries in 2019, was eliminated in Georgia,
after the mobilization of the woke theme that he was a white supremacist.

The good news, if there is any, is that p2p and commons movements are the
most resilient against it: wokism is a technique for PMC elites for a
redistribution of benefits, but it only works in institutions that have
benefits to share and where 'stalinist'-type purges allow for a
redistribution of power and benefits; in contributory communities,
distributing based on identity instead of on contribution is an

Silence towards the countless victimizations that this movements
initiatives amounts to complicity, but we must not focus all our energies
in negative ways; a continued committment towards the constructive
engagement with actual commons remains the priority.

Here is a recent article,

And people will be aware of our new book on the Cosmo-Localization of
production, which has about 100 case studies. Wokeness is a tragedy for the
left, perhaps the end game of the emancipatory movement that started with
the French Revolution and became worker-oriented in 1848, at the same time
popular and social struggles will find new expressions, as they have always

Michel Bauwens:

Here are some preliminary notes about the meaning of the emergence of the
woke movement in the US and elsewhere.

I define the woke movement as a social movement that:

   - Claims to want to end unequal power dynamics and the end of oppression
   and privilege by majority groups towards minority groups, with the main
   privileged groups believed to be white males, who prop the unjust
   domination of the West
   - Claims that to obtain this equality, we must practice equity, i.e. a
   form of systematic reverse discrimination of resources so that the
   oppressed groups can appropriate their right share of resources,
   principally through antiracist activity. Resources must be unequally
   divided with a preference for the oppressed groups.
   - Claims that the primary determinant of human life and one’s position
   in the social order, depends on group membership, which largely determine
   individual identity and the course of life.
   - Claims the moral high ground and practices moral outrage as one of its
   principal activist tactics; calls for censorship and
   denunciations/cancellations are the most common tactic to obtain
   ideological hegemony.

The movement originated as one of the outcomes of postmodern teachings in
academia, through the mediation of Critical Race Theory, and its social
origination is in the youth strata of the elite universities, i.e. the
children of the most privileged strata of the population, allied with the
professional strata of minority groups. It is also supported by the
cognitive urban strata of the population, especially the post-millennial
generational cohort.

The aims of the movement are massively supported by the 1) ‘diversity and
inclusion’ bureaucracy’ and administrations of US universities,
corporations and federal institutions (particularly HR sectors but extended
to all forms of administrative leadership); 2) massive funding by
philanthro-capitalism and corporate leaderships (‘woke capitalism’); 3) the
political leadership of ‘progressive neoliberalism’; 4) the mainstream mass

The above sociological orientation does not suggest that it has any
characteristic of traditional emancipatory movements, which are generally
supported by working class populations. Moreover, its political demands
have immediate and obvious effects that are hugely detrimental to the
poorer populations of all genders and races. Their demands favour the elite
and upwardly mobile sections of minority populations. Many of its tactics
are hugely reminiscent of the reactionary social movements of the 1930s
(deplatforming and cancellation of political dissent, desire for
caste-based allocation and organization of society, racial scapegoating),
although there are obvious differences in its sociological basis. What is
common is a conjucture of societal 'descent', creating populations that
fear social regress, which generally does not create 'progressive' aims and

So here is my attempt to explain its emergence at this particular
historical conjuncture.

Global capitalism has entered a downward spiral of systemic crises that has
hampered its ability to satisfy the desire of populations for material
betterment; this is especially so in the Western countries, which have
since the 1980s sacrificed their own working classes to enable

Originally, the neoliberal compact of the 80s, which replaced the social
welfare compact after WWII, was based on an alliance of the ruling classes
with the new identity politics, i.e the cultural changes demanded by the
youth cohorts that fought the 1968 revolutions, and the subsequent demands
for egalitarian civil rights by racial minorities, women, sexual practice
minorities, etc …, while simultaneous de-industrialising the West to
eliminate working class power and demands. This led to huge advances in
civil rights, to systemic anti-discrimination practices in institutions,
and to the growth of a upwardly mobile middle class emerging from these
minorities, though at the detriment of the stagnation or decline of working
class wages.

But as of 2003, resource prices stopped their downward trend and started
augmenting, and in 2008, the global financial crisis occured, seriously
affecting the redistributional capacity of the state. Neoliberal
leaderships such as those of Obama, resulted in choices in favour of the
saving the financial elite, at the cost of minorities and working classes
(see the housing policies of Obama, which particularly affected the housing
stock of the African-American population).

In particular, upward educational mobility was seriously affected, creating
a generation riddled with student debt, and with very precarious prospects.
This is particularly the case for minority students which saw their upward
mobility endangered.

In such a conjuncture, social and economic prospects become not only
negative, but can be seen as a zero sum game; psychological and
sociological uncertainty leads to identity issues and a search for
protective communities that can take various forms:

1) traditional left-wing urban populism, as represented by Sanders

2) ethno-nationalistic re-identification with the nation state, as
represented by Trump

3) identitarian politics, as represented by the woke movement.

*Option 1* is the most hated by the elites, since it requires substantial
distribution of resources towards the working poor; *option 2* has become
attractive to rural populations, small business holders and the native
working class and this movement gave us Trump; but to a substantial degree,
Trump represents giving up Empire to save the Nation, which is contrary to
the neoliberal choice of giving up the Nation for the sake of Empire. Trump
represents a rival alliance than the current neoliberal compact.

And this is what makes *option 3* so attractive to the elite. Option 3
represents a new compact of the elites, to make hard a new redistribution
of the spoils with the upwardly mobile minorities, but at the cost of
sacrificing the working poor of all genders and colours.

It is the cheapest option, that allows the ruling elites 1) to maintain the
Empire by expanding its social base with new middle class representation;
2) to avoid more massive egalitarian redistribution.

Giving the alliance of minority elites a stake in the system creates a new
sociological compact, and expands elite buy-in, creating a bulwark against
majority demands that are much more dangerous and costly.

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