Wokeism, the senile disease of democracy

03.18.2024 3 min
Published in L’Opinion , March 2024

Below you will find a text that I wrote on the double danger of wokeism for our civilisation. In so far as it relates to the decline of the values of humanism and universalism, as well as the economic, financial and moral bankruptcy, which it both signifies and entails. But also as a powerful factor in the rise of its apparent opposite: populism, just as unscientific and anti-democratic as wokeism. Its double.

Wokeism is a sign of an intellectual and moral weakening of Western civilisation. It is a accomplished manifestation of what I call “hyperdemocracy”, that is to say, democracy taken to the extreme, which advocates, under the pretext of social justice – the road to Hell is paved with good intentions – total equality for all and with each other, which in turn creates an abhorrence of natural differences and the adoration of cultural distinctions. To the point of denying the reality of the biological difference between the sexes, for example.

This fanatical quest for equality breeds a pathological jealousy, which kills meritocracy by reducing everything to the lowest common denominator, seriously confounding the much-needed search for equality of opportunity with the desire to force formal equality upon everything.

Furthermore Wokeism also systematically and binarily declares who is oppressed and who is the oppressor, simplistically reducing the analysis of the history of societies to this sole opposition and thus peremptorily designating who has the right to speak and who must feel ashamed. Through destroying any kind of debate. And, ultimately, by undermining the very principle of democracy.

Wokeism thus displays its hatred of Western history and culture to the point of wanting to destroy or reconstruct them. Or even rewrite them. Obsessing only on their faults, it systematically and asymmetrically ignores those of other religions, cultures or civilisations.

There is therefore no need to characterise Wokeism in this way, to absolve our history of its errors and to ignore the path of progression that it is necessary to pursue. But who can validly dispute that our civilisation was probably the only one in history to produce consistent improvement, certainly non-linear, regarding the situation of women, for those who only have their jobs as their wealth (slaves then employees ), religious tolerance, racial equality, etc. ?

Thus continuously to be refined, but without ever falling into a thought that is as reductive as it is intolerant. Nor in the failings of “hyper-democracy”, where everyone has more and more rights and fewer and fewer duties. This regression of the notion of each person’s duties towards society, that is to say towards others, inevitably leads to moral as well as financial ruin.

Finally when applied to the economic field, Wokeism wearing its blinkers, values “impact” and thinks that the usefulness of companies is based solely on this. Forgetting, or worse contemptuous, towards those who do their job well and are efficient, for the benefit of society, without constantly overplaying CSR. As if the latter should become their only reason for existence. Whereas, as essential as it is, CSR must be fully integrated into the life and development of companies, not as a sole criterion, but through the essential respect that companies owe to all stakeholders.

Trotskyism was the childish disease of socialism, so the communists said. Wokeism is probably the senile disease of the West.

This image of decadence, as well as self-loathing, and these recurring insults to common sense, can no longer inspire other civilisations. We should therefore not be surprised that the rest of the world, at best, has less desire to be like us and thinks that we are definitely no longer a model. Or, at worst, that they believe that we are an anti-model whose disappearance must be accelerated. And this favours the strategies of democratorships or pure and simple dictatorships which claim to combat this degeneration of values.

Finally, in our own societies, Wokeism gives rise to its exact opposite and yet, in many ways, its double: populism. Ultimately, populism is, just as much as Wokeism, anti-scientific and anti-liberal, in the full, historical and philosophical sense of the word liberal. Radical American Democrats thus effectively contributed to putting Trump into orbit.

Are we experiencing the end of a civilisation or its mutation towards a new rationality which is having great difficulty to emerge? Will we be able to rebuild in time a democratic ideal which will ensure high social protection, founded and justified by work and civic morality? As opposed to the true selfishness underlying the permanent over-representation of rights and the recurrent devaluation of duties? Will we thus be able to escape the fatal financial pitfall of rushing forward regardless of the ever-increasing debt that this implies? And the feeling of inequity and discouragement induced among those who still uphold the system through their work and their respect of the rules?

Or will we leave the only reaction to this development which undermines our societies to populist powers? Those whose solutions, both politically and economically, would only bring more poverty and less well-being?

Let us be pessimistic through reason. Let us be optimistic through will and action, within our means.

As Gramsci said: “The old world is dying, the new world is slow to appear and in this half-light the monsters arise”.

This is where we are, it seems to me.

Article published on March 18, 2024 in the daily newspaper L’Opinion.

Olivier Klein
Professor of Economics