The thinking of Foucault, et al is plagued by a terrible internal contradiction. It asserts:

1) Group relations are inexorably determined by group interests and power relationships.

2) The only recourse for historically marginalized groups is to "tribe up" and deny any shared interest or affinity with any other group.

But if #1 is true, pursuing #2 will inevitably end in failure, since these groups are--after all--minorities that lack power, and will thus inevitably lose out. When everybody "tribes up," minorities ultimately end up worse off, not better off. This is happening right now in parts of the Western world where there has been a majority backlash. For an example of how this can end, consider the former Yugoslavia.

The only truly viable solution for historically marginalized minorities is to acknowledge and emphasize that everyone in society has a great deal in common and use that as a basis for marching forward arm-in-arm with like-minded members of the majority and other groups. That is how the progress of the Civil Rights movement was achieved and it is the only way any future progress will be achieved.

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Oct 8, 2023·edited Oct 8, 2023

I couldn't agree more.

When I was in high school, I came to the dismal conclusion that we would reach the limits of democracy because we had vanquished scarcity, at that time already in the West and we were on our way to doing it worldwide. What I meant was, as long as we lived in a world where only a minority could enjoy a prosperous lifestyle, vesting political decision making in the majority within certain safeguards would tend toward extending prosperity more and more broadly. This was in fact what happened, supercharged by the Industrial Revolution and its progeny. But the real danger that I saw developing is that when the majority becomes prosperous, especially a large majority, the tendency can be for social progress to halt, with a permanent underclass minority that has no escape because it lacks wealth, democratic legitimacy, and the physical strength to throw off majority domination.

The only solution to this conundrum is solidarity. If both the majority and the minority accept that the whole society is better off if everyone is better off, and that we haven't reached our objective until everyone gets there together, we may be able to do it. Wasn't that one of the greatest lessons of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States? Withdrawing behind tribal walls, communicating in signals, and issuing demands to each other practically guarantees freezing in place, and failure.

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This excerpt is good, as is the whole book, which I just finished.

However, I think that Yascha Mounk could add an additional argument, which would appeal at the very least to empirically-oriented social scientists. The argument is: although obviously "marginalized people" have some knowledge from their lived experience that is valuable and can be learned from -- they have an intuitive grasp of how the social problem in question FEELS -- this does not mean that "marginalized people" have some special claim to understanding how best to SOLVE the social problem in question.

So, perhaps low-wage workers know more immediately how it FEELS to be working long hours at a low-wage dead-end job in which you are treated poorly. But this does not mean that any particular low-wage worker, or even a group purporting to represent low-wage workers, necessarily knows the best way to SOLVE this problem of too-low wages. Should the solution be a higher minimum wage? A higher earned income tax credit? Easier unionization? Macro policy to make the overall U.S. labor market tighter? Job training to help more people get into better jobs? Place-based policies to help bring better jobs to distressed places that do not have enough good jobs?

Of course, this does not mean that society needs to immediately defer to some empirically-oriented economist like me who claims some research expertise on these issues. We should listen to "experts", but not worship them, as often experts overstate what is truly known and what is merely regarded as plausible based on the current evidence.

But on the other hand we shouldn't assume that some annointed representative of the marginalized group knows the correct policy solution, or mix of policy solutions, that will be most cost-effective in addressing the problem at affordable costs.

In solving social problems, we clearly need to listen to diverse groups -- the groups most affected, social scientists, other groups -- and make decisions democratically, after debating the proposed alternatives. No one perspective should "trump" all other perspectives. We should not expect everyone to be "accountable" to some annointed representatie of the marginalized group in how we address the social problem. And we should be open to changing our mind based on new empirical evidence.

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Nicely done.

It reminds me of 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘔𝘪𝘯𝘥, in that it purports to show how serious ideas of European philosophy spawned half-baked American popularizations, unaware of their provenance and therefore of their contradictions.

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After reading this, I hate to use the phrase “as a black American,” but I feel I have personal perspective as a black American about the harm of identity politics.

The most important thing here that echoes my own experience is that there is not one perspective per group but real, genuine, sincere viewpoint diversity among minorities, even about basic facts and “lived experience.” Not everything said by whites that goes against the identity politics narrative is due to their racism. Many blacks think the same thing! For instance, rather than living an oppressed life marked by irradicable racism, I have been treated quite fairly and have had an enriching, self-actualizing life absent any meaningful racism (barring schoolyard insults that had no broader life impact). I do not live in any active fear of police and have never been stopped or profiled by an officer. I do not believe in the notion of “cultural appropriation” (it flies in the face of everything we know about social history), and the phrase “white privilege” makes me cringe (I grew up more socioeconomically privileged than most whites). I know my experiences might not be representative, and I am lucky to have grown up with many advantages, but that still goes to show immutable identity isn’t everything.

The tacit racism I have, in fact, most experienced is the assumption that many people make that because I am black, I must have certain disadvantages (which I don’t have), that I can be assumed to hold certain views (that I don’t), that I must be particularly interested in “black” things to the exclusion of “white” things (which is the default and therefore anything not explicitly “black”), that black people who think and act in certain ways are inherently “inauthentic” or even “sell-outs” regardless of background or previous exposure. It took a while for to shuck off these insidious ideas.

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This is truly fantastic work. My background is the ethics of authenticity via Sartre and Barnes. You have captured the problem of post modernism perfectly. My truth is your truth is false.

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I was watching the original Planet of the Apes the other day, and when they talked about a character's "identity", they meant who they are as an individual.

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There is so much wrong with this piece. It's built on so many straw men that it might be a fire hazard. I don't have the time right now to dissect this monstrosity (I like to cook dinner, spend time with my beautiful wife, listen to music and drink some beers around this time of day.), but I promise, over the next few days, to deliver a point by point rebuttal. Stay tuned. I promise this will be entertaining.

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For one thing, it is not a lie to say that we can't understand each other. It's part of the truth. The other part is that we can understand each other propositionally. Both are true. He is trying to say that some people only want it one way. That is not true.

His whole thesis is dishonest.

I will elaborate in great detail. Please give my original comment a like if you want to know more. If not enough people want to hear my arguments it might not be worth my time.

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The operative part of your critique is "That is not true." You may be right, but how would a reader know? If all of your critiques will be like that, they may in fact not be worth your time.

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I don't know anyone who believes that we can't understand each other propositionally. Do you?

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I understood Mounk to be saying that 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘰𝘯𝘦 believes we can understand each other propositionally, and that this is one of the flaws in "strong" Standpoint Theory.

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Yascha writes: "But we are yet to consider the fourth claim: that the comparatively privileged should defer to the claims of the comparatively marginalized."

Another straw man argument. He is making it seem as if progressives are arguing that the comparatively privileged should always, without question "defer to the claims of the comparatively marginalized." I don't know anyone who thinks likes that. Nor do you.

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I'm afraid you're wrong here too. I myself have experienced this. I can't say how representative that is, but apparently I'm not alone.

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Tell me about that experience.

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No, I foresee an exchange where you respond either that I misinterpreted my own experience or that I somehow deserved the responses I got. As I said, it's not hard to find examples of the kind of discourse that Mounk describes and you say doesn't exist. So you've got my claim, that of one-or-two other commenters here, Mounk and a whole world of search results within easy reach. If you remain convinced that this is all imaginary we'll have to leave it at that.

Oh, and you mentioned in another comment that you saw nothing untoward in the long quote from DiAngelo. It includes the following: 𝘜𝘭𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘪𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘉𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬, 𝘐𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘗𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘊𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘪𝘧 𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘦𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴. That encapsulates at least some of the errors that Mounk lists. Certainly it isn't simply a matter of listening attentively to oppressed people.

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All that quote is saying is that if white people want to know if their actions are helping to solve the problem of racism, they should ask the people who are affected by racism rather than simply assume that they are. I don't see the problem in that quote.

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What special insight does the experience of racism confer to know whether someone is "behaving in an antiracist way"? How, for that matter, would they know if "their actions are helping to solve the problem", as you would have it?

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When you are a victim of systemic disadvantages you have a different perspective from someone who is not.

For example, it's common for white people to think that black people just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. This seems logical from a white person's perspective because white people generally have the resources they need to get ahead if they have the will-power to make it happen.

But the median black family has about 1/10 the wealth of the median white family. So many don't have the resources they need to succeed. Most white people are ignorant that the disparity is this great. If they make policy on this ignorance they will not solve the problem effectively.

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Yascha writes: "The second core claim of standpoint theory has also been called into doubt. Even insofar as many members of a relevant group do have common experiences, it is not clear that these bestow an overall advantage in understanding the world."

Another straw man argument. Who is claiming that members of a less privileged group have "an overall advantage in understanding the world"?

The claim that progressives are making is that they bring a different perspective to the table and that we members of the privileged group ought to, as a matter of fairness take that perspective into account. No one is claiming that members of less privileged groups have a superior understanding of the world. No one.

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And yet some brief Googling will find many cases of people saying that the role of privileged people is to shut up, listen and accept. That's not the same as "taking their perspective into account". You're describing a reasonable way to approach the matter. Mounk is describing a very common, very un-reasonable approach. In his words:

𝘐𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸, 𝘈𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘴 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘲𝘶𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘈𝘴𝘪𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘳𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘰 𝘰𝘯. 𝘛𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘴𝘦 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘱𝘴 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥, 𝘪𝘯 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘱𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘰𝘳𝘺, 𝘭𝘢𝘳𝘨𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘥𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘴.

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I have never heard anyone say we should "largely defer" to every demand they make. All I hear is people saying we need to listen to their concerns and demands with open minds and take them seriously. Mounk is exaggerating what progressives are asking for.

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Yascha write: "The first core claim of standpoint theory runs into trouble because it is extremely hard to identify meaningful experiences that all members of a socially relevant group share."

This is a straw man argument. No one ever said ALL. And in fact Yascha knows that because he inserted the word "virtually" in front of the world "all" in his own formulation. It is a broad generalization. It is understood by virtually everyone that there are bound to be exceptions.

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Yascha writes:

There is significant variation in the exact nature of these views. But four interlocking claims are particularly central to the forms of standpoint theory that now routinely influence public debate:

1. There is a set of significant experiences that (virtually) all members of (particular) oppressed groups share.

2. These experiences give members of the group special insight into the nature of their oppression and other socially relevant facts.

3. Members of the group cannot fully or satisfactorily communicate these experiences to outsiders, even insofar as they have important political implications.

4. When an oppressed group makes political demands based on the identity its members share, outsiders should defer to them.

I think the first three are generally correct. But I have a problem with claim number four. Yascha makes it sound as if the privileged should automatically and unquestioningly defer to the less privileged even if they are being unreasonable.

That's not true. DEI training is about making people aware that life is more challenging for less privileged groups of people and that we need to make a special effort to try to understand their point of view because it doesn't necessarily come naturally to us, especially if we don't have much interaction with members of less privileged groups. No one is suggesting that we must automatically defer to less privileged people, even when they are saying something crazy and unfounded.

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Your experience of DEI training and the DEI perspective does not match my own. I have heard people say that we should defer to less privileged people, because they know the problems best and therefore have the best perspective on what the solutions should be.

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Getting their input and perspective is critical to getting the solutions right. But no one is suggesting that we should defer unquestioningly to every suggestion they might make, which Yascha is implying.

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In my opinion, this statement by Robin DiAngelo comes pretty close to saying exactly that, that in antiracist work we must adhere to what at least some identified group of individuals with a particular identity say.

"Accountability within antiracist work is the understanding that what I profess to value must be demonstrated in action, and the validity of that action is determined by Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color. Accountability requires trust, transparency, and action. As a white person seeking to be accountable, I must continually ask myself, “How do I know how I am doing?” To answer this question, I need to check in and find out. I can do this in several ways, including: by directly asking Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Color with whom I have trusting relationships and who have agreed to offer me this feedback; talking to other white people who have an antiracist framework; reading the work of Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color who have told us what they want and need (this work is easy to find and many racial justice educators have good resource lists on their websites) and; engaging in the exercises Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color provide in online classes and workbooks. Ultimately it is for Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color to decide if I am actually behaving in antiracist ways. When I find that I am out of alignment, I need to do what is necessary and try to repair the situation. And yes, the more experience and practice I have in antiracist work the more thoughtfully I will be able to use the feedback I receive." https://www.robindiangelo.com/accountability-statement/

So, the "validity of my action is determined by BIPOC" and "it is for BIPOC to decide if I am actually behaving in antiracist ways".

I could find other quotes from you in other materials by other trainers. But DiAngelo is obviously a prominent voice in this particular ideology, so I will stick to that for present.

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I see no problem with anything she said. You might think you are helping someone else but if that person says "You're not helping." we should listen to them. Do you not agree with that?

I'm curious, what do you find so troubling about what she said?

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Oct 4, 2023·edited Oct 4, 2023

I'm afraid we will have to agree to disagree. In my opinion, she is clearly arguing that we should go well beyond "listening" to a broad range of opinions that might be around, includilng from BIPOC individuals and groups . She is saying that some BIPOC group or individual (she doesn't deal with what to do if different BIPOC individuals or groups think differently) DECIDES the VALIDITY of her actions. That is NOT the same as listening. And I think it is incompatible with normal, democratic debate. So, I am completely unable to understand why you don't see that.

Now, if she had substituted your words:

"In determing the validity of my actions, I should include in my consideration listening to the diverse voices of BIPOC individuals and groups." or if she had said:

"in deciding whether my actions are advancing racial equity, I should listen to the diverse voices of BIPOC individuals and groups".

Then you would have a valid point. But in my opinion, she goes well beyond that to say that OTHER people DECICDE the VALIDITY of MY actions. That is not at all the same as LISTENING to other people.

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Oct 4, 2023·edited Oct 4, 2023

And I should add: I have asked people involved in this ideology if "accountability" just means "listening". This came up in debate in an organization I was involved in that wanted to adopt an accountability statement. I said that I would be fine with that if it was clarified that accountability just means listening.

The person pushing for this accountability statement was quite straightforward and honest with me and the group: accountability means more than listening. If it means more than that -- if it means simply following some other person or groups "directives" about what is a valid action, without exercising my own judgement -- I find that to be incompatible with basic principles of free debate and democratic decision-making.

Accountability does not have the same meaning as listening, and in these debates, it is not in practice interpreted in the same way.

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"She is saying that some BIPOC group or individual (she doesn't deal with what to do if different BIPOC individuals or groups think differently) DECIDES the VALIDITY of her actions."

She did not write that. I' don't know where you got that.

You wrote: "OTHER people DECICDE the VALIDITY of MY actions"

She's only talking about the issue of racism. She wants to know if she is being an effective ally in the cause of anti-racism. To make sure she is she asks BIPOC people (the people effected by racism) to give her feedback. That makes perfect sense to me. When a doctor treats a patient for pain he/she will obviously ask the patient if their pain is getting better because that is the only way to know if the treatment is working.

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Matt, meet Robin DiAngelo!

Let's take this inane little screed, for example,:


where she asserts just that. In fact, she goes beyond that, claiming that white people being silent during her struggle sessions is also an assertion of "white power and privilege." So you're a racist oppressor if you speak and also if you remain silent.

White people, apparently should speak only when spoken to. If they fail to do that, or they fail to engage in sufficiently vituperative self-criticism when prompted (in the delightful way of the Cultural Revolution), well, that's because they're perfidious racists.

You can easily find similarly divisive fatuities in the works of Kendi or other "DEI" and "anti-racism" "practitioners," if you actually look.

NB: Demonizing individuals because of the group they are born into rarely ends well.

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Where in that 17 page document does she say we need to unquestioningly defer to less privileged people?

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