Ed Driscoll

#Occupyfail: The Putrid Stench of a Century of Folk Marxism

The Professor links to a lengthy post by Stacy McCain titled, “Indoctrination: What the Occupiers Believe and Why They Believe It,” and spotlights this quote:

If the Occupiers are in any sense Marxist, then, they have absorbed their Marxism by some mysterious process of cultural osmosis, because it is impossible to imagine any of those nitwits taking time to work their way through “Imperialism” or “What Is to Be Done?” (And forget about Das Kapital, a book so notoriously unreadable that I doubt even the most devout Communists ever got past the second chapter.) What is important to understand is that Marxism is a belief system, and that a person may be influenced by Marxist ideas without ever realizing the origins of these ideas.

Back in 2006, economics professor Arnold Kling wrote a two-part series for Tech Central Station (later TCS Daily, now known as Ideas in Action) on the two worldviews that pervade America and have been handed down over the last century via academia and popular culture, to the point where many people have no idea of their origin. In the first part of his article, Kling explored how Sigmund Freud’s ideas were omnipresent in the pop culture of the ’50s and ’60s, even though Freud himself had passed away in 1939. In the second, Kling referred to Folk Locke-ism and Folk Marxism. Try to guess which of those two ideologies dominates academia:

The vast majority of college professors are folk Marxists, even though they do not advocate for Communism. Their folk Marxism is dangerous because they do not even realize the extent to which it colors their world view. Although the academy is also the last bastion of avowed Marxists, it is not the overt Marxists who trouble me. They are not winning converts.

Every day, in big and small ways, academic speech reinforces the view that the world consists of oppressor classes and oppressed classes. In a way, the controversy over Lawrence Summers as President of Harvard reflects his defiance of folk Marxist orthodoxy. Folk Marxism is so automatic and so pervasive that it effectively goes unnoticed.

I would consider it a great step forward for liberals in the academic community to acknowledge the existence of folk Locke-ism and folk Marxism. If my liberal friends want to express support for folk Marxism, that is fine. If they want to criticize folk Locke-ism, that is all right, too. If they would like to give a less loaded name than “folk Marxism” to the oppressed/oppressor paradigm, I have no problem using a different label.

My concern with what I call folk Marxism is substantive, not rhetorical. To me, the danger of folk Marxism in the academy today is that it is implicit and unrecognized — and therefore unquestioned.

As the first quote in Stacy’s post highlights, it’s those who order us to “QUESTION AUTHORITY!” who invariably do so the least themselves — if only because they don’t even know where the ideas that drive authority derive from.