What is ‘Cultural Marxism’?

One of the best things about life is that as long as we are breathing, we can continue to learn!

One of the best things about blogging is that the comments I receive are often insightful, well thought out and I can learn from them.  Usually, these just point out the ‘holes’ in my education/knowledge base:  something I appreciate because it points me in the direction of things I need to learn.

Yet, every now and then, there are comments which are an education in themselves!  Below is an excerpt (!) from one such comment:  I thought it so important and informative that I wanted to share it with everyone.  And, having received permission from the author, here is the answer to my question ‘What is ‘Cultural Marxism’?’:

CodeSlinger says:

Cultural Marxism is not Marxism-Leninism (which we usually just call Communism).

Marxism-Leninism is a system of political economics, which results from applying the so-called Marxist dialectic, developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in a process called critical analysis, which uses it to deconstruct Western democracy and capitalism, and to rewrite history in terms of economic class struggle (and we all saw how that turned out).

In the 1920’s, Antonio Gramsci and György Lukács adapted the methods of the Marxist dialectic and critical analysis to the cultural sphere and applied it to the task of undermining Western science, philosophy, religion, art, education, and so on. The result is called the quiet revolution, the revolution from within, the revolution that cannot be resisted by force. This is cultural Marxism.

Now, that was quite bad enough, but then along came a group of sociologists and psychologists — chief among whom being Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, and Jürgen Habermas — and they combined the Marxist dialectic with Freudian psychology to produce an exceptionally corrosive concoction called Critical Theory, which they use to deconstruct Western culture and values, and to rewrite history in terms of sexual and racial power struggles (and we can all see how that is turning out).

Collectively, these guys are called the Frankfurt School, because they originally got together under Horkheimer at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung), which was domiciled in a little brick building belonging to the University of Frankfurt am Main in the early 1930’s. They all published their work in the Journal for Social Research (Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung), edited by none other than Horkheimer himself.

Then Hitler consolidated his control of Nazi Germany, so, seeing as they were all Jewish, they fled to the USA, more or less as a group, in 1934. In America, they affiliated themselves with Columbia and Princeton Universities. The Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung was renamed Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, and they really got down to business.

Horkheimer’s key idea was that Critical Theory could be used actively, to change society, in contrast to the traditionally passive role of sociology, which had been merely to understand society. These guys were not your typical academics, whose main interest is the pursuit of knowledge. On the contrary, these guys pursued an agenda: they wanted to find out why the Marxist revolution had failed in the West, and they wanted to remedy that situation. To that end, the group’s research addressed what to attack, how to structure the attack, how to deliver the attack, and how to measure the results of the attack.

Thus, for example, Adorno joined up with Paul Lazarsfeld, founder of the Bureau for Applied Social Research at Columbia, and began studying the effect of mass media on the population, and how to measure it. Starting in 1937, they collaborated on the Radio Project (bankrolled by the Rockefeller Foundation) which, among other things, produced the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast so they could measure its effects, and the Little Annie Project, which pioneered methods that quickly evolved into the Nielsen Ratings and the Gallup Polls.

Another example is the concept of intersubjective rationality, developed by Habermas, which replaces the individual process of reaching a conclusion based on the objective criterion that it follows from valid reasoning and known facts, on the one hand, with the social process of establishing a consensus supported by the subjective criterion that the group feels good about it, on the other hand. In today’s schools, those who do the former are maligned for being judgmental and demanding, while those who do the latter are praised for being good team players.

But, rather than go into pages and pages of detail right here and now, I’ll just list the titles of some of the major works of the Frankfurt School. Given the context, this combination of titles will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck:

Authority and the Family, Horkheimer, 1936
Escape from Freedom&amp, Fromm, 1941
Sex and Character, Fromm, 1943
The Authoritarian Personality, Adorno et al., 1950
Eros and Civilization, Marcuse, 1955
Repressive Tolerance, Marcuse, 1965
Communication and the Evolution of Society, Habermas, 1976

These are just a few of the core works; some are papers, some are books. The total volume of work by these guys, and their followers, is huge. The combined result, as I outlined in my very first post on this blog*, is something like the following:

It includes not only censorship of various kinds, but also the erosion of privacy, the debasement of the schools and the neutralization of the church. It includes the destruction of the family by setting wives against husbands and children against parents. It includes the disarmament of the public, the invalidation of self-defence and the incitement of fear. It includes the promulgation of the culture of victimhood, the promotion of immaturity and the reduction of society to a mob of narcissistic adult children. It includes the dogmatization of the universities. It includes the concentration of wealth, the concentration of ownership of corporations and the concentration of control of the media.

In sum, your description of all this as a descent into a new dark age** is exactly correct. And since you put it in those terms, I highly recommend an article by Michael J. Minnicino, called The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and Political Correctness. It speaks your language, and it will make the big picture very much clearer! Another good place to start is The Origins of Political Correctness, which is a transcript of a talk given by Bill Lind at the Accuracy in Academia Conference in 2000.

Update: The reference list above has been updated to also include the following: Escape from Freedom, Fromm, 1941

Xanthippa’s  footnotes:

*  ‘first post on this blog’= ‘first comment’… on my post  ‘Limiting our freedoms – making sense of the ‘big picture’

** reference to my post:  ‘Fight the ‘Forces of Darkness’!

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13 Responses to “What is ‘Cultural Marxism’?”

  1. JR Says:

    [via Blazing Cat Fur]
    Xanthippa,
    Excellent! CodeSlinger does a great job of outlining the thinking and thinkers involved. And the more people are aware of this stuff the better.
    My own introduction to the concept was through the writings of the Brazilian anti-socialist, Olavo de Carvalho. I wrote a brief piece on it here if you’re interested.
    Cheers, JR

  2. Matt Says:

    Cultural Marxism is an interesting topic, but that Schiller article was so-so. At least it tosses out a lot of names that provide a good starting point for further reading.

    I recommend this Hoover Institute article on Gramsci:
    http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3484376.html

  3. CodeSlinger Says:

    Matt:

    Yes, it’s a big topic, so any single article of reasonable length will not be able to do more than give you a heads-up and some leads to follow. Thanks for posting that link, by the way. I thought the article was quite good, but I it strikes me as too soft-spoken. Of course, that’s coming from someone who makes a bull in a china shop look dainty.

    On the one hand, the article gives excellent examples of the damage done by the cultural Marxists, such as “critical legal studies” (critical race theory and feminist legal theory), which is one of the main sources of the cloying stench of decay that pervades modern Western society. Critical legal studies promotes such concepts as “jury nullification,” which holds that black jurors should always convict white defendants and never convict blacks, independent of the evidence! Likewise, female jurors should always convict men and never convict women, independent of the evidence! Thus it tears down a system that, for all its imperfections, was at least trying to be just, and replaces it with a grotesquely inverted anti-system that is explicitly designed to be as unjust as possible. This is not legal theory; this is the legalistic equivalent of an auto-immune disease, in which the body’s own defences are turned against itself until it becomes the instrument of its own destruction.

    On the other hand, the article doesn’t adequately emphasise the coordinated efforts of the Frankfurt school and their specific intent to bring down Western culture. And by restricting attention to the clash of what it calls “Gramscian” versus “Tocquevillian” ideas in the political and legislative arenas, it completely ignores some of the vilest and most powerful forms of cultural Marxist attack on Western values, such as the attacks on education and indeed on rationality itself, and the didactic use of all forms of mass media, arts and entertainment to co-opt popular culture, once again, as the instrument of its own destruction. It was Marcuse, for example, who coined such debilitating slogans as “better red than dead.” With this catchy little jingle, mass marketed by the left-wing media, an entire generation what taught to eschew courage and rationalize surrender.

    In the end, the article draws the conclusion that the Tocquevillians are concerned with transmitting the accepted value system to the next generation, while the Gramscians are concerned with transforming it. That is a poor choice of words, in that it dramatically understates who is doing what to whom. The correct wording would be, the cultural Marxists are concerned with destroying Western civilization.

    I don’t know if the author is trying to be come off as even-handed, or is just afraid to call a spade, a spade. What I do know is this:

    The far right has taken a firm position … somewhere on the left.

  4. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    Here is a link a short but EXCELLENT html ebook entitled Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology by Lind, Raehn, Cribb, McDonald and Atkinson.

    Aternatively, you can get it chapter by chapter in pdf format here:

    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6

    Download it! Read it! Get angry! Fight back!

  5. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    Over on Blazing Cat Fur’s page linking to this post, W.L. Mackenzie Redux posted a link to a paper by one Hans Geser with the promising-sounding title of “Political Correctness: mental disorder, childish fad or advance of human civilization?” But the more I read of it, the more I dislike the author’s world view. Even though the paper does a good job of cataloguing the detailed mechanics of many of the problems caused by political correctness, it is sad to discover that Geser has drunken fully of that corrosive Kool-Aid called the Marxist dialectic, as is made clear almost immediately when he writes

    “Thus, PC fits into the tradition of antiliberal collectivistic political thinking which assumes that the most fundamental aim of politics is to conform to unchangeable highest principles which can only be cognized as objective, invariant entities, not created by arbitrary decision and manipulated at free human will.”

    Of course, the fact is that right and wrong are, indeed, objective and invariant in a certain sense, if only because human nature is objectively real and largely invariant across all times and places known to man. In thinking about morality and ethics and – by extension – politics, economics and law, we must necessarily be interested in what is right and wrong for human beings, what faculties and needs are inherent to them, what strengths and weaknesses they have, what rights they possess, and what obligations they bear, simply by virtue of being human.

    These things can be derived from first principles and known facts by a process of objective rationality tempered by compassionate understanding of the human condition. And moral principles formulated in this way are the bedrock upon which Western civilization is founded.

    And depriving the discussion of this rational and epistemological foundation is the first and deadliest blow struck against Western civilization by cultural Marxism.

    This is so important, I’m going to say it again: depriving the discussion of this rational and epistemological foundation is the first and deadliest blow struck against Western civilization by cultural Marxism. But its devious use of dialectical materialism to loudly denounce the very idea of right and wrong is just a ploy to weaken the opponent’s conviction long enough for cultural Marxism to cunningly substitute its own definition of right and wrong. And once this is done, it will brook no further discussion, as evidenced by the Coleman quote Geser uses:

    “The Politically Correct are self-righteous in a quasi-religious spirit. A sort of vanguard of
    enlightenment, they do not accept the judgment of voters (unenlightened) or consumers
    (selfish) and are prepared to impose reforms against the public will.”

    Yet even though this quote accurately describes the mechanics of what is wrong with political correctness, the apology is fairly dripping from the page. The cultural Marxists are not psycho-thugs and cultural apparatchiks to be vilified and routed out at every opportunity. Oh, no! They are to be lauded for being the “vanguard of enlightenment.”

    So we see that, according to Geser, the goals of political correctness are admirable, only its methods are to be criticized! In his conclusion, he writes:

    “By overprivileging minorities at the cost of hitherto dominant population segments (white males), good preconditions are created for these minority cultures to articulate themselves and to participate in the shaping of an overarching national culture.”

    And though he doesn’t say it outright, his tone throughout the paper makes it clear that we should view this as a good thing. Isn’t that just standard operating procedure for the cultural Marxist thought police? Even when it criticizes itself, cultural Marxism does so in a way that furthers its own objectives.

    Where Geser does find fault with political correctness, it is for being too blunt an instrument. His main complaint about it is that it diminishes sociology’s ability to design methods of social control! You see, if it weren’t politically incorrect to collect the requisite data, “minorities with high rates of deviance could be targeted for focused educational programs aiming at a reduction of aggressive behavior.”

    Such a phrase, coming from a sociologist, is enough to make the skin crawl. But this is not the most astounding thing we read in this paper. Not by a long shot. The real whopper is delivered right at the very end. In the very last sentence we read,

    “it might be concluded that Political Correctness is certainly a very Janus-faced thing: an advance in human civilization as well as a childish fad – and that some considerable efforts of self-clarification and self-criticism may be necessary to make sure that it does not become an almost incurable (because almost unnoticed) kind of collective mental disorder.”

    When I read that, my mouth hung open in disbelief! I’m tempted to call it a silver-tongued thought virus delivered by a mealy-mouthed weasel. But I won’t.

    I’ll just call it inappropriate, and let you read the meaning, evil, at your own discretion. After all, you shouldn’t have to be told. You should just know.

    Otherwise we may have to target you for some focused educational programs!

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  7. reni Says:

    thank you

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