Social Justice: an analysis – part 1 of 4

poster,210x230,f8f8f8-pad,210x230,f8f8f8.lite-1u1Part 1 of Social Justice: an analysis has been published at Gates of Vienna. This essay began as an attempt to summarize the key arguments of Thomas Sowell’s The Quest for Cosmic Justice. This is what I had done for Thomas Sowell in “Intellectuals and Race.” As writing proceeded, however, the discussion broadened to take in topics not explicitly covered by Sowell – so while The Quest for Cosmic Justice is the inspiration for the final result and many of the points are Sowell’s, it no longer seemed appropriate to give the article the same kind of title as my piece on Intellectuals and Race.

Since social justice is driven by resentment towards the successful resulting in their scapegoating, this is very much the territory analyzed so successfully by René Girard, hence his thinking is especially relevant.

Name any human characteristic and barring two individuals, someone will be better than you and someone worse than you. To reject this is to reject Being and existence. It is nihilistic.

The article begins by distinguishing between justified resentment at unprovoked attacks and actual unfairness versus unwarranted and essentially puerile resentment. It is important to recognize that all human beings are prone to resentment at those perceived to be superior and more successful. To exist is to have limits and those limits tend to produce frustration and resentment, a point made by Jordan Peterson. One student asked last semester whether it was possible to resent God. Yes, indeed! Even Sophia, in Gnostic theology, second only to The One, is said to be driven by resentment. What hope for the rest of us?

So-called “social justice” takes this sin and evil tendency; this pathology, and turns it into an opportunity for virtue signaling. The social justice warrior will in fact demonstrate her moral superiority by feeling very sorry for “victims” and by hating the “oppressors.” How do we know to which group someone falls? Following Peterson’s sarcastic analysis; find one group who is performing better than some other group, attribute the greater success to oppression and victimizing, laud one’s own moral superiority in pointing this out at no cost to oneself, repeat forever.

Redefining justice from equality of opportunity to equality of result means attacking competence and achievement in general. The results can only be pernicious.

Part 1 also covers the issue of whether to reward “merit” or productivity, the scapegoating of white men which is easy to demonstrate with just a few facts, a critique of LBJ’s “hobbling with chains” comments, and the free market as a truth generating device. In the last case, if having women on boards produces demonstrated economic benefit to those companies, no lobbying or demonstrations are necessary. The market will simply eliminate companies with male-only boards through competition. Free market forces are a reality check on lies. Unfortunately, not only do the media, universities and the government not pay a penalty for deviating from reality, their participants commonly are actively rewarded for second reality mendacity. It is the truth-tellers who are punished.

14 thoughts on “Social Justice: an analysis – part 1 of 4

  1. Pingback: Social Justice: an analysis – part 1 of 4 | @the_arv

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  3. Resentment is a powerful emotion, so a man who harnesses the resentment of millions is a force to be reckoned with. Resentment, envy and jealousy are probably the most degrading and ridiculous sins, since to express them is to confess feelings of inferiority. No one is deceived by the desperate ego defenses in which a confession of inferiority is wrapped. They just hear a man say, “I suck and it hurts.” I find myself often bursting to express resentment, and then barely holding it in because I see how humiliating it would be to let others know how inferior I feel. It is a very disagreeable state to be in. I suppose ideologies that justify resentment are attractive because they overcome this disagreeable state. They applaud the resentful man when he expresses his resentment, and they assure him that he is not actually confessing his inferiority. If this is right, it also explains why a man who makes use of such an ideology can never let it go. If he abandons the ideology, he must face the fact that he has repeatedly humiliated himself in public by confessing his inferiority.

    • Excellent analysis, JM.

      The great thing about Marxian interpretations of social order is that they enable resentful men to understand their social inferiority as due, not to … their own real inferiority, but rather to the oppression of others, which is unjust precisely because, under the terms of the Marxian analysis, the oppressed man is not inferior *in fact,* but only on account of the perfidy of his oppressors, and thus by a cruel historical mischance.

      Marxian analysis enables the resentful to feel morally superior to their betters, because it reckons them innocent victims of purposely wicked men. Thus it transforms sinful covetousness – with its implicit recognition of personal deficiency – into righteous wrath – with its implicit presumption of personal righteousness. It relieves the resentful man even from his feelings of guilt and shame over his feelings of resentment, and replaces all those negative feelings with lovely feelings of personal worthiness. It’s salvation in a box. No wonder it is so intoxicating.

      One reason that the Revolution must always ever devour her children is that under any social arrangement whatsoever there will always be inequality, thus superiors, and thus inferiors. Under the terms of the Revolution, resentment of superiors by inferiors is always justified, and ought to be indulged. So, once the Revolution gains the upper hand, and so doing throws up superiors of her own, the guillotine stays thenceforth busy.

      • Hi, Kristor: I believe I actually made the point you make in your final paragraph when I say “Once the scapegoated group is murdered, differing levels of success within the persecuting group remain, and the process will continue.” Guillotines don’t make their appearance, however, until part 4.

      • That you did, by gum. One of the things I constantly find myself doing as my understanding grows is rehearsing what I had read in some other writer – sometimes decades before – without having grokked it, or therefore quite recalling it. It feels like a new discovery- and then I start reading it everywhere.

    • JMSmith:

      They applaud the resentful man when he expresses his resentment, and they assure him that he is not actually confessing his inferiority.

      They go farther, even, assuring him (perhaps even convincing him) that he in fact is superior to his superiors. They assure him that in his expressions of resentment he is confessing his superiority, and that he is perfectly justified in so doing.

      Relatedly, there is the situation that now and again arises in which one party in a dispute will claim (s)he is “being the bigger person.” By being the bigger person (s)he is of course implying that her counterpart is ‘being the smaller person’ of the two of them. Which might or might not be the case. The beauty of being the bigger person in any dispute between parties in any case is that the person who first lays claim to the title “bigger person” is also the one who decides what qualifications (her own) one must possess to earn the coveted title. In any number of cases I have personally witnessed of a party claiming “bigger person” status, (s)he is confessing to being the smaller person in reality and is, by all appearances, often not cognizant of it. My semi-educated guess is that she is not aware of what she is actually claiming because she has fallen victim to what William James described as the absurdity of repeating a thing often enough that people begin to believe it. But I might be wrong about that.

      • Claiming to be the bigger person is laying claim to the virtue that classical moralists called magnanimity, and part of this is being “big” enough to absorb petty insults without retaliation. I understand it to mean a “generous spirit” who doesn’t keep very strict accounts of who owes and is owed favors. Not no account! Just not very strict accounts. This can express itself in material generosity, but is essentially spiritual. “Letting things go” and eschewing resentment is part of this, and so is kindness to people who cannot possibly return the favor. Of course, attempting to scoring points by laying claim to magnanimity is very far from the spirit of magnanimity. In fact, it is pettiness masquerading as generosity.

  4. Liberals commonly claim that conservative politicians are “exploiting the fear and anxieties” of middle America in order to manufacture support for their pro-corporate, nationalist policies. “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” was the popular framing of this argument when I was a student in the mid 2000s. Liberals either ignored the obvious question about why normal Americans were experiencing “fear and anxiety”, or waved it away by claiming that the descendants of Civil Rights Era had become atavistic bigots.

    The discussion on the new right about the Social Justice movement is following a similar pattern. The right claims that “social justice is driven by resentment towards the successful”, a resentment whipped up by midwit Marxists bureaucrats of various stripes. Yes, very true. Yet, why are so many of my generational peers susceptible to such simple, recycled rhetoric? Many of the SJWs I know are not failures. They have jobs, spouses, homes; in other words, many of them are doing well above average for millennials. Nor were they political radicals in university; they were normal liberals who opposed Bush and mocked American chauvinism, but still valued civility, the rule of law, the honor of our troops (despite their feckless leaders).

    The lure of Marxist rhetoric, I believe, to my peers rests on our collective intuition of the gigantic swindle perpetrated by the generations who have gone before us. There are numerous facets to this enormous Bezzle, some of which are favorites of the left (ecocide, growing inequality, wage stagnation, college debt) and some of which are favorites of the new right (illegal immigration, destruction of tradition at universities, “preemptive” wars, welfare explosion, debt), but all these facets have a common intuitive core for us: feckless Boomers pillaged the storehouses of our civilization and staged a massive, multi-decade orgy of consumption and immorality. The banner of the “free market” has been used as theological justification for Crowley’s law of Thelema.

    I expect that you all have heard similar arguments before, so it is easy to dismiss them as common generational complaints, especially as it appears the author and most commenters are late Boomer/early Gen Xer. I advise against ignoring this, for the simple reason that unless this generational burden is addressed by people of sound mind, the injustice of the Bezzle will be exploited and manipulated by the ideologues and hucksters who seek to watch Western Civ burn because nobody liked their postmodern poetry in college.

    To conclude, I do acknowledge the debt I owe to the generations who have gone before, even to the Boomers. I wish only for serious discussion about why resentment has flourished now, beyond appeals to free market ideology.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting Nathan Claus.

      The article identifies reason after reason why resentment has flourished now. The article will continue to do so in the following parts. Check the headings. A major reason is the birth of the social justice movement itself. As Sowell points out, it can’t exist without resentment. If the point is to diminish resentment, it is a spectacular failure. SJWs can only gain momentum by ramping up feelings of resentment. We humans are a mimetic bunch and tend to copy each other.

      Berdyaev comments that without God there can be no man. With no heaven above, we seek to create heaven below and we look to our fellow man as recipients of the divine inheritance – autonomy, self-sufficiency and complete originality. Looking within we find ourselves bereft of such wonders and begin to hate (resent) our fellow man. Prior to that we knew ourselves to be deficient, dependent and remarkably ungodlike. We could thus commiserate and share in the burden of existence without imagining that anyone at all had escaped this common plight.

      Resentment is exacerbated with the death of God (i.e., Christianity) and a bit of prompting from the likes of Rousseau. So if you are looking for a nice non-market based reason, there’s one!

      For how resentment reached this fever pitch I recommend Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed. “Basic Economics” is a good one too for demonstrating through actual facts that no the middle class has not disappeared and the common lot has in fact got better and better. Having a few ultra-rich (a topic discussed in later “parts” of the article) is of no real significance.

      Whole sectors of society such as “community organizers” and various politicians and parties rely on generating resentment and then presenting themselves as saviors for the downtrodden. The purpose? To garner votes.

      Betty Friedan argued against women depicting themselves as victims, regarding this as counter-productive if they wanted to be respected members of the employed. Unfortunately, victim-power, mostly possessed by women, was just too tempting. But if women are oppressed, who are the oppressors? The other half of the human race who must then engage in endless self-flagellation until the end of time. Topics like why there are fewer women in the STEM subjects will be addressed in parts to follow.

      The Vision of the Anointed relates the MO of identifying a fake crisis and then insisting that government intervention is necessary. When this fails, it is then claimed that things would have been so much worse without this intervention. This includes crime rates (homicides increased by 300% between 1960 and 1990), teenage pregnancies and abortion, and poverty. Each one of those things had been declining at the time that a “war” was declared on them and each one skyrocketed as a result of the “solutions.”

      Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for instance are out of a job without resentment. They can’t lose. If they make thing worse (they do) then things just get worse and resentment increases. If things get better, they are saviors. But if things get too much better they become irrelevant. Hence, don’t be a victim of your own success.

      Resentment and thus hatred puts food on the table for academics, the media and politicians. With no skin in the game, being wrong hurts them not at all. They are leeches and parasites on the people they claim to be helping. There is an entire industry generating resentment. What further explanation is needed? Having said that, more evidence will be presented in the following parts.

    • Nathan Claus @ I am a late boomer, and so lived with and under them until they began to retire just a few years ago. In any case, I’m interested in this new generation gap because I’m old enough to remember the old generation gap. And I am also old enough to have listened to boomers boasting about how there was no generation gap between themselves and their children. That was actually a pretty big thing with boomers. The reason there was no generation gap (or at least was seldom a generation gap) was that boomer morality was adolescent, so boomers didn’t really “hassle” their kids.

      No rules: no fights. But then a society with no rules begins to fall apart and there are fights about that.

      So, as you say, the generation gap is returning, but it is not exactly the same this time around. The old generation gap was partly moral. The young boomers needed a lax morality to accommodate their hedonism. But it was also and more importantly religious. Beginning with the beats in the 1950s, youth claimed that “bourgeois society” was “sterile,” “meaningless,” and “absurd.” Behind all of this was rising affluence. The boomers knew that they would not have to live in the relatively austere material conditions of their parents, so they set out to make a moral and existential world that was also much more comfortable.

      As I see it, the new generation gap exists because the comfortable world of the boomers is coming apart. Christopher Lasch foresaw this forty years ago, when he spoke of “diminishing expectations.” Some of this is fainthearted complaining by your generation, but there also real apprehension that material affluence is far from assured. Add to this that, after half a century, we see the consequences of the boomer’s lax and comfortable morality and religion. It seems that a large number of the youth who are on the anti-boomer side of the generation gap are victims of the boomers’ sexual revolution. Children of divorce and Incels seem to be prominent.

      • I didn’t know what an Incel is until I read the term in your post and decided to look it up in the Urban Dictionary. Where I learned, after wading through a bunch of psychoanalytical bullshit, that an Incel is a person (usually a [misogynist white] male) who is involuntarily celibate, and is upset, mostly about the involuntary part. Or something like that.

        Anyway, thanks for introducing me to a new (to me) term.

  5. Since social justice is driven by resentment towards the successful* resulting in their scapegoating… — Richard Cocks

    Then “social justice” should be understood as perpetuating hatred for (P)erfection, ie., objective (S)upremacy.

    *The success-ful being perfected.


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