Critiquing the Culture of Critique
I’ve been spewing much venom lately in the direction of liberal Jews, so let’s spew some venom towards the antisemites. After all, one of the few goals I have accomplished in life is to be equally unliked by everybody.
The Culture of Critique (CofC) by Kevin MacDonald has become something of a Bible, or a Talmud, among antisemitic nationalistic types, bent on solving the JQ (the Jewish Question, duh). It is not an unimpressive book. For the amateur scholar of Jewish prevalence among the radical movements of the 20th century, it provides a useful catalog.
However, the book’s theme goes much deeper than “lots of Jews are leftists.” CofC anchors itself in the theory of evolutionary psychology – the idea that human behavior, much like human physicality, is evolutionarily determined. Its theme is that Jewish behavior is an evolutionary strategy of survival. As such we corrode, dismantle and subvert our “host” societies. The more harmonious, according to CofC, a host society is, the greater it serves Jewish interest to dismantle it, sow discord, and destabilize its internal cohesion. Hence, the radicals of the 60s, the Bolsheviks, the thinkers of the Frankfurt School, and the progressive movement today with its support for mass non-Western immigration.
This is a compelling idea, offering an esthetic unity to something that is indeed indisputably visible – the over-representation of Jews in the ranks of the radical left. However, I failed to be persuaded by MacDonald’s argument (and I consider myself relatively unbiased, as the author of things like this and this).
Two very serious reviews of CofC point to many of the book’s inaccuracies and cherry-picking strategies. One is John Derbyshire’s, perhaps the most erudite voice amongst conservative writers nowadays; the other was written by Nathan Cofnas in a more academic style. I invite the reader to review both and will not repeat their arguments.
My own issue lies with the theoretical framework MacDonald employs – evolutionary psychology or group evolutionary psychology. The charms of evolutionary psychology seem to be increasing by the day – apparently, masculinity comes from the tendency of the apes to assemble and defend a harem; femininity is the result of the she-ape’s need to charm a strong mate; Scandinavian societies are conformist due to their dwelling together in the dark for half the year; and Middle-Eastern societies (but not Swiss society, somehow) are xenophobic due to their pastoral mountain-dwelling origins.
Every few decades or so there emerges a fad to explain human behavior through instrumental, mechanical terms. When I was a teenager in the 1990s, all the rage was “brain sciences.” One was rude because of one’s amygdala, patient due to the shape of his cerebellum, and compliant thanks to one’s unique cortex folds. And prior to that, there was obviously psychoanalysis, which MacDonald labels as “Jewish”, and prior to that was historicism, physiognomy, etc., etc.
Meaning, MacDonald falls into the same post-enlightenment trap of grasping at instrumental means to explain human behavior. For the pre-enlightenment being, human behavior was explained very easily: It was based on choice, thanks to one’s immortal soul that differentiates us from the causal reality of the animal world. Post-enlightenment, we can no longer speak about souls, so a “scientific” explanation is required, hence the social sciences. (I have to remark that as an engineer, the social sciences, all of them, are highly suspect of being pseudo-sciences).
Indeed MacDonald states somewhere that “organisms are not designed to communicate truthfully with others but to persuade them — to manipulate them to serve their interests.” Meaning, his view is a complete embracement of the deterministic nature of man, and the denial of free-will, truth, and the free exchange of ideas.
Like all such deterministic explanations of human behavior, evolutionary psychology is vulnerable to the same paradox: If human behavior is evolutionary determined, isn’t the behavior of the evolutionary psychologist himself evolutionary determined? Meaning, isn’t Kevin MacDonald compelled by the forces of evolution to write what he writes, like a monkey compelled to hurl his own feces? And if MacDonald is compelled, meaning, if he is not an agent of free choice, why should we take anything he says seriously?
The same sin, ironically, is also committed by the Freudian and Marxist Jews. Just like them, MacDonald employs a system that de-personifies the human agent, casting him as a pre-determined object at the mercy of compulsory forces. MacDonald would probably like us to see his stance as a cry for tradition, or for the lost harmony of societies past, unhindered by corrosive Judaism. But in fact, he employs the complete opposite of a traditional Western framework. He employs an ultra-modern, post-modern even, form of perceiving the human world. It is the kind of nihilistic thinking that empties human society, and the human person, of free will.
If anything, MacDonald and the Jews he excoriates all fall into one intellectual tradition: The post-enlightenment tradition of psychological and cultural materialism. The tradition that embraces pseudo-science to deny human societies the free choice, the institutions, and the faith that define them. Instead, it applies a critique, a de-personifying analysis, that sees both Jew and gentile as the residual amygdalas of hunter-gatherers. MacDonald’s IS the culture of critique.
Besides, how exactly is it an “evolutionary survival strategy” to corrode one’s host? Clearly, the safest societies for Jews are the highly orderly and advanced Western societies. MacDonald keeps referring to the high IQ of Jews, but if Jews are indeed so smart, why would they choose to sever the branch on which they sit? Are Jews somehow high IQ, yet also extremely stupid to think that a third-world America filled with illiterate peasants from Sudan would be safer for them than the current state? Was Bolshevism an exercise in Jewish survival? Has it improved the fortunes of the Jews?
So how do we explain the leftist tendencies of so many Jews, especially in America? A traditional explanation, one that is in congruence with the free-willing human person, would look at ideas and their development. And beyond ideas lie the concept of culture, not as an evolutionary determined system, but as a set of customs, beliefs, and prejudices that are adopted and chosen. Such an explanation exists, I believe, in Norman Podhoretz’s book, Why Are Jews Liberals. In short, not due to an “evolutionary survival strategy,” but due to specific beliefs that have supplanted traditional Judaism.
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