Worshipping the Future
The spiralling catastrophe of transformative politics
This is a series of essays dissecting the social mechanisms that have led to the strange and disorienting times in which we live. Helen commissioned them from when it became clear that this substack was going to be much more popular than expected.
Helen is a retired corporate lawyer so is in the position to maintain a popular—and free—substack without financial impost. If there is sufficient interest in the essays, she will explore print publication in book form, either through a mainstream publisher or an outfit like Unbounders.
Each essay will be published on a weekly basis.
Below this introduction is a publication schedule, although there may be some minor variations as responds to comments, clarifications, and criticisms. Remember, too, that Lorenzo is on Twitter @LorenzoFrom. I’m on the Bird Site @_HelenDale
Both of us will tweet each essay as it’s published. At the end of each essay, you’ll find a detailed bibliography and suggestions for further reading. Helen will also link each essay here as it’s published, so this (pinned) post serves as a “one-stop-shop” for interested readers.
If you think Lorenzo’s efforts are worth extra & want to “hit the tip jar” and make a one-off payment that isn’t a traditional substack subscription, go here. Do be aware, however, this substack will always be kept free for everyone.
Of course, in addition to Lorenzo’s writing, Helen will also continue to write her own substack pieces on a regular basis.
Do subscribe below so that you don’t miss anything, and spread the word.
There are endless critiques of ideas currently labelled “woke”. It can be fun, even informative, to trace the intellectual history of those ideas. To dissect their limitations, failings and falsities. This despite the fact that those to whom it is applied reject it, yet other folk can readily understand what is meant.
What is, again and again, lacking in critical explorations, no matter how clever, insightful, funny or witty they may be, is any serious sense of what we should do in response. The critiques neither contain nor imply any useful response, any useful action plan.
Relatedly, the sense of the underlying mechanisms that led to where we are is thin, weak, or absent. Key elements about how woke ideas became so socially pervasive are neither understood nor explained. Hence the critiques do not lead to any useful response.
If you do not understand mechanisms of how and the why, it is hard to develop, even articulate, how to do better. Moreover, without useful and substantive explication of the underlying mechanisms, it’s all too easy to fall prey to conspiratorial thinking.
We Homo sapiens love stories, we love narratives. If we do not have an accurate and understandable analysis of how things happen, it is easy to tell each other emotionally satisfying stories.
Conspiracies make emotionally satisfying stories: think grand tales of powerful malign villains and our own heroic rejection of them and their purposes.
So, this series of essays explores underlying mechanisms of how and why. They will then lead into, and conclude with, an action plan.
The basic thesis is that we are dealing far less with a set of ideas—these keep evolving and shifting—than a set of status-and-social-leverage strategies. Seeing the proponents as holding to a set of ideals with which compromise is possible—so they can be mollified by various concessions—feeds the strategy.
It is only if the status and social leverage strategies are rendered dysfunctional that processes of “wokification” can be halted or reversed. These essays will explore those strategies, and the mechanisms that make them effective, allowing readers to see how to respond usefully.
Essay 1: Social justice as social leverage
Is social justice advancing our evolution or gaming it?
Essay 2: Why does anyone believe in Marxism?
How to (murderously) not understand commerce.
Surplus drives history: states create surplus.
Essay 4: The paradox of polities
The state protects against social predators and is the most dangerous of social predators.
Essay 5: The deep appeal of Marxism
Imagining the future has power: past and present both pale in comparison
Essay 6: Updating the template
The ever-evolving template of transformational politics, from Marxism to the current thing
Essay 7: The Pravda media model
Informing you of the acceptable
Essay 8: Consciousness and coherence
We are far too conscious of being conscious
Essay 9: Self-deceptive rationalising moralisers
We game ourselves to better game others
Networking and signalling do not a conspiracy make
Essay 11: Choosing pseudo-realities
Sovereign choosers and other self-deceptions of Theory: I
Sovereign choosers and other self-deceptions of Theory: II
Essay 13: Too common or too costly: truth as a weak social signal
In the absence of reality-testing, bullshit wins.
Essay 14: Feminisation has consequences (1)
The evolutionary novelty of largely abandoning presumptive sex roles.
Essay 15: Feminisation has consequences (2)
Shifting away from solidarity.
Essay 16: A better future versus the transformational future
Degrading the bargaining politics of human flourishing.
Essay 17: Creating social dysfunction
You pay an organisation to do what makes its resources go up. (I)
Essay 18: The social-imperial state
You pay an organisation to do what makes its resources go up. (II)
Essay 19: Migration as social-imperial project
You pay an organisation to do what makes its resources go up. (III)
Essay 20: A crusading clerisy
The status and social leverage strategies of a socially imperial class.
Essay 21: The Transcult
When denying reality is a great strategy.
Essay 22: Winning through social dysfunction
A civilisation of broken feedbacks generating expanding social dysfunction.
Essay 23: The triple attack on democracy
Frustrating discussion, bypassing voters, delegitimising what democracy has wrought.
Essay 24: The revolt of the Somewheres
National populism as a response to Anywhere arrogance.
Essay 25: Vanguard capital
The use of human and social capital for social domination.
Essay 26: Capacity without character
Not selecting for success.
Essay 27: Delusions of technocracy
Theory creates destructive illusions of knowing.
Essay 28: A new convergence
Normative flux and the end of a civilisational cycle.
Essay 29: Taking away achievement
Sucking the joy and hope out of human history and the humanity out of stories.
Essay 30: Lack of character, avoiding reality, selecting for approval
The moral and intellectual decay of the universities.
Essay 31: An imperial ideology of aggression and cruelty
Destroying lives, reputations, careers, businesses.
Essay 32: Pandemic responses and the colonising of fragility
Using an available template.
Essay 33: Marxism as original sinning
The poisoned well from which so much intellectual decay arises.
Essay 34: The rise of skin-suit institutions
Being increasingly (mis)ruled by the flayed shells of once vibrant institutions.
Derailing the transformational-future “social justice” status-and-social-leverage strategy.
I know this is blasphemy and defeatism, and it won't stop me enjoying the exploration of ideas so kindly furnished, but I sometimes wonder whether the intellectual demolition of fashionable attitudes is no more than an interesting exercise and diversion for those of us with enquiring minds and a respect for truth. For it is - as we all well know - all but impossible to win an argument on its merits. No matter how logical, how amply provided with evidence, how orderly the thought, people with no understanding, no respect and no desire for truth will mob together and continue to behave badly, overcome by their emotions and sense of false righteousness, ad infinitum eternitamque
¡Por Dios, chico!
Let me carve a month out of my schedule to devote to this monster of a thesis ;-)
I look forward to every sentence.