Totalitarianism with Communist Characteristics

Contrary to the allegations of its founders and followers, communism is not primarily an economic system; it is fundamentally political. Its true character is evinced not in its “equitable” (whatever that means) distribution of wealth, but rather in its political arrangements.
And what are those political arrangements? Above and without all else, communism is totalitarianism, leftist totalitarianism, totalitarianism with communist characteristics.
For those unversed in marxology (you're lucky; be grateful), the previous sentence includes a joke; several decades ago, as China's capitalist economy could no longer be denied by the party, in an attempt to preserve the myth that China would eventually arrive at a non-profit-making, “classless” society, its leadership approved of the phrase “socialism with Chinese characteristics”—or communism with a capitalist economy—to describe a supposedly temporary phase. Communism itself is totalitarianism with communist characteristics.

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Dylan Rectenwald
From Chapter 5: The Seduction of Theory: Excerpt from Springtime for Snowflakes: "Social Justice" and Its Postmodern Parentage

Had my dad understood it, my graduate school enrollment in “Literary and Cultural Theory” would have struck him as tantamount to madness, like self-commitment to an insane asylum. After the Ginsberg apprenticeship, which definitively ended any remaining prospects I had for medical school, he wouldn’t have had tears left to cry…..
So, twelve years after the Ginsberg apprenticeship and after work- ing in broadcast advertising for nine years, by my early thirties, I finally decided to become a literature professor. Read more…

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Chapter 1: Introducing the @antipcnyuprof: Excerpt from Springtime for Snowflakes: "Social Justice" and Its Postmodern Parentage

On September 12, 2016, I established a Twitter account with the name “Deplorable NYU Prof” and the official handle @antipcnyuprof. This Twitter identity – replete with Friedrich Nietzsche avatar – represented a satirical character wielded by a self-proclaimed but anonymous NYU professor apparently gone rogue. As with all satire, the mockery was over-the-top, but the intended effect was serious criticism. The Twitter account allowed me to air views that I felt reluctant to issue under my real name, and to render them without undu circumspection.
As an NYU professor for nine years, I had grown concerned about. recent developments within NYU and academia at large. With greater frequency, screeching mobs and the “no-platforming” of speakers essentially nullified freedom of speech. Speech codes and “bias reporting hotlines” curtailed the expression of entire communities. On matters of gender, sexuality, and identity broadly construed, whole avenues of inquiry were foreclosed on the basis of sacrosanct tenets deemed immune from scrutiny. Freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of inquiry were under attack and in full retreat.

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Libertarianism(s) versus Postmodernism and "Social Justice" Ideology

A peculiar phrase recently introduced into the political lexicon by media cognoscenti describes a new corporate philosophy: “woke capitalism. Coined by Ross Douthat of the New York Times, woke capitalism refers to a burgeoning wave of companies that apparently have become advocates of social justice. Some major corporations now intervene in social and political issues and controversies, partaking in a new corporate activism. The newly “woke” corporations support activist groups and social movements, while adding their voices to political debates. Woke capitalism has endorsed Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo Movement, contemporary feminism, LGBTQ rights, and immigration activism, among other leftist causes.
This Ludwig von Mises Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Yousif Almoayyed, was delivered at the Mises Institute on March 22, 2019. The video of the talk can be found here.

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Libertarianism(s) versus Postmodernism and "Social Justice" Ideology (Video)

A peculiar phrase recently introduced into the political lexicon by media cognoscenti describes a new corporate philosophy: “woke capitalism. Coined by Ross Douthat of the New York Times, woke capitalism refers to a burgeoning wave of companies that apparently have become advocates of social justice. Some major corporations now intervene in social and political issues and controversies, partaking in a new corporate activism. The newly “woke” corporations support activist groups and social movements, while adding their voices to political debates. Woke capitalism has endorsed Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo Movement, contemporary feminism, LGBTQ rights, and immigration activism, among other leftist causes.

The Ludwig von Mises Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Yousif Almoayyed. Recorded at the Mises Institute on March 22, 2019. Includes an introduction by Joseph T. Salerno.

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First as Tragedy, Then as Farce: How Marx Predicted the Fate of Marxism

A few months ago, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Marx’s famous statement, the title of this essay and a rejoinder to Hegel’s supposed remark—“that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice”—had been appropriated by the contemporary Slovenian Marxist and psychoanalytic theorist Slavoj Žižek, for the title of one of his books. I was disappointed because I had considered using the title myself. I was surprised because, not having read Žižek’s entire oeuvre, I hadn’t known of his appropriation. Further, quite apart from my own intended (and past casual) use, I was astonished to see how unselfconscious and lacking in intentional irony Žižek had been in naming a book about capitalism First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (2009).

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Introduction to "Social Justice." Delivered at the New York Metropolitan Republican Club (Video)

At the moment postmodern theory lay dying in the academy, it bore a child, namely, “social justice.” Social justice gestated within the university as postmodern theory ruled the roost. It was nursed during the Occupy movement and the Obama era. The financial crisis left its hapless followers in search of empowerment. It took root on the internet on social media. But because its parent had taught it that the object world is not real, or else that the world at large was beyond one’s purview, the child of postmodern theory could only change itself, as well as, so it imagined, those who bore signs of its oppressors.

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Dylan Rectenwald
“Social Justice” and Its Postmodern Parentage

At the moment postmodern theory lay dying in the academy, it bore a child, namely, “social justice.” Social justice gestated within the university as postmodern theory ruled the roost. It was nursed during the Occupy movement and the Obama era. The financial crisis left its hapless followers in search of empowerment. It took root on the internet on social media. But because its parent had taught it that the object world is not real, or else that the world at large was beyond one’s purview, the child of postmodern theory could only change itself, as well as, so it imagined, those who bore signs of its oppressors. In Academic Questions. 31.2. (10 April 2018): 130-139.

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Why Political Correctness Is Incorrect

The term “politically correct” is one of the most incendiary phrases of contemporary political jargon. Advocates for values deemed politically correct — anti-racism, anti-misogyny, anti-transphobia, and so on — suggest that being politically correct is simply that: correct. Why would anyone want to be anything else — unless, that is, they are motivated by bigotry, or something worse?
This position appears reasonable enough, and it might even be undisputable if it didn’t seek to obscure an underlying impulse — for political correction. Under regimes of political correctness, political correction is the typical response for those voicing “incorrect” opinions. Indeed, imposing “correct” ideas by the “necessary” means is precisely the crux of the problem.

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Mid-Nineteenth-Century Secularism as Modern Secularity

In the early 1850s, a new philosophical, social, and political movement evolved from the Freethought tradition of Thomas Paine, Richard Carlile, Robert Owen, and the radical periodical press. The movement was called “Secularism. ”ts founder was George Jacob Holyoake (1817–1906) (Grugel 1976, 2–3).2 Holyoake was a former apprentice whitesmith turned Owenite social missionary, “moral force” Chartist, and radical editor and publisher. Given his early exposure to Owenism and Chartism,3 Holyoake had become a Freethinker. With his involvement in Freethought publishing, he became a moral convert to atheism. However, his experiences with virulent proponents of atheism or infidelity and the hostile reactions to them on the part of the state, church, and press induced him to develop in 1851-1852 the new creed and movement he called Secularism….In Ryan T. Cragun, Lori Fazzino, Christel Manning, eds. Organized Secularism in the United States. Boston and Berlin: De Gruyter (November 2017): 31-56.

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Shaming & Shunning, Part II: 'You Must Be a Rightwing Nut-job'

One of the many difficulties that attends a mass attack by hordes of cyber-critics is getting around to answering them. I would never try to respond to every critic, for, as the late O.W. Crane often admonished me: "If you stop for every barking dog, your path will never end." Yet I have wanted to address at least the most egregious cases and also to answer one or two of the predominate types. Mind you, I am not hereby issuing any apologies or attempting to regain any love or appreciation from my critics. I, myself, don't care what they think, frankly. What I do care about involves how others may be misled by utter misrepresentations, falsehoods, defamation and in some cases, libel. I simply do not want bald, bizarre and sometimes libelous defamations of character floating around in the simulacrum -- without providing Google an opportunity to de-list my responses, that is.….In CLG News. 30 August 2017.

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Dylan Rectenwald
A Critique of "Social Justice" Ideology: Thinking through Marx and Nietzsche

In an earlier essay, I offered a brief sketch of the genealogy of social justice mechanisms and beliefs. To date, however, I have yet to examine the philosophical premises of the creed, or formally to offer a theoretical framework or set of frameworks for critiquing and refuting it. This essay represents a first effort at doing both.
First, I will briefly trace a Soviet and a few postmodernist contributions to social justice ideology. Then, I will turn my attention to two major thinkers: Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche – in order to find ways that the two thinkers may be adduced to provide resources for understanding and critically assessing the social justice ideology….In CLG News. 20 July 2017.

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(Part of The New Thought Police – Social Justice Warriors) (Video).

As a growing body of scholars and public intellectuals suggest, nothing less than a moral revolution is underway in liberal society, broadly construed. The old rules of speech and behavior are giving way to a new package of moral and political imperatives. As illustrated regularly on college campuses and beyond, the advocates of this new moral creed aim to enforce adherence to their beliefs with the ferocity of religious zealots. The political and quasi-religious creed is known as “social justice,” and the rationale for its enforcement is to protect and promote the members of marginalized identity groups. Far from being limited to a few student activists and keyboard warriors, the social justice creed has been adopted by a majority of North American university administrations and codified in university policies. And social justice has also traveled far afield of academia, exerting a growing influence on social media, mass media, corporate America, and other elements of the broader culture….Vox News. 14 June 2017.

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(Re)Secularizing the University

II have unwittingly inserted myself into an ongoing and intensifying maelstrom in which speakers are now routinely prevented from speaking by “anti-fascist,” black bloc activists, who overturn cars and set them on fire, pepper-spray speakers, and then, if speakers manage to reach the microphone, chant them down with collective hecklers’ vetoes. At the same time, “social justice” activists and other students retreat to safe spaces—replete with crayons, coloring books and therapy pets. Such safe spaces are meant to protect students, not from the alarming violence of their compeers, but from the supposedly triggering, injurious expression of those protested.….In American Conservative. 14 March 2017.

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Dylan Rectenwald
Reply to LS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group

First, I would like to say how deplorable I think it was that an apparently official committee of NYU’s Liberal Studies Program responded to my interview and criticized my Twitter account as it did. The alacrity with which this committee rendered its guilty verdict served to validate my suspicions regarding the peril of openly opposing politically correct authoritarianism on campus. As several commentators in the media have suggested, your response was Stalinesque in its foreclosure of dissent and Orwellian in its double-speak. Many have noted the irony of a working group operating under the aegis of “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” while demanding the exact the opposite — conformity, inequity and exclusion — conformity to a prescribed perspective, inequity for those who do not abide by it and exclusion from the university for those with the temerity to speak their minds. One wonders just what this working group might be working on, if not on ensuring ideological homogeneity within the domain supposedly under its purview. Is one not allowed another opinion without the possibility of official censure?… In Washington Square News. 6 February 2017.

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Dylan Rectenwald
Here’s what happened when I challenged the PC campus culture at NYU

We’ve reached a point where anything can be taken out of context and labeled injurious: At a University of Kansas dorm, an RA advised against incorporating an image of Harambe, the gorilla, into a jungle-themed floor decoration because it was a “triggering” “masculine image.” As Erika Christakis (harangued for her own attempts last year to bring some sanity to Yale’s debate over Halloween costumes), eloquently explains, “Certain ideas are too dangerous” to talk about on campus. In other words, we’ve reached a point where students, faculty and administrators alike are increasingly inclined to suppress the free flow of ideas — the discourse that is a university’s very reason for being….In The Washington Post, November 3, 2016.

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Dylan Rectenwald
Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, Bias Reporting: The New Micro-techniques of Surveillance and Control

A singular orthodoxy has infiltrated the discursive parameters of U.S. and other universities and colleges. This orthodoxy now constitutes the ethical vocabulary of academia. Adopted from feminism, anti-racism, and LGBTQ theory and practice, the language, doctrines, and mechanisms of this orthodoxy now dominate academia's policies, procedures and handbooks. The terminology has become the vernacular among the swelling ranks of administrators, especially the relatively new cohort of chief diversity officers, directors of diversity, associate provosts of diversity, assistant provosts of diversity, diversity consultants, and so on and so on. I refer not merely to the orthodoxy of "diversity," but in particular to "diversity" initiatives as they are currently administered, using a particular set of policies, procedures, and mechanisms: trigger warnings, safe spaces, bias reporting, and the like.

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