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This is the sixth and final chapter in the Free Congress Foundation’s book on Political Correctness, or – to call it by its real name – cultural Marxism. It is a short bibliographical essay intended not as an exhaustive resource for scholars but as a guide for interested citisens who want to learn more about the ideology that is taking over Western Europe and America.
To understand Political Correctness or so called cultural Marxism and the threat it poses it is necessary to understand its history, particularly the history of the institution most responsible for creating it, the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School, or the Institute for Social Research as it was formally known, was established at Frankfurt University in Germany in 1923. This fact alone is important, because it tells us that Political Correctness is not merely a leftover of the European student rebellions of the 1960s and 1970s.
Another fact from that long-ago year, 1923, is equally significant: the intended name for the Frankfurt School was the Institute for Marxism. The Institute’s father and funder, Felix Weil, wrote in 1971 that he “wanted the Institute to become known, and perhaps famous, due to its contributions to Marxism as a scientific discipline…” Beginning a tradition Political Correctness still carries on, Weil and others decided that they could operate more effectively if they concealed their Marxism; hence, on reflection, they chose the neutral-sounding name, the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung). But “Weil’s heartfelt wish was still to create a foundation similar to the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow – equipped with a staff of professors and students, with libraries and archives – and one day to present it to a German Soviet Republic.” In 1933, this disguised “Institute for Marxism” left Germany and reestablished itself in New York City, where in time it shifted its focus to injecting its ideology into Western European and American society.
The most readable English-language history of the Frankfurt School is Martin Jay’s book, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute for Social Research, 1932 - 1950 (University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 1973 – new edition in 1996). This book is in print in paperback and can be ordered through any bookstore. The reader should be aware that Jay’s book is, in the words of another work on the Frankfurt School, a “semiofficial” history, which is to say that it is largely uncritical. Like virtually all other English-language authors on the Institute, Jay is on the political left. Nonetheless, the book provides a solid factual introduction to the Frankfurt School, and the reader should have little trouble discerning in it the roots and origins of today’s Political Correctness.
In his first chapter, “The Creation of the Institut für Sozialforschung and Its First Frankfurt Years,” Jay lays bare the Institute’s Marxist origins and nature, and equally its efforts to conceal both: “The original idea of calling it the Institut für Marxismus (Institute for Marxism) was abandoned as too provocative, and a more Aesopian alternative was sought (not for the last time in the Frankfurt School’s history).” Of the Institute’s first director, Carl Grünberg, Jay writes, “Grünberg concluded his opening address by clearly stating his personal allegiance to Marxism as a scientific methodology. Just as liberalism, state socialism, and the historical school had institutional homes elsewhere, so Marxism would be the ruling principle at the Institut.” Jay’s first chapter also introduces the Institute’s critical shift that laid the basis for today’s Political Correctness, a.k.a. cultural Marxism: “if it can be said that in early years of its history the Institut concerned itself primarily with an analysis of bourgeois society’s socio-economic substructure, in the years after 1930 its prime interest lay in its cultural superstructure.”
The second chapter, “The Genius of Critical Theory,” gets at the heart of the “Critical Studies” departments that now serve as the fonts of Political Correctness on college campuses. All of these are branches and descendants of the Critical Theory first developed in the 1930s by the Frankfurt School. The term “Critical Theory” is itself something of a play on words. One is tempted to ask, “OK, what is the theory?” The answer is, “The theory is to criticise.” Jay writes, “Critical Theory, as its name implies, was expressed through a series of critiques of other thinkers and philosophical traditions…Only by confronting it in its own terms, as a gadly of other systems, can it be fully understood.” The goal of Critical Theory was not truth, but praxis, or revolutionary action: bringing the current society and culture down through unremitting, destructive criticism. According to Jay, “The true object of Marxism, Horkheimer argued (Max Horkheimer succeeded Carl Grünberg as director of the Institute in July, 1930), was not the uncovering of immutable truths, but the fostering of social change.”
The central question facing the Institute in the early 1930s was how to apply Marxism to the culture. The title of Jay’s third chapter gives the answer: “The Integration of Psychoanalysis.” Here, Jay’s book falls down to some extent, in that it does not offer a clear understanding of how the Institute integrated Marx and Freud. The answer appears to be that Freud’s later critiques were made conditional on a capitalist, bourgeois order: a revolutionary, post-capitalist society could “liberate” man from his Freudian repression. Here again one sees key aspects of Political Correctness emerging, including a demand for sexual “liberation” and the attack on “patriarchal” Western culture.
If the precise nature of the blending of Marx and Freud is left open by Jay, his next chapter makes the blend’s application clear: “The Institute’s First Studies of Authority.” The Institute left Germany for New York in 1933 because the Nazis came to power in Germany. Not surprisingly, one of the Institute’s first tasks in New York was to oppose Nazism. It did so largely by concocting a psychological “test” for an “authoritarian personality.” Supposedly, people with this authoritarian personality were likely to support Nazism. Both the concept and the methodology were doubtful at best. But the Institute’s work laid down an important tool for the left, namely a notion that anyone on the right was psychologically unbalanced. And it marked a key turning for the Institute in the birth of Political Correctness in Western Europe and America, in that the empirical research the studies demanded was done on Western Europeans and Americans. Ultimately, the result was Institute member Theodor Adorno’s vastly influential book, The Authoritarian Personality, published in 1950.
Jay’s fifth chapter, “The Institute’s Analysis of Nazism,” continues the theme of the “authoritarian personality.” But his sixth, “Aesthetic Theory and the Critique of Mass Culture,” provides an answer to the question of why most “serious” modern art and music is so awful. It is intended to be. Theodor Adorno was the Institute’s lead figure on high culture – he began life as a music critic and promoter of Schönberg – and his view was that in the face of the “repressiveness” of bourgeois society, art could only be “true” if it were alienating, reflecting the alienated society around it. Jay quotes Adorno: “A successful work is not one which resolves objective contradictions in a spurious harmony, but one which expresses the idea of harmony negatively by embodying the contradictions, pure and uncompromised, in its innermost structure.”
Adorno despised the new mass culture – film, radio, and jazz – in what seems to be a case of missed opportunity: today, the entertainment industry is the single most powerful promoter of Political Correctness. Another key Frankfurt School figure, Walter Benjamin, did see the potential: “he paradoxically held out hope for the progressive potential of politicised, collectivised art.” At some point, someone – the question of who lies beyond the boundaries of Jay’s book – put Benjamin’s perception together with the Frankfurt School’s general view, which Jay summarises as “the Institut came to feel that the culture industry enslaved men in far more subtle and effective ways than the crude methods of domination practiced in earlier eras.”
In the remainder of the book, Jay traces the (sort of) empirical work of the Institute in the 1940s, which was beset by the same problems as their earlier survey “research,” and follows the Institute in its return to Frankfurt, Germany after World War II. But by this point, the reader will already have the picture. He will have seen how Marxism was translated from economic into cultural terms; discerned the themes of sexual liberation, feminism, “victims” and so on that make up today’s Political Correctness; and found in Critical Theory the origins of the endless wailing about “racism, sexism and homophobia” that “PC” pours forth. One key piece of history is missing: “an analysis of Marcuse’s influential transmission of the Frankfurt School’s work to a new Western European and American audience in the 1960s,” as Jay puts it in his epilogue. Also, Jay curiously passes over with only the most minimal discussion the effective move of the Institute, in the persons of Horkheimer and Adorno, to Los Angeles during the war. Did the connections they built there play any role in injecting the Frankfurt School’s philosophy into Western European and American film and, after the war, television? Jay does not touch upon the subject.
But for the reader new to the Frankfurt School as the source of today’s Political Correctness, Jay’s The Dialectical Imagination offers a solid base. The book concludes with an extensive (though not annotated) bibliography of works by and about the Frankfurt School.
As to other accessible works about the Frankfurt School, the definitive modern work in German has recently been translated into English: The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories and Political Significance by Rolf Wiggershaus, (translated by Michael Robertson, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, first paperback edition 1995). This covers much of the same ground as Martin Jay’s book, although it also follows the Institute from its post-war return to Germany up to Adorno’s death in 1969. Wiggershaus is more detailed than Jay, and, although he too is on the left politically, he is more critical than Jay. In the book’s Afterword, Wiggershaus offers a brief look (and a hostile one) at some German conservative critiques of the Frankfurt School. A picture emerges that will seem familiar to Western Europeans and Americans entrapped in the coils of Political Correctness:
Since the publication in 1970 of his book The Poverty of Critical Theory, Rohrmoser has promulgated, in constantly varying forms, the view that Marcuse, Adorno, and Horkheimer were the terrorists’ intellectual foster-parents, who were using Cultural Revolution to destroy the traditions of the Christian West. Academics such as Ernst Topitsch and Kurt Sontheimer, who saw themselves as educators and liberal democrats, followed in Rohrmoser’s footsteps. In 1972 Topitsch, a critical rationalist who was Professor of Philosophy in Graz, had stated that behind the slogans of “rational discussion” and “dialogue free of domination” there was being established at the universities “a distinctterrorism of political convictions such as never existed before, even under Nazi tyranny.”
Perhaps no aspect of Political Correctness is more prominent in Western European life today than feminist ideology. Is feminism, like the rest of Political Correctness, based on the cultural Marxism imported from Germany in the 1930s? While feminism’s history in Western Europe certainly extends longer than sixty years, its flowering in recent decades has been interwoven with the unfolding social revolution carried forward by cultural Marxists.
Where do we see radical feminism ascendant? It is on television, where nearly every major offering has a female “power figure” and the plots and characters emphasise inferiority of the male and superiority of the female. It is in the military, where expanding opportunity for women, even in combat positions, has been accompanied by double standards and then lowered standards, as well as by a decline in enlistment of young men, while “warriors” in the services are leaving in droves. It is in government-mandated employment preferences and practices that benefit women and use “sexual harassment” charges to keep men in line. It is in colleges where women’s gender studies proliferate and “affirmative action” is applied in admissions and employment. It is in other employment, public and private, where in addition to affirmative action, “sensitivity training” is given unprecedented time and attention. It is in public schools, where “self awareness” and “self-esteem” are increasingly promoted while academic learning declines. And sadly, we see that several European countries allow and fund free distribution of contraceptive pills combined with liberal abortion policies.
While the radical feminist movement is embraced by present day Political Correctness ideology, derived from cultural Marxism, feminism as such does have earlier roots. Feminism was conceived and birthed in the 1830s, in the generation experiencing the first stage of the industrial revolution. Women, who for centuries had shared the challenges of surviving in an agrarian life, were becoming part of a middle-class gentry with more time and energy to spend writing newspaper articles and novels for their “sisters.” The initial stages of the feminisation of European culture had started.
These feminists, radical in their time, supported women’s rights, egalitarianism, anti-colonialism, pacifism and other causes which we now observe in popular culture. In contrast to today’s radical feminists, social feminists of the 1890s and early 20th century were of a less totalitarian character. They stood for women’s suffrage but also advocated the strengthening of the family.
Today, the feminisation of European culture, moving rapidly since the 1960s continues to intensify. Indeed, the present-day radical feminist assault through support for mass Muslim immigration has a political parallel to the their anti-colonial efforts. This current assault is in part a continuation of a century-old effort to destroy traditional European structures, the very foundation of European culture.
There is no doubt in the media that the “man of today” is expected to be a touchy-feely subspecies who bows to the radical feminist agenda. He is a staple of Hollywood, the television network sitcoms and movies, and the political pundits of talk shows. The feminisation is becoming so noticeable that newspapers and magazines are picking up on it. For example, the Washington Times and National Review magazine combined to tell us that “behind the breezy celebration of ‘guy stuff’ in today’s men’s magazine lurks a crisis of confidence. What does it mean to be masculine in the 90s?” It is revealed that today’s men’s magazines (Esquire, GQ, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Journal, Details, Maxim, Men’s Perspective)”are all geared to a new feminised man….” Some examples? The old masculine attitude toward personal appearance is disappearing. If memory serves, our fathers’ acts of personal upkeep were mostly limited to shaving and putting on a tie. According to Lowry:
It’s hard to imagine [them] interested in articles on ‘A Flat Belly for the Beach’ (Verge), or the three new men’s fragrances for the fall season (GQ), or even ‘The New Fall Suit’ (Esquire). But somewhere along the line men became less concerned with being strong and silent, and more worried about making themselves pretty.
Indeed the feminisation of European culture is nearly completed. And the last bastion of male domination, the police force and the military, is under assault.
If this “feminisation” trend were driven only by radical feminists seeking to pull down a perceived male-dominated hierarchy, there would be more hope that the cycles of history would move Europe toward a stable accommodation between men and women. But the drive is deeper, and it will not be satisfied by any accommodation. The radical feminists have embraced and been embraced by the wider and deeper movement of cultural Marxism. For dedicated Marxists, the strategy is to attack at every point where an apparent disparity leaves a potential constituency of “oppressed” victim groups – Muslims, women etc. Cultural Marxists, men and women, are making the most of it, and the theory developed by the Frankfurt School provides the ideology.
The Frankfurt School theorised that the authoritarian personality is a product of the patriarchal family. This idea is in turn directly connected to Engels’s The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, which promotes matriarchy. Furthermore, it was Karl Marx who wrote in The Communist Manifesto about the radical notion of a “community of women.” He also, in 1845, wrote disparagingly in his The German Ideology of the idea that the family was the basic unit of society.
The concept of the “authoritarian personality” is not just to be interpreted as a model for the conduct of warfare against prejudice as such. It is a handbook for psychological warfare against the European male, to render him unwilling to defend traditional beliefs and values. In other words, the aim was to emasculate him. Undoubtedly the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt University meant this, as it used the term “psychological techniques for changing personality.”
The “authoritarian personality,” studied in the 1940s and 1950s by Western Europeans and American followers of the Frankfurt School, prepared the way for such psychological warfare against the male gender role. The aim was promoted by Herbert Marcuse and others under the guise of “women’s liberation” and in the New Left movement in the 1960s. Evidence that psychological techniques for changing personality are intended to focus in particular on the emasculation of the European male has also been provided by Abraham Maslow, founder of “third force humanist psychology” and promoter of psychotherapeutic techniques in public school classrooms. He wrote that “the next step in personal evolution is a transcendence of both masculinity and femininity to general humanness.”
Cultural Marxist stalwarts apparently know exactly what they want to do and how they plan to do it. They have actually already succeeded in accomplishing much of their agenda.
How did this situation come about in European universities? Gertrude Himmelfarb has observed that it slipped past traditional academics almost unobserved until it was too late. It occurred so “quietly” that when they “looked up”, postmodernism was upon them with a vengeance. “They were surrounded by such a tidal wave of multicultural subjects such as radical feminism, deconstructed relativism as history and other courses” which undermine the perpetuation of Western civilisation. Indeed, this tidal wave slipped by just as Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School had envisioned – a quiet revolution propagating a European hate ideology with the goal of destroying Western civilisation and which was: anti-God, anti-Christian, anti-family, anti-nationalist, anti-patriot, anti conservative, anti-hereditarian, anti-ethnocentric, anti-masculine, anti-tradition, and anti-morality.
“Cultural Marxism,” as preached by the Frankfurt School has thus spurred the widely popular and destructive concepts of “affirmative action,” “multiculturalism” and “diversity.” One can’t escape these terms today. These concepts have destroyed every defensivestructure of European society which has laid the foundation for the Islamisation of Europe.
Literature is, if not the most important cultural indicator, at least a significant benchmark of a society’s level of civilisation. Our nature and environment combine to form each individual mind, which in turn expresses itself in words. Literature, as the words society collectively holds up as exemplary, is then a starting point of sorts – a window into the culture.
Today’s literary field is therefore worth examining for the insights it provides into our current cultural milieu. The contemporary Western European and American literary field is awash in “isms:” Marxism, Freudianism, feminism, and so on. Most of these are the academic cousins of what is called in the common culture “Political Correctness.” Literary theorists take their particular brand of criticism and apply it to literature in an effort to find self-affirmation in a “discovered” meaning of the text. For a feminist critic, for example, no longer does Andrew Marvel’s “Upon Appleton House” have the beauty of the grounds as its theme; it speaks instead of the evils of a patriarchal line of inheritance. These “cultural critics,” so named because they critique literature based on the point of view of a particular culture, arose in the 1960s, but their schools of criticism only truly began to pick up steam with the arrival of the school of deconstruction in the 1970s.
The works of the father of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, began to be translated from the French by American professor Gayatri Spivak in the mid-1970s, a time when the U.S. literary scene was ripe for its influence. The economic Marxists were alive and well on Western European and American campuses, and the cultural critics were still being fed by the radicalism of the times. Feminists had gained a foothold in the earlier decade, but they had in their meagre arsenals only a vague feeling of repression. What they lacked was philosophical backing – the courage prompted by having their own logos. The arrival of deconstruction from France provided that philosophy.
At that time, that generation of academics was doing what all academics do, telling the previous generation that it had it all wrong. In this case the rebellion was against the New Critics – so-called even now, decades after their prime. The New Critics specialised in finding the meaning of texts without regard to background information such as authorial intent, a process that had “the text is everything” as its guiding principle.
The new generation of critics set out to turn that principle on its head. Instead of “the text is everything,” the new generation claimed that “everything is text” and turned to analysing anything and everything in relation to the literary work. If a poet wrote a poem that included a female character, the critics would look into the poet’s relationship with his mother, his wife, his sister and so on in an effort to offer up an interpretation of the work. This could have (and often did have) the positive effect of using biographic information to gain new understanding of the work; however, these new interpretations were not attempts to discern the true meaning of the work (as the New Critics had done) or even to discover the author’s intended meaning (as traditional readings attempted). This new generation of critics instead became prime practitioners of what is known in literary circles as “cultural criticism.” They strained to view literature from the “woman’s point of view” or the “victims” or the “radical minority point of view.” Their attempts were not to find meaning – they were influenced too greatly by relativists for that – but to find sexism, racism or “homophobia” in the works of male, European or heterosexual authors.
Derridean deconstruction became a tool for these cultural critics. Simply stated, deconstruction is a school of thought that posits that words have no meaning. Instead, words have “traces” of meaning. The meaning of a word is continually disappearing, leaving us with only the memory, or trace, of what that meaning once was.
Once they realised the power of this school of thought, the cultural critics embraced it readily, for here they discovered a method of attack on the traditional interpretations of
literary works. They used deconstruction to remove traditional meaning and replaced it with new meaning. That meaning was the Political Correctness that infests our society today. For example, after the traditional meaning of “How Do I Love Thee?” has been destabilised in the process described above, a feminist critic might come along and - in the absence of a stable traditional interpretation – declare that the poem is “really” concerned with how women in nineteenth-century England were conditioned to see themselves as secondary to men.
The intelligentsia had forgotten its literature in its haste to promote its politics.
Unfortunately, that has not stopped the cultural critics from indoctrinating this new generation in feminist interpretation, Marxist philosophy and so-called “queer theory.” Requirements for reading Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and other dead white males are disappearing, to be replaced by options to take studies in “The Roles of Women in the Renaissance” (an excuse to lament the sexism of the past) or “The Bible as Literature” (a course designed to denigrate the Bible as cleverly crafted fiction instead of God’s truth).
The reliable saviour of the intelligentsia is the common man and his common sense. Common sense dictates that words do mean things, and as deconstruction posits otherwise it will be relegated to the margins of society. Sadly, its effects will linger on – it has given a sense of validity to cultural criticism and established a marketplace for its ideas.