You are here

PC and modern polarities

Bruce Charlton has been churning out post after post on political correctness. (See his weblog entries posted November 1 through November 3.)

One of his themes is the relation between “old left” bureaucratism and “new left” hedonism. The former runs the show, the latter makes things a bit more fun for those who run it.

To my mind the two imply each other. Neutral bureaucracy needs something to promote, and subjective preferences are as good a goal as any. And subjective preferences can’t be the guide to life unless there’s a structure to take care of things so we can pursue them. Bureaucracy provides that structure.

The relationship goes deeper though. Modernity creates polarities that need each other but can’t be put in relation—body and soul, fact and value, reason and desire, objective and subjective. The tendency results from a narrow understanding of reason that’s incapable of dealing with basic aspects of the world. There’s no concept of the good, for example, to bring evaluations into an ordered system and make them objective. Insistence on extreme objectivity thus leads to extreme subjectivity. Whatever can’t be made absolutely neutral and rational is treated as pure subjective opinion.

Postmodernity and electronic media exacerbate the situation by dissolving the world into fragmentary images, impressions, and soundbites, each equally valid, from which anything at all can be constructed. The result is dissociation of thought from settled realities, concrete experiences, and particular persons and situations. It becomes an artificial structure inhabiting a world of its own. Public reality becomes essentially subjective, in much the way private valuations are thought subjective, but dependent on the subjectivity of a dominant intellectual class rather than that of individuals.

The meaning of PC, then, is that we’re required to live in the fantasy world of our rulers. To refuse to do so is to destroy the only public order possible, and so set ourselves against social order as such. That obviously can’t be allowed, so stamping out PC dissenters becomes a basic bureaucratic function.