A Counter-Institutionalist Manifesto

On the Attack the System mailing list we're always exchanging horror stories of political correctness gone wrong. To set the context, take a look at this video on the history of P.C., and then look at these articles we've been discussing:

The following essay was adapted from my contribution to the discussion.

I think we need to understand these problems as institutional pathologies - not political, social, or psychological phenomena. Then we need to promote them as such. We need to stop thinking that raising our voices for the victims "we perceive" will do anything but strengthen the power of political correctness as an organizing ethic.

After all, do we want to return to a system where white males actually DO run everything? Of course not - we want to get rid of the organizing principles that coerce diverse interests into participating in a forced system, which then requires hopeless, endless "balancing" and "equalization of outcomes". There is no one alternative paradigm that is acceptable to replace "political correctness". We certainly aren't going to be persuasive in providing it.

We can, however, always and ever bring the discussion away from child psychology, or sex / race relations, or socio-economic navel gazing, and refocus it on the institutional interests that motivate the policy's adoption and execution. P.C. policies must always be argued against as promoting the institution over all individuals and interest groups. We need to frame the ridiculousness of P.C. policies in terms of the interests they most directly serve: administrators, managers, directors, and other types whose position and power are defined by the maintenance of whatever hierarchical, artifical institution over which they preside. P.C. makes the institution more stable by playing up conflicts between participants, giving institutions a false role in mediation that would otherwise be achieved through negotiation or peaceful separation.

Look: it is besides the point that "marxists" - or "liberals" or "neoconservatives" or whoever it is this time - are pushing political correctness. The answer from the libertarian should always and ever be to demonstrate that educational P.C. policies always serve, for example, the school administration's interests at the expense of at least one party. They serve to make it easier to administer an institution where people are forced to participate, rather than actually making it easier on the individuals. In other words, the end goal is not fairness towards any "victimized" group, but rather the preservation of the institution.

These policies always leave a bad taste in everybody's mouth, even when they are marginally "just". Leave it to others to argue for the degree of justice, though - instead, focus on the fact that P.C. policies are always adopted to preserve the institution first of all, and only "protect" people when that institution's viability is at stake, and only to that extent. This is a crucial point, because it transcends the game the establishment wants to play.

A great example is the civil rights movement. Do people honestly believe that their enlightened senators and representatives wisely passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after a judicious look at the situation? Does anybody even believe that the protests by African Americans were the prime motivating factor for Congress? Or is it more likely that the Act passed because the majority of whites realized the injustice of state-sponsored segregation and politicians responded to that? Civil rights ceased to be a revolutionary resistance movement and turned into a completely co-opted pillar of the institution of the United States government. In other words, segregation was only ended when the stability and legitimacy of the established order was felt to be at risk - and not a moment before. Desegregation and affirmative action were simply fashioned into new principles of centralized management, rather than reflecting the true call for freedom that the original movement embodied.

The answer to this is not to attack the rights of minorities, of course, but to take the focus off the "victims" and put it on the inability of the institution to be sufficiently flexible and reasonable. "Dueling victims" doesn't address the real problem here, which is: why are we fighting over this pie? When administrative bodies cry that their hands are tied, don't shrug and say "well, what do you expect in a bureaucracy?" Make the institution the problem, not the people who participate in the institution. Of course their hands are tied - which is why THAT's the argument we should be making about their irresponsibility, unreasonableness, and tyrannical actions.

Essentially, I'm talking about turning "critical theory" on its head. Institutions that have sprung from its rise need to be made defenseless, instead of always having individuals on the defensive. When we get caught up in defending "white males" or *our* version of free speech from perceived encroachments, we play their game. We must call the game out for what it is: a way to keep us locked in the system. We need to stop focusing on attacking the different interest groups that play the P.C. game and, instead, start attacking the system.

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Written on Friday, June 22, 2007