Identity politics has metastasized to the whole societal body. For its very nature it has both promoted and produced a multiplicity of groups and “identities” under different banners such as race, gender, sexual preferences, etc. Thus, Facebook allows its users to choose from 58 possible genders.
Besides social media, a place where identity politics has found one of its strongholds is the university. Naturally, the humanities departments have become a cozy home for it. But they are far from the only one in higher learning institutions. Rochelle Gutierrez, a professor at the University of Illinois, claimed that teaching math perpetuates unearned white privilege. “On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness,” she explained. “Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White.”
Hard sciences research departments are also under siege. The accusation is that STEM field (science, technology, engineering, maths) is not diverse enough and “minorities” such as women, blacks, and Hispanics, are underrepresented. “All across the country the big question now in STEM is: how can we promote more women and minorities by ‘changing’ (i.e., lowering) the requirements we had previously set for graduate level study?,” a scientist at UCLA laments.
In the United States, universities are full of infantilizing safe spaces and unconstitutional speech codes. Some even have “White-free days.” All these regressive inventions claim to defend and protect marginalized and oppressed groups.
At the base of college campuses identity politics is the Ludwig von Mises’s notion of polylogism… on steroids. While the classic Leftist polylogic would separate the thought processes of the proletarian and the bourgeoisie, the postmodern Left multiplies the different kinds of groups of the oppressed ad infinitum.
Another important mutation is related to the epistemological consequences of victimhood.
Once linked to the tenets of relativism, the Left’s identity politics is now full of certainties in a way that would make the staunchest Positivist blush. And this turn has to do with the status of the “victim.” According to identity politics, being a victim provides blamelessness, moral authority, and epistemological preeminence. The secular dogma of “believing the victim” has two implications. On a micro level, the burden of proof has been reversed. It is the accused of a crime who has to prove their innocence. On a macro level, the statements or claims which stem from oppressed groups (i.e. radicalized individuals who claim their representation) cannot be questioned or criticized. Any such criticism would immediately be deemed as racist, sexist, homophobic, or an act of pure hate.
“The next time some academics tell you how important ‘diversity’ is, ask how many Republicans there are in their sociology department,” says Thomas Sowell. Indeed, the Left’s domination over academia and the predominance of identity politics as its most dangerous cultural weapons will not be coming to an end any time soon.
However, innovation and the free market are going to provide us with a solution to counteract the grotesque tribalism coming from college campuses.
If current trends continue, it is very likely that universities as we know them have their days counted. In a way, it could be that contemporary universities are somewhat zombie institutions, walking dead who move purely by the inertia of the past.
Which trends? For starters that the job market of the future is likely to demand a constant update of one’s knowledge and skills and individuals will probably change career paths several times throughout their work life. What is more, Silicon Valley companies have already stopped requesting college degrees to potential employees. The reason may be twofold. There is a huge pool of talented people who have acquired knowledge through non-traditional channels (i.e. Internet). But it is also plausible that colleges are more and more perceived as the Left’s über think tank and that the education part side is losing ground against the ideological brainwashing.
There are already in place many online alternatives not to go to university at all or to acquire skills with short easy courses. The technology tycoon and venture capitalist Peter Thiel himself established a special fund to incentivize young entrepreneurs to skip or postponed college in order to start their projects right away.
Moreover, Jordan Peterson, the black beast of college campus identity politics, is currently working on an online university which he promises will “teach people to write, speak, and think.”
As we can see, there is a lot going on right now in order to find better alternatives to higher learning. The moment the market finds reliable ways to acredit the knowledge people receive online education as we know it will be changed for ever. We will witness not only the demise of college campus identity politics but will also see the end of the Left’s monopoly over culture. We are at the gates of one of the most transformative events since the invention of the printing press.
Federico N. Fernándezis is a President of Fundación Internacional Bases (Rosario, Argentina) and a Senior Fellow with the Austrian Economics Center (Vienna, Austria). He is also the president of the Organizing Committee of the international conference “The Austrian School of Economics in the 21st Century,” which will take place in Vienna in November 13 & 14 2019