The Spectre of Wokeness

A spectre is haunting America, the spectre of Wokeness. From Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ Sisyphean struggle against Disney, to Philosopher & NATO court jester Slavoj Zizek proclaiming ‘Wokeness is Here to Stay’; All the powers of cultural production have gathered to exorcize the contagion known as the Woke Mind Virus’.

In his Compact Magazine piece, Slavoj Zizek notes how this wokeness is ‘being normalized, conformed to even by those who inwardly doubt it, and practiced by the majority of academic, corporate, and state institutions.

The cultural saturation of the word is ubiquitous, this is unquestionable. For a certain section of the population, Wokeness is everywhere, behind every problem, lurking in the darkness. We have heard diatribes against wokeness from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Maher, and in his failing presidential campaign, Ron Desantis has tried to make this fight against wokeness a populist one by picking a large corporation in his state to rail against.

Even Slavoj Zizek, known as the rock star of Philosophy, the star of ‘A Pervert’s Guide to Ideology’, has long made the fight against liberal excess and political correctness part of his project. This is helped along by the fact that Zizek has the platform to rail against this pervasive ubiquitous menace, alongside former Trump administration National Security Council members in Compact Magazine. The fight against wokism is indeed being normalized. But- What is it?

Outside of contrarian leftists, the pseudo populist revolt against “wokism” finds political expression in the Florida governor Ron DeSantis. This is not the exact same as Zizek’s longing for the lost days where someone gives him an N-word pass for a dirty joke. For the New Right, they oppose Woke Disney as Disney Adults Spurned. DeSantis and his wife were married at Disney World. They don’t oppose big corporations. They aren’t anti-establishment. They are adults mad that they are no longer the target audience for a mass culture commodity marketed at children.

The nostalgia of a lost America, reflected to them as a cartoon vision which has been darkened by stories they doesn’t recognize, that don’t reflect them, and this is scary to them. They are like children lost among the rides, their parents aren’t returning, and they are lashing out. This lost world is the unmediated, authentic being of undifferentiated childhood, their Disney World, a culture ready-at-hand. This imaginary world covers psychologically for what they lack, a lost culture which as they imagine it never even existed.  

One would think that any sane person might ask the question, does the Disney Corporation, which one could argue represents the absolute sublation and propagation of the American protestant ethos into capitalist mass culture worldwide, really believe so deeply in ‘Wokeism’? The same Disney, which has been historically a force of militant anti-union labor practices, slavery apologia, and known for enforcement of cultural conservatism upon the appearance of their employees? 

Or are they a modern international corporation which is doing the bare minimum in the form of representational politics because that is what the market demands?  From the Marxist perspective, it is very clear and straight-forward. The market, despite its woeful inadequacy for organizing social relations, is a modernizing universalizing force, which gradually dissolves feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It is a progressive force in this sense.

The progressive nature of Capitalism, while understood by communists as a historical contingency, has long been the source of antagonism among the anti-capitalism of the right. It is opposition to these leveling universalist aspects of historical progress that form the anti-capitalism of the right, an anti-capitalism of the petit bourgeoisie.

From this perspective, it cannot be ignored how the fight against ‘wokeness’ reproduces the social function that ‘Judeo-Bolshevism’ performed for the rising Nazi Party. The fight against ‘wokeness’ abstracts away from overt racialization but keeps the underlying antagonism. ‘They’ are corrupting our culture. ‘They’ are spreading a modernist social contagion, which is degenerating and corrupting the ‘authentic” collective being. The Nazis held art exhibitions early in their reign exhibiting, “Degenerate Art”, showing the horrors of woke modernism, which one might see as the early iteration of modern SJW reaction videos, the art of enjoying the art of the triggered suffering ‘liberal’.

Nazis sit on bench in 'Degenerate Art' exhibition

For the contrarian leftists like Zizek, wokeness leads to ‘foolish’ or naive opposition to NATO expansion, and insufficient support for Ukrainian nationalism. For Zizek, we must be rational Europeanists first, particularists against the false universalism of a “wokeness” which might oppose NATO expansion.

For the contrarians of the new right, Wokeness is a floating signifier, a sign which stands in for all that they oppose in ‘communism’, the expansion of social freedom in rights for women, sexual autonomy, through the contraction of feudal patriarchal relations. The ones who speak freely and uninhibited about the ‘realignment’ will happily tell you that wokeness is ‘Judeo-bolshevism’. It is clear to them, although they lack the understanding to know why, that progressive forces are abolishing the Disney World they knew, and possibly laying the foundation for Communism. And on that notion- they might not be incorrect. A spectre is indeed haunting America, the spectre of communism, and it is awake.



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