Nicholas Stix’s rejection of political science

Responding to Fjordman’s essay, “The Cult of Reason,” Nicholas Stix writes:

With all due respect, Fjordman has it wrong. Political correctness is not about creating a perfect world, or about equality. Those are just talking points, framing devices, diversion tactics. PC is about power—the power to lie, the more outrageously, the better; to steal all of a nation’s wealth; to imprison the innocent, and to murder, murder, murder, at will! …

Fjordman makes the same error that many philosophers (e.g., Larry Auster) do: They assume that their opponents are philosophical, too.

I’ve posted this reply at Mr. Stix’s site:

If, as Mr. Stix does, we reduce the dominant ideology of our age (whatever we may call it, PC or leftism or liberalism) to nothing but a drive for power, we have not understood it. This is obvious from the fact that not all liberals are after power. Mr. Stix’s theory cannot explain the beliefs of the ordinary member of liberal society who has no power and is not seeking power but supports the PC ideology because he thinks it’s right. Why does he think it’s right? Mr. Stix not only has no answer to that question, he opposes any answer to that question, by dismissing all possible answers as “philosophy.”

It’s the same with Steve Sailer’s reductionist explanation of liberalism as a desire for status. What about all the people who are not concerned about status but support liberalism because they think it’s right? Sailer has no answer. Since he thinks liberalism is not based on any understanding of the world but is just based the desire for status, he has no arguments against people who think liberalism is true and right. And he renders his intellectual followers incapable of arguing against people who think liberalism is true and right.

Of course the left seeks power, and the left must be opposed on the level of power. But to reduce the left to nothing but a drive for power is to abandon any attempt to understand—and to persuade people of the falsity of—the dominant ideology of our age.

In short, Mr. Stix rejects political science. Political science means the attempt to arrive at a true account of the structure of political society, political movements, and political beliefs. Now Mr. Stix is correct when says that our opponents are not philosophers or political scientists, and that they do not approach their own ideas on the level of political science. They do, however, have reasons for what they believe, even if they do not always articulate them; and if we are to have any hope not only of defeating the false world view of liberalism but of replacing it with truth, those reasons need to be brought out and exposed.

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Jeff W. writes:

I agree with Nicholas Stix that PC is about power. It is a standard totalitarian tactic to speak bold lies and punish those who voice disagreement. By exerting this power, the opposition is divided into two servile groups, the silent and those who are subjected to punishment.

But LA is of course right when he says that PC must be opposed by reasoned argument. It’s just that the number of people who can be swayed in any meaningful way by reasoned argument is very small.

Most people cannot evaluate the truth of a proposition. But they can and do constantly evaluate who stands where in the human pecking order: everyone can tell who the alphas and the betas are. People can also fairly easily understand and evaluate the tactics that will help them personally get ahead and keep them out of trouble. For every one person who can be swayed by argument, there are twenty who are swayed by status concerns (cf. Sailer) and personal interest.

Thus successful opposition to PC must not only consist of argument, but must also have leaders who confidently advance in wealth and status while they publicly voice non-PC views. Such leaders must also open for their followers paths for personal advancement that do not involve submission to PC.

The real battle is for money, status, and, most importantly, governmental power. As long as the PC forces are winning that battle, we will continue to lose.

LA replies:

I think that Jeff underestimates the extent to which people believe in an ideology because they think it’s true and right.

Rick U. writes:

I think this subject came up in a previous discussion about liberals when Kristor proposed that a basic aspect of modern liberalism was the avoidance of any uncertainty in life. Mr. Stix misses the point entirely. Marxism (modern liberalism, collectivism, or whatever Marxist thought has morphed into in this age) is certainly a theory of how to achieve perfect equality, i.e. utopia on earth. Political correctness is but one tool that Marxists use to further this agenda and is not the sole purpose of Marx’s theory. As Hayek pointed out: PC and propaganda become necessary in the Marxist development of order because they need time to achieve the perceived good for the proletariat, and therefore end up “cooking the books” to portray only benefits of the system in the short term while the long term quest for perfect equality evolves. Of course, the perfect equality is unachievable which is Fjordman’s point, and thus the Marxist falls back on political correctness in order to perpetuate the myth that he is capable of achieving perfect or absolute equality. Political correctness then must evolve into the rejection of reality and false portrayals of the same through a system of propaganda intended to deceive the masses. At this point, it becomes a power grab, but these are a chain of events and many people involved in the chain certainly had a philosophy motivating their actions.

LA replies:

You point to my basic disagreement with Fjordman: that he makes “political correctness” his name for the ruling leftist or liberal ideology of our age. PC is the enforcement of leftist or liberal ideology (I prefer calling it “liberal” for reasons I’ve written about at length). PC is not the ideology itself. To call it PC is to trivialize it.

Rick Darby writes:

There is more than one motive for accepting or promoting PC. That’s one reason it’s so powerful: different kinds of people get different perceived payouts. Nicholas Stix, you, and Jeff W. are each right, but only partly right.

The urge to power may be the least common motive, but it exists. Examples: minorities who see in PC a way to get what they want without earning it or a chance to bash (literally or figuratively) members of the dominant culture. Politicians who exploit the racial spoils system for votes and patronage. Minority employees promoted beyond their abilities.

And of course some people believe the PC ideology is valid, humane, uplifting. These devotees of the cult are primarily in the academic-media-legal axis, with running dogs at the head of government bureaucracies.

I agree with Jeff, too. Many of those who follow the PC line are neither explicitly seeking power nor are they “true believers.” Some have never had a philosophical or sociological thought in their lives, but they are gifted with very sensitive antennae that pick up the Zeitgeist and enable them to express the “right” words and attitudes. They go along and get along.

Steve N. writes:

As a daily reader of trads (like VFR and WWWtW) and HBDers (like Sailer and Mangan) and Moldbug (who defies categorization), I feel I have a horse in this conflict to say nothing of one foot in each corner.

I don’t see why you cannot both be right. Obviously Stix’s reduction of liberalism to a pure power play is too extreme. Ideology must play a role; otherwise we are left asking: Whence liberalism? Why not Caesaropapism, or Shinto? Allowing for that, however, it is quite possible that the vast unwashed mass of “liberals” subscribe to PC tenets only because, or largely because, it is the regnant ideology. I.e., it is fashionable. All the smart and beautiful and rich people subscribe to it, and all the unfashionable, gun-toting, NASCAR-loving rubes with less than perfect teeth don’t.

With this vast, unwashed (and largely unthinking) middle, it is easy to imagine a radical shift in a short time, from liberalism to some manifestation of reaction. But only if and when it becomes fashionable. Most people cannot (or will not) be reasoned out of an ideology they were never fairly reasoned into. They took it in like mother’s milk and will happily and unreflectively espouse it as long as they remain comfortable.

Alan Roebuck posted this in reply to Nicholas Stix:

Nicholas, you said

Political correctness is not about creating a perfect world, or about equality…. PC is about power—the power to lie … to steal … to imprison the innocent, and to murder, murder, murder, at will!

Fjordman makes the same error that many philosophers (e.g., Larry Auster) do: They assume that their opponents are philosophical, too.

Of course, the left exerts power, as all ruling regimes must. But power requires the exertion of force, and the force cannot be mustered unless people generally believe the ideas are true. That’s why even totalitarian regimes must engage in propaganda, i.e., the attempt to get people to accept ideas. Even Saddam Hussein had to engage in forms of persuasion, in addition to exerting power. Power and persuasion will always be required of every ruling regime.

Although leftist activists, bureaucrats and thugs often seem only dimly aware of the ideas that they are promulgating, the ideas are ultimately decisive because in the long run, individuals and societies act in accordance with the ideas they accept.

There is, of course, the practical question of how to engage in persuasion. Entrenched leftists will naturally resist persuasion. But if we think in the long term, it is certainly possible to undermine the system by publicly opposing the false ideas that undergird the rule of the left. The current ruling class will be dead one day, and liberalism, based as it is on hatred of traditional ways rather than on love of truth, beauty and goodness, is deeply unappealing to normal people. In addition to power, man also has an innate desire for intellectual integrity, and this is where liberalism is supremely vulnerable.

After all, the leftists waged a centuries-long campaign to take over a civilization originally ruled by what we would call conservative thought. If they can do it, we can too.

LA replies:

I say to all those who think that liberalism consists primarily of a desire for power: go to any mainstream conservative group and tell them that you think that nonwhite immigration is harming America and that it must be stopped in order to keep America from turning into a nonwhite majority country. They will oppose you. Many of them will be disgusted with you and will want nothing to do with you. Why? Because they seek power? No, because they believe that to care about race is wrong.

Yet innumerable conservatives refuse to face the fact that people oppose race-conscious immigration restriction because they think it is wrong, and that they believe in race-blind liberalism because they think it is right. These conservatives don’t want to deal with the issue on an intellectual and moral plane. They don’t want to challenge the prevailing beliefs of our time. It’s so much easier to talk about “PC” and power.

LA continues:

Again, I am not dismissing the “power” dimension of reality, not at all. As someone said above, most people will not adopt non-PC views until they see respected and successful figures in our society take them. At the same time, our society will never get to the point where respected and successful figures take non-PC views, unless people—people who are not necessarily respected and successful—believe in those views and argue for them.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 23, 2009 10:44 AM | Send

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