Greetings! This is @MexPhilosopher from Twitter. I’m setting up this blog because I often get asked whether or not there’s a blog where I comment more at length about some of the things I tweet about and the answer is always “no”. Not anymore. Also sometimes people want to learn more about the topics I tweet about and there’s nowhere to go on the internet to do that, so hopefully this blog can also help in that regard as well.
What I’ll be blogging about is bourgeois philosophy in general and western academic philosophy in particular, mostly in the style of commenting on news about the philosophy profession in the first-world. Bourgeois philosophy is philosophy in the service of the bourgeoisie. For everyone living in the first quarter of the 21st century, bourgeois philosophy means philosophy in the service of economic imperialism, its superstructures, and of the people who rally for and benefit from it. Basically, this means that it’s philosophy in the service of almost everyone living in the first-world, with the possible exception of prisoners, slaves, some lumpen-proletariat, undocumented immigrants, and people in imperialist detention centers.
Why should there be a blog at all about bourgeois philosophy? Because there’s nothing like it out there. Sure, there’s plenty of good philosophy blogs out there like New APPS, Daily Nous, The Philosopher’s Cocoon, The Philosophy Smoker, and others that feature philosophical content as well as news and information about western academic philosophy. There’s also the Mos Eisley of philosophy blogs, Leiter Reports, openly supporting the worst aspects of academic philosophy even by liberal standards, and serving as a rallying point for the most backwards people drawn to philosophy. So while it seems like there’s a lot of variety in philosophy blogging, all of them simply just take the bourgeois nature of western academic philosophy for granted and are uncritical about its connection to global economic imperialism and its superstructures. In many, if not most cases, the philosophers on blogs and social media adopt, or just passively report a narrow, chauvinistic, bourgeois liberal stance both with regards to the philosophical content they showcase and important issues relevant to being a philosopher and doing philosophy. Some of these issues are the inclusivity of philosophy, ableism, gender, class, nation, and other power injustices in first-world academia, academic freedom, first-world labor struggles, and the general value of philosophy.
The problem is that while bourgeois liberalism is the dominant ideology in western academic philosophy, bourgeois liberalism is a game only the world’s most privileged people can play and what first-world philosophers have to say both philosophically and about important issues ―their ideas and their recommendations, generally excludes most of the world’s people in terms of consideration, relevance, and aspiration. In a sense, bourgeois philosophy is a lot like the phenomenon of mansplaining.
In patriarchal societies males are accustomed to being doted on and babied into believing every thought passing through their heads, whether it originated with them or was appropriated, is exceptional and deserving of everyone else’s support and admiration just because it passed through their male heads. Men thus imprudently inject themselves into most situations with an unwarranted, arrogant posture of expertise, expecting to be treated as if their thoughts and ideas are necessarily weighty and demand not only respect and consideration, but that these should be treated as the leading and definitive account of whatever the matter is at stake. Of course, because their thoughts are conditioned by unjustly dehumanizing women, they glaringly fail to take women into account in their ideation; their recommendations are often outlandishly prohibitive or hurtful toward women and or completely irrelevant to them, and are conspicuously out of place or inappropriate to women who know better and are better qualified. The result is male obliviousness and a clumsy state of idiocy in the presence of self-serving oppression that’s completely transparent to everyone who isn’t insulated by the privileges of patriarchy. When a man carries on in this fashion when voicing his thoughts, he is mansplaining. Mansplaining is possible because of patriarchy, a type of structural injustice with regard to gender that benefits men through privileges acquired through the historical and ongoing exploitation, disenfranchisement, and oppression of women.
This characterization of mansplaining is word-for-word accurate to bourgeois philosophy: It’s a type of first-world-splaining, possible because of imperialism, which is a type of structural injustice with regard to nations that benefits first world people through privileges acquired through the historical and ongoing exploitation, disenfranchisement, and oppression of the rest of the world. The ideas and recommendations that occur to bourgeois philosophers are often prohibitive or hurtful toward most of the world’s people and or completely irrelevant to them and are conspicuously out of place or inappropriate to people who know better and are better qualified. The result is first-world philosophical obliviousness and a clumsy state of idiocy in the presence of self-serving oppression that’s completely transparent to everyone who isn’t insulated by the privileges of imperialism.
Consider just one example of one of the issues relevant to doing philosophy and being a philosopher ―the call for “inclusivity” in academia. When it comes to this issue, bourgeois philosophy limits itself to neo-colonial notions of “inclusivity”, which just means the inclusion of non-euro-american people who have the same bourgeois outlook and aspirations as their euro-american counterparts and the exclusion of people who aren’t bourgeois liberals. This means the exclusion of people who are the victims of liberalism and its institutions, people who don’t benefit from things like individualism, private property, “free” markets, rule of the bourgeois classes and oppressor nations in “democracies” of the type found in imperialist countries, etc. And this happens to be most people in the third world as well as prisoners, slaves, undocumented immigrants, other third world sojourners in the first world, and people in imperialist detention centers. Regularly reading the philosophy blogs one gets the idea that it’s just normal that these latter groups aren’t playing the game of ‘philosophy’ (kind of like it was just normal that Blacks couldn’t play the voting game in the united states up until the late 1800’s). Their state may be sad and pitiful, and that’s too bad, but what philosophers are doing just isn’t for those groups of people. Now if their situation up and changed somehow and they took undergraduate degrees, learned to talk like bourgeois liberal academics and learned to value the same things these academics value, then maybe they can do philosophy in the neo-colonial fashion reserved for non-euro-americans in the mainstream. But until then, sorry! There isn’t much first world academics are willing to do to include these groups.
The call for inclusivity that shows up on the bourgeois philosophy blogs and social media is also predictably limited when it comes to women. Generally the call for the inclusivity of “women” ignores the real cleavage between the power, interests, and aspirations of first-world euro-american women, first world non-euro-american women, and third-world women. This results in defaulting to the status quo, which means that the bourgeois liberal call for inclusivity of women is dominated by attention to the most privileged and powerful of these groups, euro-american women, followed by second-rate neo-colonial participation for first world non-euro-american women and mostly excludes third world women. To be sure, you’d be hard pressed to find a single call for inclusivity of women in the bourgeois philosophy blogs and social media that isn’t neo-colonial in nature with the same attitude and outrageously chauvinistic restrictions as those outlined in the general case in the paragraph above.
For most of the world’s people who don’t benefit from global imperialism and are philosophically inclined this type of “inclusivity” even if it became 100% realized, would amount to nothing, and would be completely irrelevant. So from the outside looking in, it seems completely out of place and inappropriate to rally for it. Concretely, the call for this limited type of “inclusivity” is far from a harmless domestic issue playing out in a tiny, irrelevant area of academia. It is actually hurtful to most of the world’s people because it reinforces first-world chauvinism.
First-world chauvinism is the adoption of ideologies and practices designed to justify, reinforce, and prolong first world oppression of the rest of the world. It’s something that grows natively from the comforts and privileges afforded by imperialism to its constituency, but is reinforced and perpetuated by the institutions and superstructures of imperialism. Some of its important characteristics are narrow nationalism/anti-internationalism, first world exceptionalism, apologetics, deliberate distortion of the relative status of first world people in relation to the rest of the world in favor of first world people, deliberate ignorance of the subsidies extracted by first world people from the rest of the world, and deliberate ignorance of the fact that these subsidies are unjustly acquired at gunpoint ―in other words, it colludes with the militarism of the first world countries.
First world chauvinism is concretely hurtful to most of the world’s people because it blots out the real dependence of the first world on the depravation of the rest of the world and everything that goes with it. It normalizes this lopsided relationship and sets out the vision that first world people have reserved for themselves and for the rest of the world: the troubles of the world’s people may be great, and we can discuss them on our terms in sanitized editorials in The Atlantic, The New Yorker and on NPR, etc., but our troubles and concerns are what really matter, we are the culture and thought leaders and the rest of the world’s job is simply to continue providing for us under the gun of our military and multinationals so that we can continue to do our thing. First world chauvinism is the principal feature of the leading ideologies of the mass base for global imperialism. It’s the manifest destiny of the 21st century.
And it’s in this harmful, chauvinist spirit that the bourgeois liberal academic calls for “inclusivity” in philosophy, the other humanities, and the sciences are made. In course, for those who don’t benefit from imperialism, the posture of the bourgeois philosophers regarding the issue of inclusivity makes philosophy out to be a bigoted, uncritical echo chamber where history’s most privileged people trade only in thoughts and ideas that reinforce their world view.
This is just one example, but there are others, basically covering all that concerns being a contemporary philosopher and doing philosophy. The positive side of all this is that there’s nothing about philosophy and philosophical activity that makes it bourgeois, but bourgeois people and bourgeois institutions make it so. There’s also nothing about philosophy that determines that it should be a bigoted echo chamber for the world’s most privileged people. That just happens to be what’s being served up to the world’s people as philosophy without qualification by the bourgeois philosophers in the west ―Philosophers who happen to enjoy the privilege of a global audience of people interested in philosophy because their culture and institutions are artificially propped up by the inequities of global imperialism.
So what does non-bourgeois philosophy radiating out of the west during the first quarter of the 21st century even look like? Well, there isn’t very much of it here at all. It’s understandable: it’s the philosophy of the victims of liberalism and there aren’t academic institutions in imperialist countries that serve the interests of this group of people. Every once in a while, there’ll be a bit in a paper, or in a book, or an argument fragment, or a blog post that has a non-bourgeois take and can be used to build on, but there’s nothing close to approximating the available work of even the most marginalized “sub disciplines” of western academic philosophy.
But in spite of the lack of a good contemporary example from existing institutions of philosophy in the west, is there anything we can say about philosophy that isn’t bourgeois?
First, when philosophy avoids first-world chauvinism by being internationalist in outlook and consideration that’s one step toward not being bourgeois. And there are other ways too, like engaging critically with liberalism ―and not just in the routine way where particular liberal arguments between people who agree with each other about liberalism (say, anyone on this list) are evaluated by like-minded contemporary philosophers with an empty logic. Nothing is ever at stake in these “debates” and the disagreements are suitably “academic”. That’s fine for advancing one’s career or filling up journals with what in some circles passes for cleverness, but not for lending any insight into the relative correctness of a philosophy that while dominant among the privileged global minority, excludes most of the world’s people in terms of consideration, relevance, and aspiration. Generally, non-bourgeois philosophy is open to the idea that liberalism itself is worthy of criticism and does not take for granted the limits that liberalism sets up for debate about itself.
Another part of what it means to engage critically with liberalism and going beyond its comfort zone is dropping a few of the favorite pretenses and prejudices of western academic philosophers. For example, non-bourgeois philosophy is skeptical of individualism ― a liberal philosophical view about the primacy and power of individuals in shaping society and history, and instead focuses on analyses rooted in the social relations between groups of people. Individualism is different from philosophical claims about “individuality”, or “individuation”, which are more about the ontology of consciousness as distinct. Individualism is harmful to most of the world’s people for many reasons. For example, it promotes the liberal idea that things like oppression and exploitation are individual evils rather than things that arise from the relationships between groups. The conceit is that liberal institutions and economics have “pinned down” what justice is and that it’s just individual people who do bad things. In such a way people the world over waste their time and effort chipping away at individual biases and praising individual heroics without once striking a blow to the institutional, structural core of global injustice. But it’s also harmful to most of the world’s people when it comes to the practices of first-world liberal bourgeois scholars because these scholars carry on as if their will and self-policing is enough to guarantee that their work is “pure”, “abstract”, and “universal” in quality, even when it is overwhelmingly conditioned by structural injustices and rehearses doctrines and results favorable to the status quo. Individualism indulges the privileges of imperialism among bourgeois liberal scholars by insulating their work from the charge of bias under the dubious pretense that an individual scholar can subjectively achieve objectivity, detachment, and neutrality. In this way, individualism serves to disarm critics of bourgeois philosophy who are unconvinced by the track record and the alleged superhuman abilities of first-world liberal bourgeois scholars to give a fair shake to the rest of the world.
And that’s something else that non bourgeois philosophy rids itself of: the pretense of objectivity, detachment, and neutrality and it ceases to treat these things as desirable characteristics of philosophy. The supposed detachment, objectivity, and neutrality of bourgeois philosophy is exactly like the “neutrality” of people who claim not to “see race” ―in a context of structural racism, this self-proclaimed neutrality is both an exercise in the privileges secured by racism and a way to further delegitimize the resistance of those oppressed by it. The supposed objectivity of bourgeois philosophy reenacts the same phenomenon in the context of the structural injustices created by global imperialism. To be clear, what’s wrong with both “color-blindness” and “objectivity” etc., isn’t some ideal. A world where there’s no structural racism and no structural injustice in the form of global imperialism and where a state approximating both color-blindness and intellectual objectivity can be realized is a desirable goal for most of the world’s people. The difference here between philosophy that’s bourgeois and philosophy that isn’t centers on how thinkers philosophize in our current context where there is overwhelming structural injustice on a global level and a fraction of people living in the first world benefit from it, using liberal ideology and institutions to justify it and to continue carrying on in an unjust way. Universally, and along individualist lines (Not my research! Not my AOS! Not my obscure, comparatively unimportant, technical, corner of academia!) western academic philosophers claim detachment, objectivity, and neutrality in their search for truth-with-a-capital-T. Yet the starting point as well as the upshot of their philosophy is always bourgeois. What’s more likely the case is that western academic philosophy in the main isn’t detached, objective, and neutral, and that claims to that effect are a shorthand for expressing that the liberal bourgeois way of thinking simply ignores how people’s thoughts and ideas are relatively conditioned by external, material, and social conditions. Bourgeois philosophy simply assumes that these things can be brought into existence by individual will and self-policing. Detachment, objectivity, and neutrality, aren’t virtues of contemporary western philosophical thought, but represent an oversight and a weakness of bourgeois philosophy that results in its failure to be comprehensive. Non-bourgeois philosophy on the other hand maintains that detachment, objectivity, and neutrality are the types of things that need to be exacted at the institutional level through policy and law. Because no such institutions exist in liberal society, attitudes and intellectual work claiming to be detached, objective, and neutral default to the status-quo.
Another, and related, prejudice of bourgeois philosophy is idealism, the tendency to evaluate ideas and practices, and to structure debates all in terms of a purported absolute truth and absolute value rather than relative to a particular aim in a context. Yes, it’s true: philosophers love ideas and they love comparing ideas to other ideas and saying things about them within a (mostly classical) logic. That’s very nice. Still, idealism is a bourgeois prejudice because the purported “absolutes” here are not the types of things that can be detached from the social relations that form the basis for the relative determination of thoughts. The result is that these “absolutes” are overwhelmingly an expression of the aspirations of bourgeois people conditioned by their class and national privilege. There’s also another dimension: in addition to taking for granted that the aspirations of bourgeois people are absolute, bourgeois philosophy also has the disposition to frame debates in such a way that it compares these “absolutes” to things that people from different classes and nations (that don’t share liberal prejudices and aspirations) do in the world. Predictably, the things people from these groups do in the world always comes up short of the perfection of the bourgeois philosophers’ ideas. Non-bourgeois philosophy rids itself of both of these aspects of idealism and regularly treats both ideas and practices only in relation to given aims in a context. The same goes for how debates are framed. To limit the idealist bourgeois prejudice in abstract debate concerning only ideas, non-bourgeois philosophy always identifies ideas in terms of their origin in social relations. To isolate that same prejudice when evaluating things people do in the world, practices are measured against other practices with a stated goal, never just against an idea.
Attempting to do philosophy in this way must seem awkward and unnatural to people reared in the exclusive and narrowing thought of the bourgeoisie. For those of us trained in the liberal thinking promoted at universities in the imperialist countries and in the colonies, it’s natural to wonder if anything like this even counts as philosophy and not just “activism”. “Activism” ―an alarming sounding term used by people who benefit from upholding the standpoint of bourgeois philosophy to shut down criticism from thinkers who maintain that people excluded by liberal ideology and institutions have as much a claim to philosophical thought as anyone else. That’s OK. Non-bourgeois philosophy has as much to do with activism as bourgeois philosophy does ―the difference is that non-bourgeois philosophers don’t go on pretending their views are benevolent and neutral. Name calling and tantrums are the very least non-bourgeois thinkers the world over can expect from that camp. Besides, it’d be kind of naïve to anticipate that the type of radical change required to achieve things like inclusivity and justice in the western practice of philosophy will be something familiar and comfortable for the people who have no interest in making that change or who think that liberal thought and institutions are “good enough” because they’ve either “convinced” themselves of its correctness uncritically employing liberal principles, or it works for them, or they can at least get away with carving a career out of liberalism. Being uncomfortable and going through the pain of learning how to be with the people you and institutions that serve your interests systematically exclude because of structural injustice is part of what it takes to do philosophy in a radically new way that aligns with the goals, aspirations, and purposes of most of the world’s people. It probably feels like the way euro-american “white” people felt in the United States during the process of nominally de-segregating public institutions. That’s what it takes.
So in order to be inclusive, to do more than pay lip service to being critical and to give a fair shake to the world’s people who aren’t bourgeois and don’t aspire to being bourgeois, it’s important to have a perspective on news and information about philosophy that isn’t just for the minority of bourgeois, privileged people in the first world. What’s needed is a non-bourgeois perspective that’s internationalist, grounded in an understanding of the social relations between groups of people, openly on the side of the global majority, and not idealistic. That’s the spirit in which this blog is founded.
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