Tomorrow Belongs to the Woke
Joel Kotkin on young anti-liberals; Eric Kaufmann's survey results; Rex Woodbury on Gen Z; Cory Clark and Bo Winegard on women and the academy;
Socialism, long anathema in America, has gained currency among the younger generations. A poll conducted by the Communism Memorial Foundation in 2016 found that 44 percent of American millennials favor socialism while 14 percent chose either fascism or communism. The emerging Left in America is also now among the most enthusiastic supporters of censorship, apparently perceiving any opposition to be essentially illegitimate
…Liberal democracy must also find ways to restore hope for economic improvement, particularly among the young. To halt the spread of authoritarianism, true liberals must also develop an answer to the economic malaise that spurs its growth and provides its rationale. Growing class inequities need to be addressed by a new commitment to broad-based economic progress.
Eric Kaufmann reports on today’s college students.
A quarter of students are LGBT, and there are roughly equal shares of Christian and nonreligious students. LGBT, Nonreligious, and Christians are set to become more important political groups among America’s future leaders.
Liberal arts colleges are the least politically diverse. Many have almost no conservatives, and thus very low viewpoint diversity. But they have high sexual diversity, at nearly 40 percent LGBT.
Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 55-23 margin on campus, and liberals outnumber conservatives 53-21. Elite students are thus two-thirds more Democratic and twice as liberal as the American population. . . .
Among elite students, there is a 15-point gender gap in political ideology and party identification between men and women. This is 3 to 5 times larger than the gender gap in the general population. It is also 2 to 3 times larger than the gender gap among either the 18-25 or college-educated general population. The campus gender gap has grown steadily since 2004.
It is a long report, with much to chew on.
It’s stunning to watch the speed with which norms are changing. Gender, masculinity, and sexuality are each becoming more fluid, more complex, more multi-faceted. We see this is in celebrities like Elliot Page and Sam Smith coming out as non-binary, in the ways that Billie Eilish and Harry Styles dress, in Gen Z men (many straight) wearing make-up and jewelry.
Pointer from Steve V.
I have to say that I marvel at the high numbers of those who self-report as non-binary. Until very recently, across many different societies—urban/rural, temperate latitudes/cold/hot, advanced/primitive—I think it is fair to say that over 90 percent of adults have been heterosexual, with the remainder mostly L or G, as opposed to any of the other letters.
Why is the society of affluent college students in the U.S. so different? Either it is the case that alternative gender identities were actually quite prevalent in every other society but these were repressed until the affluent American children of the 21st century came along, or else those children are in the throes of a vogue mania. If the mania is unsustainable, which is the way that it appears to a lot of us old folks, then at their tenth-year college reunion many of those who now claim to be non-binary will show up looking rather ordinary, with a spouse of the opposite sex. But is that actually going to happen?
I wonder if Kaufmann’s analysis helps to explain the emergence of the movement known here as National Conservatism, which emphasizes Christianity. As Paul D. Miller puts it,
Lowry, Hazony, and Huntington openly identify as nationalists (I think Reno does too, but I am not certain), and all of them explicitly argue that Christianity is a core part of America’s cultural identity that must be preserved by a nationalist program of public policy. What else are we supposed to call them? They are nationalists-who-believe-Christianity-is-core-to-the-nation. “Christian nationalist” is an acceptable shorthand.
According to Kaufmann, where one can still find conservatives on a college campus these days, they tend to be white Christians. If you are a conservative and want a following, I suppose it is inevitable that you will be drawn to that demographic.
But for me, the NatCons are out of my comfort zone. I am mostly libertarian, Jewish by birth, and secular in outlook. That might also describe Mises, Rand, Rothbard, and Milton Friedman, four out of the five leading Radicals for Capitalism. I differ from them, but I can relate to them. Yoram Hazony’s Jewish background aside, the NatCons do not check any of the boxes of “libertarian, Jewish by family history, secular.” They may share my dislike of Wokeism, but they’re not mishpacha.
I think of the United States historically as having adopted a Christianity that tolerates people with different beliefs, keeping the spheres of religion and politics separate. Wokeism is intolerant. In fact, when I first began writing about it, I referred to it as the religion that is focused on persecuting heretics. That focus is itself a heresy against the civil religion of tolerance that has served America so well.
Another disturbing trend is the feminization of higher education. Cory Clark and Bo Winegard summarize the results of numerous surveys.
As is always the case when discussing group differences, these are averages. It is important to emphasize that plenty of women champion academic freedom and resist the claim that scholars should suppress research for moral reasons.
But on average,
men are more tolerant of controversial and potentially offensive scientific findings being pursued, disseminated, and discussed, and women are more willing to obstruct or suppress science perceived to be potentially harmful or offensive. Put more simply, men are relatively more interested in advancing what is empirically correct, and women are relatively more interested in advancing what is morally desirable.
Longtime readers may remember Academic corruption 2: Emasculated culture, a blog post that I referred to as “cancel-bait.” I expect to see a lot of canceled substack subscriptions today.
When it comes to social arrangements, men tend to set up institutions that use impersonal rules, competition, and rewards for excellence. Women tend to use social arrangements that feature gossip, personal exclusion (“I don’t like her. She can’t come to my party”), and ad hoc appeals for authorities to intervene on behalf of those who fall short of excellence.
I think that women should be included in higher education and other realms where they once were not welcome. But I think that our institutions worked better when they operated under impersonal rules, competition, and rewards for excellence.
Think of women’s soccer. They approach the game the way that men do. They don’t get together and say “Let’s not pass the ball to Janet. We don’t like her any more. Right?” They don’t say, “It’s not fair that Sally never gets to be goalie. Let her play goalie this game.”
Other institutions could have absorbed women without sacrificing the operating principles necessary to make them work well. But I don’t see things turning around.
Taking all the trends together, it looks to me like tomorrow belongs to the Woke.
As a descendant of Mormons, let me say that you tend to forgot how much intra-Christian intolerance there has been in US history, and not just toward Mormons. Much of the intolerance of the woke pales in comparison to how Christian Americans have treated other Christian Americans in the past. You underestimate how much liberal practices and norms still govern the lives of the woke and how far so many are from the intolerances of yore. You also overestimate the resiliency of the woke -- this is where comparisons to religion go wrong. It has no effective structuring rituals, no way to reinforce the kind of quiet, everyday commitment of the religious, no truly inspiring acts or people to emulate. What counts as "inspiring" for extreme wokery changes frequently and incentives for constant infighting abound.
You also overestimate how much wokery is discontinuous with liberal traditions and values and how much of a spectrum there is among young people in allegiance to its more extreme and misguided elements. I am more hopeful that as people age they will realize and work out the contradictions of the better sides of the liberal norms and practices they have been socialized into with the genuinely conflicting aspects of wokery in favor of the former. Liberal institutions, practices, norms, etc. have never been established as a result of straightforward and flawless reasoning from first principles and never will be. They've survived worse social rumble tumble and so we have good reason to hope for their persistence, even improvement, through more.
Within a generation (25 years tops), we all will notice the inability to keep the modern infrastructure running. We already can bear witness to the inability to build it in any reasonable time or cost frame.
When Hurricane Irene hit Connecticut, my neighbors and I set up coffee/food stands to feed the people repairing the electrical power lines/poles that had been destroyed. I noted at the time that those workers were literally all white, all male, and almost all of them were at least as old as I was at the time (I was 45 in September 2011). I think that the workers that keep the power on, the water running, and the communications hardware working are dying off/retiring, and are not being replaced in the US.