From the Substack of eugyppius:
There isn’t one plan, there are fifty thousand, and nobody is in charge.
More thoughts on conspiracies, now that I’ve angered many readers.
… I abandoned my professorial career at the height of the Great Awokening. Before I fled, I endured two pretty difficult years, navigating tidal of waves of nonsense and trying to stay uncanceled. In the midst of it all, I had plenty of time to study the institutional workings of the Woke. The fundaments of their dogma were laid by specific critical theorists long before I entered graduate school, but the system as a whole did not become operative until a long while later, as its acolytes ascended to senior faculty and administrative positions, and a distributed consensus emerged that the tenets of Wokeness were right and necessary and just.
People tend to believe things that further their personal interests, and universities are no exception. Wokification succeeded largely because it gave a lot of different people a lot of different things that they wanted.
It gave the increasingly powerful university administration a reason to hire more administrators to manage diversity and ensure its forward march. Self-propagation is the highest goal of administrators everywhere.
Wokeness also became a useful tool in ongoing turf wars between administrators and faculty. Diversity is a simple metric via which the administration can interfere with faculty hiring and academic operations; new diversity hires know who is buttering their bread and remain loyal to the administrators whose policies brought them in.
For the increasingly mediocre and incapable faculty who now teach at even the most august American schools, the woke circus has its own attractions. It provides distraction from the unrelenting demands of objectivity and originality, and permits a pleasing, self-righteous indulgence in moral scolding. In Woke Studies, the answers are always predetermined and it is very easy to get anything published, provided you say the right things.
For students, Wokeness has still other attractions—as a font of easy coursework, as an opportunity for social networking, and as a locus for the periodic ritual entertainment of false moral outrages and protests.
All of this is to say that Wokeness was selected from many aspiring ideological and intellectual programs, because it gave the right things to the right people.
The bottomless mediocrities who helped construct the subgenre of critical theory on which the whole Woke phenomenon rests are not in charge of the Wokeness Circus. The administrators who promote and participate in Wokeness are not alone in running it, and they could never turn off or redirect the machine over which they appear to preside. Stepping out of line would only mean their personal destruction. The donors, the trustees, the tenured faculty, the powerful committees – none of these hold the reins either.
Wokery is a self-organising decentralised movement. It is the sum of all the actions and opinions of all the people who have opted into it.
Importantly, Wokeness is also self-radicalising, in the way that many university-incubated ideologies turn out to be. Administrators or department chairs are constantly in danger of being outflanked on their left, and so they must adopt and endorse the most radical line to maintain their position. Otherwise they will be accused of racism or sexism or whatever and replaced by even more unhinged dangerous people.
Also too, diversity is increasingly managed by dedicated administrative offices and special committees, which end up peopled with the most racially obsessed, divisive, woke-enthused types imaginable.
Finally, nobody can gain support for or argue on behalf of anything, unless it can be cast in Woke terms. Want a new Egyptologist? Need to renovate the library? Collecting support for shortening the spring semester by a week? Well, you and your allies better explain why these initiatives will help redress historical racial injustices. In this way, all internal discourse and management comes to be about Wokeness, all of the time.
While Wokeness provides many personal incentives for true believers, it is destructive for the institutions that foster it. Those schools that have advanced very far down the woke path face semi-regular hate speech hoaxes and student protests, hordes of incapable hostile junior faculty, and massive curricular disarray. They are pretty miserable places to work and study and they are bleeding talented people and rapidly burning through the cultural capital they accumulated in prior, more reasonable decades.
Nor is Wokeness, at the end of the day, even the best thing for many of its most committed adherents. Alas, this doesn’t matter either. Nobody, not even Kimberlé Crenshaw, can redirect or modulate Wokeness any longer.
All of this matters, because American universities aren’t just eager sponsors of racial hysteria. They have also emerged as some of the most radical centres of Corona containment in the world. Their students endure all manner of unreasonable hygiene measures. Constant testing, quarantining, mask rules, enforced isolation, officially encouraged snitching, movement restrictions, vaccine mandates — all of this and more are routine for millions of students. Klaus Schwab is not making them do this. The culprit is a broad, distributed adherence to the dictates of containment ideology, probably driven in no small part by emotional and ideological exhaustion with the prior tyranny of Wokeness.
Now that everybody agrees, the self-directed, self-radicalising elements are in place: Administrators and committee chairs that are perceived not to be taking Corona seriously enough will be removed or sidelined in favour of more radical people who take things more seriously than you could possibly imagine. All of these schools now operate with a wealth of Corona Committees, peopled by all the most lunatic germophobic faculty.
Like wokeness, containment is destructive to the institutions that embrace it. American universities in particular depend on attracting students with over-provisioned campuses and entertaining student-life programs. They are basically massive amusement parks for young adults. Sooner or later, people will begin to think twice about paying tens of thousands of dollars a year to live in a prison camp. The destruction will start at less selective schools and proceed upwards. How high it will go, nobody knows. …
It is very easy to confuse cause and effect when examining the emergence of ideological systems. People raised up as leaders and heroes of emerging movements are almost never its directors, but merely expressions of all the separate beliefs and aspirations of those involved. …
It’s kind of like changes in fashion in art. Paul Johnson likes to point out that King Louis XVI, Robespierre, Napoleon, the Prince Regent, and Thomas Jefferson (or some list like that) didn’t agree on too much politically, but they all thought neoclassical architecture was the proper idiom for public buildings.
Was the neoclassical craze of the late 18th and early 19th centuries a conspiracy? Well, one guy played a central role in launching it, art historian JJ Winckelmann. But, hard as he worked, he couldn’t impose his tastes. Lots of other people had to be ready for them.
Of course, the Woke haven’t exactly matched neoclassicism for inspiring monuments like the Arc de Triomphe.