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October 12, 2018

REIHAN SALAM: Taylor Swift Succumbs to Competitive Wokeness: The pop star has long avoided partisan politicking—but in the culture industries, making a show of social liberalism is increasingly the only option. “The views we typically describe as socially liberal are, by and large, the views of the affluent, college-educated people who lead virtually all of our major institutions, even when these views are actually rather censorious. These women and men can shape culture by incentivizing certain behaviors through their control over, for example, elite college admissions. They normalize some ways of life while stigmatizing others through their informal control of the organs of culture and entertainment. . . . What is new, I would argue, is the second development: that the number of people who are susceptible to elite influence has grown larger. Here is where I must tread lightly, as what follows is necessarily impressionistic. I get the sense that the most aggressively ‘woke’ young people are precisely those who find themselves in the most fiercely competitive environments. Status and prestige matter to everyone, of course, but they matter to some more than others. Most of all, they matter to those who find themselves in precarious industries where one’s reputation counts for a great deal and, just as important, to lonely, unattached people who long to feel valued and desired. Delayed marriage and child-rearing ensure that many more young people spend many more years in the mating market and, by extension, orienting their lives around fulfilling their own social and sexual appetites over the care and feeding of children. This is especially true among children of the culturally powerful upper middle class, who’ve been trained to fear downward mobility in a stratified society as much as our primitive ancestors feared being devoured by toothy predators. The result is what you might call a culture of ‘competitive wokeness.'”