Chapter 2: Becoming Deplorable. Excerpt from Springtime for Snowflakes
Communist Professor Took The Red Pill, and Reality Changed His Life
Criticism of political correctness was supposed to be the exclusive province of the rightwing. For most observers, it was almost inconceivable that an anti-P.C. critic could come from another political quarter. Unsurprisingly, then, the majority of people who discovered my case, including some reporters, simply assumed that I was a conservative. As one Twitter troll put it: “You’re anti-P.C.? You must be a rightwing nut-job.” But as I explained in numerous interviews and essays, I was not a Trump supporter; I was never a right-winger, or an alt-right-winger; I was never a conservative of any variety. Hell, I wasn’t even a classical John Stuart Mill liberal.
In fact, for several years, I had identified as a left communist. My politics were to the left (and considerably critical of the authoritarianism) of Bolshevism!
Excerpt from Chapter 6 of Springtime for Snowflakes: Villains and Laughing Stocks, The Gender Jackpot, Transgressing the Boundaries
Click on title above for video.
“Michael Rectenwald was a professor at New York University who described himself as a full blown Communist. But when he committed the mortal sin of [against] collectivism, which is to question the wisdom of the party line …. The process was enlightening because it allowed Professor Rectenwald to see that leftist ideology is merely a velvet glove that covers an iron fist.”
Corrections: The bias reporting hotline was instituted in the fall of 2016, not 2014. Two, I was never fired from NYU but rather retired voluntarily and on “amicable” term.
Professor Rectenwald will be a speaker at Red Pill Expo in Hartford, Connecticut, on June 7 at 2:30 PM.. His topic is Leftism, Leftism Everywhere. Tickets are available here.
What is the "Point de Capiton" of "Leftist Ideology?"
Obviously, I had by now known and accepted the premise that English Studies was a battlefield of “textual politics,” and that the players made no bones about their agendas. Previously, critics in the field, like the old New Critics with their plodding close reading of texts, had pretended to be neutral, but their neutrality was merely a thin scrim for cultural domination. Dead white men had ruled the English canon long enough. But this was only the most flagrant of offenses. Other suspects were singled out for prosecution – including an exclusive focus on the text itself (New Criticism), assuming the centrality or superiority of European culture (Eurocentrism), implicitly endorsing heterosexuality as a norm (heteronormativity), believing that humanity is exceptional and that individual humans have unitary selves (humanism), believing in an essence of human nature and/or in the essence of essential types of humans such as racial groups and women and men (essentialism), the belief that neutral knowledge is discoverable by scientific means (positivism), the belief that words might faithfully represent an external reality (logocentrism), and the privileging of the masculine in the construction of meaning (phallogocentrism) – among others. Every one of these notions or beliefs has been treated as a villain, a laughing stock, or both.
From Chapter 5: The Seduction of Theory: Excerpt from Springtime for Snowflakes: "Social Justice" and Its Postmodern Parentage
Ideology includes creedal commitments and narrative elements that vary depending on the ideology in question—as well as cognition-framing templates, or if you prefer matrix metaphors, consciousness-structuring codes. Some argue that the sine qua non of ideology is an organizing central element, the kernel around which the elements of ideology coalesce and are assembled into a whole.
In The Supreme Object of Ideology, the Slovenian Marxist and Lacanian psychoanalytic theorist Slavoj Žižek, following the French psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan, makes this claim and calls the central, organizing element le point de capiton, or the “quilting point,” the “anchoring point,” the element that holds an ideology together and around which a consistent perspective can be maintained.
Libertarianism(s) versus Postmodernism and "Social Justice" Ideology
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 working in broadcast advertising for nine years, by my early thirties, I finally decided to become a literature professor. Read more…
Libertarianism(s) versus Postmodernism and "Social Justice" Ideology (Video)
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, was delivered at the Mises Institute on March 22, 2019. The video of the talk can be found here. Originally published in the new English review the New English Review.
After “Social Justice”: New Paradigms for the Humanities and Social Sciences
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.
First as Tragedy, Then as Farce: How Marx Predicted the Fate of Marxism
Despite its loosely aggregated elements, social justice is arguably the hegemonic paradigm for teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences today. Yet, some scholars have been subjecting the “social justice university” to trenchant criticism, and Heterodox Academy, an organization of professors advocating “viewpoint diversity,” was recently established to combat the overweening influence of social justice ideology in the academy. Meanwhile, a Sokal Hoax redux recently exposed social-justice-inflected fields for political tendentiousness and absurdity, as the lampooners made a mockery of acceptable research in what they pejoratively termed “grievance studies.”
In this talk, I review critiques of social justice then point to several emergent paradigms gaining attention outside of the academy. in New English Review February 2019 February 2019.
On the Origins and Character of “Social Justice”
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).
“Social Justice” and Its Postmodern Parentage
One of the great ironies of Western political history involves the term “social justice.” Although a core idea within liberalism and socialism for at least 175 years, the background and origin of “social justice” was a cultural and political conservatism. The irony of the “cultural appropriation” of social justice by liberalism and socialism has recently redoubled. Suggestive of a seemingly undeniably intangible good—that is, of just, fair, well-ordered, and harmonious social relations—social justice is now implicated in fierce and sometimes violent antagonisms. Social justice crystallizes in two words some of the most contentious issues roiling North American politics today. Contemporary social justice bears little resemblance to the original social justice or even more recent movements that have gone by the same name.
(Part of The New Thought Police – Social Justice Warriors) (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. In Academic Questions. 31.2. (10 April 2018): 130-139.
The Inauguration of Trump and the Early Opposition to Trumpism
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…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.
Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, Bias Reporting: The New Micro-techniques of Surveillance and Control
I have been asked what I think about the protests and marches against the inauguration of Donald Trump, as well as what to say in response to liberals, leftists, women, feminists, trans* persons and others participating in them. This essay represents an answer to the question. In CLG News. 23 January 2017.
Introduction: Global Secularisms in a Post-Secular Age
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.
What’s Wrong With Identity Politics (and Intersectionality Theory)? A Response to Mark Fisher’s “Exiting the Vampire Castle” (And Its Critics)
One of the great ironies of Western political history involves the term “social justice.” Although a core idea within liberalism and socialism for at least 175 years, the background and origin of “social justice” was a cultural and political conservatism. The irony of the “cultural appropriation” of social justice by liberalism and socialism has recently redoubled. Suggestive of a seemingly undeniably intangible good—that is, of just, fair, well-ordered, and harmonious social relations—social justice is now implicated in fierce and sometimes violent antagonisms. Social justice crystallizes in two words some of the most contentious issues roiling North American politics today. Contemporary social justice bears little resemblance to the original social justice or even more recent movements that have gone by the same name. [n Michael Rectenwald, Rochelle Almeida and George Levine, eds. Global Secularisms in a Post- Secular Age. Boston: De Gruyter (2015): 1-24.
The Construction and Deconstruction of Science in Middlemarch
The problem with identity politics, then, is that it is one-sided and undialectical. It treats identities as static entities, and its methods only serve to further reify those categories. It aims to liberate identity groups (o members thereof) qua identity groups (or individuals), rather than aiming to liberate them from identity itself Identity politics fails not because it begins with various subaltern groups and aims at their liberation, but because it ends with them and thus cannot deliver their liberation. It makes identities and their equality with other “privileged” groups the basis of political activity, rather than making the overcoming of the alienate identity, for themselves and all identity groups, the goal. The abolition of the one-sidedness of identity – as worker, woman, man, or what have you – represents real human emancipation. Always failing this, identity politics settles for mere linguistic emancipation, which is offered (and policed so assiduously, as Fisher notes) by the defenders of the sanctuary of identity.
Science in the Popularis Aura: Opening Statement delivered in defense of the dissertation: “The Publics of Science: Periodicals and the Making of British Science, 1820-1860”
The fictionalizing of science happens to be a meta-theme in Middlemarch, and one which, I will argue, Eliot sets out consciously and masterfully to interrogate. In the process, I hope to show that Eliot's use of science is far from naive or merely syncretic. To the contrary, I will venture to argue that in Middlemarch Eliot actually anticipates a greater discursive shift in scientific theory of which Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (l962) is the watermark in the philosophy of science, and which Michel Foucault marks and notes in his various archaeologies of knowledge. In Victorian Web. 1 December 2008.
The Beat Generation Meets The E-Generation
As Thomas Carlyle quipped in 1829 in “Signs of the Times,” in the nineteenth century, “every little sect among us, Unitarians, Utilitarians, Anabaptists, Phrenologists, must have its Periodical, its monthly or quarterly Magazine;-- hanging out, like its windmill, into the popularis aura, to grind meal for the society.” In my dissertation, “The Publics of Science: Periodicals and the Making of British Science, 1820-1860,” I have endeavored to study the “machinery” for the production and dissemination of science in culture—to examine how various sects or publics provided scientific “meal for the society.” Examining several periodicals from early to mid-nineteenth-century Britain, my dissertation is an account of emerging sites for the production, dissemination, negotiation, and appropriation of knowledge amongst various participants—authors, publishers, editors, reviewers, critics, readers and others—as they vied for (and against) cultural authority on the basis of beliefs claimed as “scientific.”
Reading Around The Kids
Review of Orpheus Emerged by Jack Kerouac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday, February 11, 2001.
The books are everywhere, stacked like barricades between me and my family, on coffee tables, end tables, the kitchen table, dining room table, chairs, desks, dressertops…In Constance Coiner and Diana Hume George, eds. The Family Track: Keeping Your Faculties while You Mentor, Nurture, Teach, and Serve. University of Illinois Press (1998): 107-13.