This was supposed to be a short post about this piece over at Daily Nous about diversity in bourgeois philosophy. I failed at making it short so I’ve broken it up into two parts. Still, I think it’s important to share my comments on the Daily Nous piece because diversity is a big concern for first world people who position it as an element of “progress” for their imperialist society, and because from the point of view of non-bourgeois philosophy, it’s one of the main tools of neo-colonialism diluting the national identity of oppressed peoples and splitting nationally oppressed groups in the first world from solidarity with the rest of the world. I think the Daily Nous piece makes some great points that can certainly be used in discussions against those vested in the bourgeois academy who continue to think that philosophy is not only just bourgeois philosophy, but bourgeois philosophy in the manner and execution of 20th century western academic philosophy. But at the same time, because the piece is aligned with bourgeois philosophy, it bears commenting on from a non-bourgeois perspective.
Here in Part I I’ll summarize the Daily Nous Piece and introduce some names for use in my discussion. I’ll also discuss the role of “standards” in discussions about “diversity” and show how bourgeois liberal conceptions of philosophy leave no middle ground for traditionally oppressed people but for imperialist neo-colonialism.
Naturally, my comments here cannot be comprehensive –the neo-colonial concept of diversity in the imperialist academy and in bourgeois philosophy deserves its own sustained analysis –maybe even its own chapter in the book. Having said that, let’s get into it.
Daily Nous on the Game of Western, Academic, Bourgeois Philosophy
The Daily Nous piece begins by identifying the antagonist: a view of diversity where western academic philosophy isn’t just a place where only a few kind of people participate. The “kind” here is euro-american, bourgeois or petty bourgeois men (and women) with a settler colonial social identity delimited by the class, national and gender privilege afforded to them by the history of euro-american imperialism. The idea is that western academic philosophy is a “game”, where only these folks have been able to play and determine the rules. Let’s call these guys the Old-Guard.
I’d like to clarify here that specifically, playing the game of western, academic, bourgeois philosophy means being able to enjoy all the rights and privileges that the Old-Guard have happily indulged in since the founding of philosophy as an academic discipline in the west –including setting the agenda and identifying “legitimate” problems, gate keeping for research questions and programs and setting standards of “rigor”, being a “border guard” for philosophy, that means keeping the right kinds of people in and the wrong kinds of people out, and all the free passes, wink nods, lax standards and exceptions relating to intellectual opportunities, employment and publication that characterize the contemporary practice of western academic philosophy. Part of this is also the ability to make a living in an imperialist settler colonial society as part of an elitist intelligentsia in a neo-colonial educational system, serving as a means of social control and indoctrination into euro-american settler society and promoting its economic interests locally and abroad. All of this is governed by both official institutional rules as well as social norms that frame the landscape of western, academic, bourgeois philosophy. I’m going to call these “the bourgeois rules” of academic philosophy.
The Daily Nous piece goes on to make some very good points about the attitude of the Old-Guard and the bourgeois rules. For example, it notes that the question of diversity is often positioned by the Old-Guard as a matter of inviting people who do not match some of the standard Old-Guard demographic to play at the Old-Guard’s game –for example, they may not have a penis, or they may not be european or euro-american, or they may come from a people colonized or enslaved by europeans and euro-americans, etc. But, as Daily Nous notes: this is an invitation to join a game, not a challenge to the rules of the game itself. And under the oppressive persistence of exclusivity by means of slow, and selective invitations to play the game, some people wonder why the game is set up in this way and according to the bourgeois rules.
Still, let’s call the people wondering about this in euro-america’s neo-colonial academy the New-Guard and it includes Daily Nous and most people on the first-world, bourgeois academic “left”. The piece then notes that the Old-Guard in a sense seek to arbitrarily delimit the human activity of philosophy to playing by the rules so that if it isn’t by these rules, then it isn’t “philosophy” –a view at odds with current philosophical understanding of games in the bourgeois literature, which premises that games are mutable. It’s also arbitrarily narrow from a social/historical perspective –limiting a basic human activity to a game and bourgeois rules emerging in a tiny period of time in the west. The Old-Guard makes a lot of noise about this, clamoring that they were there “first” –as if philosophy is somehow a-historical and western. Daily Nous is right to say that this type of “argument” just won’t do.
Then, according to Daily Nous, on the other end and opposite to the narrow conception of philosophy advanced by the Old-Guard is nihilism (I suppose across both New and Old-Guard folks –it’s unclear from the article) about the prospects of having any rules at all for the game of academic philosophy. Perhaps there’s an “all rules are evil! Waaa!” club that some people belong to? At any rate, I don’t know if this is something that Daily Nous just made up for the sake of covering the logical space with a blanket of stuff that never happens or if there are people who believe that the social practice of philosophy can be done without institutional rules and social norms. Of course, it may be not just a matter of covering logical space with the absurd, but it may be a way of making a concession to the Old-Guard –throwing a bone to those folks who think that if you change the rules then all hell will break loose or something. *jerking off motion* None of that matters, though, the important thing is that Daily Nous’ message is basically correct: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to thinking about what the rules are that govern the practice of philosophy.
The Daily Nous piece then shifts from talk about the bourgeois rules to talk about one way of conceiving the bourgeois rules –the so called “standards” of bourgeois philosophy as set up by the Old-Guard and the people they inherited them from. These standards are an unspecified but supposedly paramount concern, governing what counts as philosophy. I have tried elsewhere to make explicit what this is supposed to be and it includes: individualism, idealism, uncritical engagement with liberalism and first-world chauvinism –if your work embraces these, then it likely can “pass” in western academic philosophy, just like some light skinned, non-euro-american people can pass as white. And in the about page to this blog I’ve also spelled out how these concerns also extend to tone policing people who are not bourgeois liberals or on board with imperialist neo-colonialism. The point of this shift in the Daily Nous piece is to show something that the New-Guard seems to have just discovered, but that oppressed people have known ever since the establishing of philosophy as an academic discipline in the west: that the standards “can” be used (actually, all the time, by the ruling classes and those benefitting from colonialism and imperialism) to unjustly exclude oppressed and exploited people from playing the game.
The piece then proceeds to characterize all of this as a false dilemma: either you have the bourgeois rules, and “standards” of the Old-Guard, or you have no rules and no “standards” at all, precipitating the apocalypse. It finishes with some hand wringing about how finding an “intermediate position” (read “position appealing to progressive whites”) is a difficult philosophical problem and how it’s tough on many levels, including epistemically, politically, and emotionally for the people invested in the way things are.
The framing of the problem in terms of games and rules is cute. It might appeal to people involved in academic philosophy because there’s a literature on this and it might be a good lead-in for philosophically minded people thinking about these topics. But conceived outside of the discipline of philosophy, the idea of the bourgeois rules being part of game rigged against the colonized is by no means new. The criticism of token participation in the institutions of the colonizers and oppressors rigged against the colonized, has, for example, a rich history in Black, First Nation and Chicanx resistance to euro-american colonialism and imperialism. It’s no wonder the first item on the Black Panther party’s 10 point program declares: “We believe that Black people will not be free until we are able to determine our own destiny”. It doesn’t say “We believe that Black people will not be free until we follow euro-america’s rules and play their neo-colonial game”.
The practice of philosophy is the same way. To see this, it’s important to work through Daily Nous’ discussion of “standards”.
Philosophical “Standards” and Shared Understanding in Settler Society
The discussion of “standards” at Daily Nous is brief and quite vague, and because of that it is overflowing with the prejudices of bourgeois philosophy, especially the part about how “standards” needn’t be used to exclude the oppressed and exploited. For the record, non-bourgeois philosophy shies away from wishy-washy discussion of “standards” because that’s the type of word that is supposed to be either “good” or “neutral” but is only so if you’ve already bought into an entire ideology around it which is at the bottom racist. From a non-bourgeois point of view, a discussion of “standards” in the abstract is completely useless for the purpose of making academic philosophy something that people can participate in who aren’t euro-american, bourgeois or petty bourgeois men or women with a settler colonial social identity delimited by the class, national and gender privilege afforded to them by the history of euro-american imperialism. To be sure, talk of “standards” in this abstract way in relation to western academic philosophy is the same as talk about the supposed ideal of “race-neutral laws” in euro-american discussions about how to best imprison the Black descendants of former slaves. It boils down to “I’m not a racist but, the law must defend us from SUPER PREDATORS”, and “I’m not a racist, but philosophy must have STANDARDS!!!!”, respectively, and that is because the very thing that grounds any “standard” and set of associated rules is tied to something that cannot be separated from things like class, national, and gender identity. Something like this is actually hinted at by the Daily Nous piece by way of the reference to the “shared understanding of what we’re doing when we’re doing philosophy”.
The very thing that grounds any “standard” and set of associated rules is tied to something that cannot be separated from things like class, national, and gender identity.
What can this shared understanding be? Is it something that abstract, featureless “rational agents” arrive at through “civilized public debate” and have “reasonable disagreements” about in the euro-american nation state? Or in the “unbiased” and “open” liberal academy? Or is it something that a “rational agent” arrives at through pure contemplation on the nature of “liberal society” and “liberal education” and then takes to the “marketplace of ideas”? I can’t imagine that any of this will feature in an honest discussion of the free expression of non-euro-american, non-bourgeois-liberal people because these very things, “rationality”, “civilized public debate”, “liberal society” and “liberal education” are the means through which euro-american liberal people have robbed the rest of the world’s people from developing native, free institutions except as tokens for neo-colonialism. The democratic ideal that bourgeois liberals subscribe to as the space for shared understanding connecting to “diversity” is unrealistic at best, (unless you’re a euro-american liberal benefiting from imperialism, in which case, yeah, problem solved), and complete demagoguery otherwise. Why? Because euro-american society is a capitalist class society in its imperialist stage where euro-americans have neo-colonial power over internal semi-colonies and where powerful euro-american economic and social forces serve the interests of euro-american settlers through liberal institutions shaping imperialist settler society –including and especially, through institutions of higher learning.
The reality is that the shared understanding that Daily Nous is hedging on is nothing other than something given through social identity, or ideology. It can’t be something subjective, because it’s shared. And it can’t be non-social, for the same reasons. It means that the problem of making philosophy open to the rest of the world’s people isn’t a problem of detached, abstract standards, but a problem precisely of what that shared understanding of philosophy is. As such it is a problem of history, ideology and power.
The problem of making philosophy open to the rest of the world’s people isn’t a problem of detached, abstract standards, but a problem precisely of what that shared understanding of philosophy is. As such it is a problem of ideology and power.
At first glance it seems we have at least two opposing views about the shared understanding of philosophy just based on the Daily Nous piece. On the one hand you have the Old-Guard, which represents a reactionary remnant of the steadfast colonial status quo in the settler academy built by setter baby boomers in a form awkwardly adapted to social norms after the civil rights movement. And on the other you have the New-Guard, which represents the progressive face of neo-colonialism of generations X and Y shaped by euro-america’s reformist vision of settler society after the civil rights movement. The origins of each of these views can be traced through in the history of education in the euro-american nation state as represented in the different educational reform movements, including 18th and 19th century liberal reform, the progressivism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the integrationism of the post-civil rights movement, the neo-liberalism of the contemporary age and the latest social democratic opposition to it, each varying in accordance to the economic and social needs of the settler nation state and the relative power of its bourgeois classes.
Because the civil rights movement is central to understanding both the Old and New-Guards, let me say a bit about it by borrowing from Part One of a piece I wrote on Jason Stanley’s views on propaganda and the mass incarceration of Black people by euro-americans:
“The civil rights movement was in the main an integrationist movement opposed to the Black Nationalism of the descendants of former slaves. If you listen to these [Black Nationalist] voices, you’d know that the purpose of the civil rights movement was to consolidate white power in the style of neo-colonialism. Neo-colonialism is a political system where the nationalist demands of the colonized ―things like self-determination and popular democracy, are nominally satisfied in such a way as to isolate and criminalize those very things when exercised outside of the interests of colonial economics. In this case, it’s the economic imperialism of euro-american settlers. Practically, in the united states, it means white power in liberal institutions with Black faces sprinkled here and there, even in the White House. Anyone who spends more than few moments studying the history of Black Nationalism can tell that integrationists among the Black Nation were the minority, with Black Nationalism having a greater part of popular support. Integrationists were backed by euro-american settler institutions like the Department of Justice as well as by sectors of the euro-american nation represented by settler labor unions and social democrats with the goal of promoting the authority of the modern Black neo-colonial leadership we have today. Exploiting the lack of positive strategies for independence and nationhood on the part of the Black Nationalist leadership, euro-american settlers were able to establish the protest-based integrationism that’s a favorite among euro-americans who love telling Black people how to express their anger and disappointment with liberal institutions. ”
Let me make a comment here on “white power”. For most people socialized in the euro-american nation state, thinking about “white power” conjures images of the KKK, nazi and neo-nazi skinheads with swastika tattoos who are the perpetrators of “hate crimes”. While these characterizations are true of certain wing of euro-american white power, it plays into the hands of white power to delimit our understanding to just such manifestations. White power as a whole is less about neo-nazi skinheads and the KKK wing of euro-american settlerism –and more about the liberal bourgeois vision of euro-american settlers regarding their place in the world, the land and labor they’ve stolen and the continued integrity of their nation-state along settler principles and that state’s hegemony in global capitalism. “Black Power”, “Xicanx Power”, etc. aren’t the non-white analogues of KKK or neo-nazi slogans but they are the diametric opposite of the bourgeois liberalism that props up white power in settler society as a whole. The Black Panther Party for self-defense, for example, was not a hate group, but a revolutionary anti-capitalist organization fighting for national democracy for the Black descendants of former slaves and building independent (from euro-american settlerism) institutions for their people. The characterization of white power and “hate-crimes” limited to conceptions of race, gender and disability, etc. gives a free pass to white power and hate as exhibited in the daily operations of euro-american settler institutions. In the Americas, settler neo-colonialism is a system of white power and that includes neo-colonial institutions like the bourgeois academy.
This is the context of the development of the Old and New-Guards in western, academic philosophy in the euro-american nation state. Let me say more about each.
The Old-Guard view is classical, run through liberal reform and progressivism (these are movements in the history of euro-american settler education), and adopting many of the cultural values of Regan era neo-liberalism about education. It’s the bourgeois liberal tough-love of the baby boomers. For example, the Old-Gard loudly demands “high standards” for philosophy, but really just rewards careerist team players who take pride in being part of the favored group. It explicitly upholds the narrow, euro-american, male, bourgeois liberal status quo using racial, class, and gender bias in institutional rankings to evaluate the pedigree of individual philosophers. It glorifies “innate ability” and frequently employs a genius myth about “gifted”, “promising”, “talented”, “star” or highly “intelligent” philosophers who are really just average people who fit the bill. (Some of this has been in the bourgeois philosophy news recently, with a New-Guard piece in the Los Angeles Times) The Old-Guard claims to focus on “impressive results” but really just counts the number of publications in racist, classist, and patriarchal journals edited by influential cliques to judge “quality” of philosophical work. They also make much ado about “personal accountability” in academia and “competitiveness”, maintaining that academia “coddles” students with the so-called “safe spaces” for oppressed and colonized people and are upset that the feminists and the browns are trying to get their claws on the philosophy curriculum that has, after all, worked for euro-american, liberal people for a long time. Pedagogically, the Old-Guard offers nothing other than what you’d expect to get from any generic Morningwood Academy prep-school catering to the global upper-crust. In true chickenhawk fashion, they promote “resilience” and “grit”, although they wouldn’t last a minute in a competitive academic environment without their settler legacy of privilege. They also support bourgeois academic “freedom” and “due process” only insofar as it secures their privileged status in the academy, and they are at the forefront of the fight for tenure, even if it means keeping sexual predators in positions of power and with access to victims. They oppose the involvement of the euro-american state apparatus regarding issues like affirmative action, which they are prone to view as “reverse discrimination”, and believe that the cabals governing academic departments and administrations are the best qualified to oversee admission and hiring decisions. It is from this latter standpoint that they critique the “customer service” model popular among many contemporary academic administrators and businesspeople in academia –where students are treated as “customers” and instruction and curricula are evaluated on “customer satisfaction” criteria.
The New-Guard is fragmented, and represents different strands of bourgeois liberal thought in opposition to the Old-Guard. For example, there are the anarchist views promoted by the Against Professional Philosophy blog, as well as many social democratic “critical pedagogy” views that distinguish themselves from the rank and file New-Guard “progressives”. In this characterization and in the rest of the piece generally, I am focusing mainly on the rank and file of the New-Guard. The New-Guard view has the same run historically as the Old-Guard, but is heavy integrationist, idealizing the powerful victory for settlerism of the civil rights movement and utilizing it in a predominantly humanist (“all lives matter”) way to counter certain aspects of the Old-Guard view disagreeable to their “progressive” liberal sensibilities. With the New-Guard, it’s all about “moderate liberal neutrality”, a self-serving, a-historical, chauvinist, and idealist vision of what’s possible under the rule of euro-american imperialism. For example, the New-Guard –obviously, as this is what this post is about ―believes that there is some “neutral and fair” conception of “high standards” for academic philosophy in settler institutions separable from careerist favoritism for euro-american, bourgeois or petty bourgeois men and women. It also maintains that there’s a “neutral and fair” way to carry out institutional rankings for use in pedigree evaluation and school selection. Much of the fallout following the controversy over Brian Leiter’s (an Old-Guard stalwart) leadership of and scrutiny over the methodology of the Philosophical Gourmet Report had to do with this. The New-Gard doesn’t usually make a big deal about “gifted” philosophers but can get as riled up as any tourist on a TMZ tour about “star” philosophers who exemplify their favored “moderate liberal neutrality”. The New-Guard is generally more attuned to understanding that “intelligence” serves an old-guard gatekeeper function –a function the New-Guard carries out instead through “moderate liberal neutrality”. When it comes to journals and publications the prestige of the core racist, classist, and patriarchal journals still counts, but the New-Guard are open to alternative journals –the type the Old-Guard would laugh off, edited by people with New-Guard values, including euro-american liberal “diversity” and “feminism” (in scare quotes because it’s just white feminism). The editorial cliques continue to exist in a New-Guard character. The New-Guard are also more open to what the Old-Guard calls “coddling” –safe spaces, trigger warnings and a “diverse” curriculum that expresses some views aligned with bourgeois liberalism coming from non-euro-american men and women. In particular, “critical pedagogy” sometimes features among some of the more radical among the New-Guard –This is a reform-centered teaching approach that situates context and promotes awareness of ideology with the goal of creating in people and communities, an understanding of power structures (like nation, gender, ability, and class). It’s a reformist approach because it emphasizes raising awareness, creating habits of thought, and asking the right questions about power as opposed to, say, asserting the practical correctness of principles demonstrated to guide the radical transformation of society through independent institutions. This reformist aspect most clearly comes through in discussion of decolonizing the bourgeois curriculum and academy where no clear path or program is offered for replacing euro-american institutions with institutions that serve the interests of nationally oppressed and economically exploited people in general and non-liberal, non-bourgeois people in particular. A separate, sustained analysis of the critical pedagogy wing of the New-Guard is something to carry out later on down the line. Now, if the Old-Guard are the chickenhawks, then generally, the New-Guard are the liberal war-doves: euro-american settler power decoratively garnished with an olive branch, except in the case of the critical pedagogy wing, which is a dash of salt. Bourgeois academic “freedom” is a big deal to the New-Guard as well –they are just as concerned with securing the privileges of tenure, and the leading role of academic cabals in charge of departments and administration, and thus reject the “customer service” model, but they have a predictably reformist stance regarding the role of imperialist industries in academia and on the handling of sexual predators and other bourgeois scholars who are “out of line” with their favored “moderate” neo-colonialism in the academy.
These characterizations are incomplete, but I’ve said enough to show that there are some differences between the Old and New-Guards. Each has its own take on both official institutional rules as well as the social norms that frame the landscape of western, academic, bourgeois philosophy. Yet I don’t think the differences are enough to distinguish them as two opposed ways of characterizing a “shared understanding of what we’re doing when we’re doing philosophy”. The reason is that the social and economic relations resulting from the consolidation of white power after the civil rights movement are the foundation for any type of “shared understanding” of what philosophy is that can possibly be exhibited in the liberal settler academy. And both the Old and New Guards in western, academic philosophy are in agreement about that. Euro-american settler liberal neo-colonialism is the shared understanding of both the New and Old-Guards in the institution of western, academic philosophy. The bourgeois philosophy that emanates from liberal academic institution is an expression of this shared understanding.
The Old and New-Guards in western, academic philosophy are in agreement about the consolidation of white power.
Sure, the Old and New-Guards quibble about the details and manner of carrying out the role of the settler neo-colonial academy in many impassioned blog posts and editorials ―but they give no quarter about the leading role of euro-america’s neo-colonial plan for non-euro-american people and the victims of liberalism and imperialism generally. For example, the New and Old-Guards find collective agreement in color-blind racism. Color-blind racism is a nominally race-neutral way of accounting for and justifying national oppression; and racism, of course, is using race to do the same. One of the social outcomes of the civil rights movement is euro-american liberal “political correctness” –which is the suppression of the classic racist, genocidal social identity of euro-american settlers that is foundational to the euro-american nation state through carefully selected duplicitous vocabulary in the language of the “universal” claims of liberalism. For example, the Old-Guard may not come out and say “Keep out the Mexicans and Blacks”, but they will say that “anti-racism” is out of control on college campuses. And the New-Guard may not come out and say “the voices of brown, non-euro-american, non-bourgeois-liberal people should be summarily silenced”, but they will silence them in practice through tone policing and the paternalism of “liberal civility”. It’s the use of liberal language and concepts to make it seem as if euro-americans are looking out for “everyone” and the “space of civil debate”, but in reality it’s just a place for people who already agree about the fundamentals of white-power. The Daily Nous comment’s policy is a good example of this. There’s actually a lot to say about this, but white supremacist tone policing in the liberal academy and in settler popular culture deserves its own sustained and separate analysis. Here, the point is just to show that both the Old and New-Guards in bourgeois philosophy are aligned when it comes to using color-blind racism to oppress non-euro-american people –either through policing ideologies that “go too far” –that is, ideologies that combat settler racism and white power, or through direct exclusion through tone policing and limiting the space of debate to “civil debate” –that is, “debate” only among people that agree about euro-american neo-colonialism.
No Middle Ground but for Euro-American Neo-Colonialism
And this brings us to the point of this whole post, and that is the connection between euro-american settler “diversity” and the New-Guard’s hand-wringing about “standards” and the way the Black Panther’s proclamation on the freedom of the Black descendants of former slaves in the euro-american nation state relates to the practice of philosophy. The connection is this: the need for the ability to freely express the philosophy that expresses the social identity of non-bourgeois, non-euro-american people is parallel to the need for oppressed people to freely express their social identity in institutions that serve their interests as independent, historically constituted groups – and this is an identity defined against bourgeois liberal neo-colonialism.
In terms of the rhetoric of the piece, Daily Nous fruitfully set up a false dilemma for those who agree that the shared practice of philosophy is something necessarily founded on euro-american neo-colonialism. From the point of view of bourgeois philosophy either you have the bourgeois standards of the Old-Guard or you have nihilism about standards –that’s the only way it then makes sense for someone committed to euro-american neo-colonialism to ask about an “intermediate position”.
But that is actually a very narrow, idealist, first-world and euro-american chauvinist way of thinking about a “shared understanding” of philosophy. Once we unambiguously situate the talk of “diversity” relative to a particular aim (say, the ability to freely express the philosophy of oppressed people) in the context of euro-american imperialism in its neo-colonial form and relative to the people and relations that constitute it, we see that this false dilemma and the plea for “deeper diversity” are internal to a particular shared understanding of what philosophy is, which is limited to the aims of euro-american settlerism in the neo-colonial academy. And whatever the character of the “intermediate position” that someone invested in settler neo-colonialism might envision, it makes no difference to the goal of freely expressing the philosophy of oppressed and historically oppressed people in the here and now.
Let’s go back for a moment to the nihilism that the Daily Nous piece set against the “standards” of the Old-Guard. Now that we’ve stepped out of the narrow, first-world chauvinist, idealist way of thinking about these things, we see this nihilism in a different light. We now see that the alternatives for non-euro-american, non-bourgeois liberal people as positioned by the Daily Nous piece are more like this: euro-american settler neo-colonialism of the New or Old-Guard types versus….what? Versus….no standards and all hell breaks loose! So basically, the options envisioned by such proponents of “diversity” are euro-american settler neo-colonialism or all hell breaks loose.
Think about that for a moment.
Liberal, euro-american settler academics cannot conceive of a world where non-euro-american people can use their shared understanding to determine what philosophy is. For them, such a world is the same as “all hell breaking loose”. We’re familiar with this. Such a conception is born out of the destructive narratives of annihilation essential to the self-concept of euro-americans as a group ―narratives like “manifest destiny”, the “melting pot”, or any mythology of conquest justifying euro-american cultural appropriation from people they have committed genocide against, enslaved, and continue to oppress and exploit the world over to this day.
The tortured reasoning that results in the fallacy of believing that the practice of philosophy must conform to the shared understanding of euro-american settlers or fail to be philosophy at all is similar to the tortured reasoning resulting in the fallacy committed by the most virulent racists who claim that the Black Panther Party was (emphasis on was, as it was destroyed by white power through euro-american laws and police) like the KKK is (emphasis on is as in is currently –as defended by euro-american laws and the police) –that is, a racial hate group. And that is because both of these lines of reasoning cannot envision Black self-determination outside of the patronizing, infantilizing gaze of white power. In the case of the BPP it’s reducing concrete steps toward Black self-determination from white power to “hating whitey pure and simple”. In the case of non-euro-american, non-liberal, non-bourgeois philosophers it’s reducing the practice of philosophy apart from white-power to “chaos” or “all hell breaking loose”. Thus the unqualified claim “we must have standards” is just a politically correct, color-blind racist way of saying “we must have white power”.
But it isn’t simply that non-euro-american and non-bourgeois people who are philosophically inclined are uncouth rabble recklessly cavorting in a sty like “irrational animals” without the enlightening benevolence of euro-american neo-colonial regulation and “standards” –although the views of euro-american settler liberals do imply this directly –no, really the bourgeois liberal call for “diversity” in academia, and in academic philosophy in particular, amounts to a call by oppressors for the oppressed to choose between non-existence and neo-colonialism. This is a reality because bourgeois philosophy opportunistically preys upon and influences a global audience of people who are philosophically inclined because euro-american settler culture and institutions are artificially propped up by the inequities of global imperialism.
It isn’t so much different from the way speech is “free” in bourgeois “democracies”. It is “free” if it’s got no teeth –and that is the ability to influence people and make a difference in class struggle. Being “free” to speak in this sense comes at a cost –the cost of class, national and gender identity and privilege because the imperialist nation media where (don’t laugh) “open public debate” takes place isn’t cheap, and it isn’t non-euro-american and non-male and most importantly, it isn’t non-bourgeois liberal. If you don’t fit the bill, then practically, as far as “speech” is concerned, you have no voice and you don’t exist. The bourgeois liberals love to say: just because in a “democracy” speech is “free” doesn’t mean anyone has to listen to you. This is what I call a “philosopher’s trick” because first, you have to assume that “democracy” isn’t bourgeois democracy and carry on as such; and second, you’re expected to be satisfied with something that’s technically correct about a “democratic” system that doesn’t exist. The fact, and extant possibility that no one has to listen to you at all under any circumstances is completely divorced from the reality that media institutions exist in imperialist society and that they serve the cultural and interest of the leading class of euro-american settlers by systemically silencing non-euro-american, non-bourgeois people –although they also systemically silence bourgeois people if they’re not-euro american; that’s the point of and legacy, of euro-american settler national oppression.
Bourgeois liberals also love to say: speech is free, but you have to privately fund it! The latter means that, since all the media with teeth are privately owned by settler and imperialist interests and propped up through the inequities of capitalist class dictatorship, the non-euro-american and non-bourgeois people are shit out of luck. And what happens when non-euro-american, non-bourgeois people attempt to build independent institutions and media that serve their interests? Well, do you know what happened to the Black Panther Party?
Without the free expression of the social identity of the class of oppressed people on the table, “diversity” amounts to shoving the decision between non-existence and neo-colonialism down oppressed people’s throats. And it makes sense, because this is the very goal of euro-american settler neo-colonialism: to suppress the national identity of the colonized not through dehumanization, but though forced de-identification through narratives of annihilation like manifest destiny, the melting pot and now, bourgeois liberal “diversity”. It’s a sweet story that euro-american people tell each other and the people they oppress to keep power in white hands. In this case it’s the power to produce and express philosophy arising from the social identity of people who are not euro-american, bourgeois liberals.
All of these considerations advise that perhaps the philosophy of “games” ought not to be overemphasized to the neglect the role of assuming what Wittgenstein sometimes called a “form of life” that gives meaning to understanding, when going on and on about “diversity” and the relationship between oppressed people and their oppressors in superstructures like philosophy. Focusing on things euro-american liberals really care about, like the so-called “standards”, while ignoring the social basis that gives meaning to such things is typical fare in bourgeois philosophy. Here it just cashes out as narrow first-world chauvinism, because we are, after all, talking about people who are philosophically inclined and whose relationship to euro-american imperialism provides a different understanding of the whole setup of the “game”. I’ve tried to provide such an understanding here.
In Part II I will cover some of the negative consequences that bourgeois liberal “diversity” has on non-euro-american, non-bourgeois-liberal people in the euro-american nation state as well as the rest of the world. I’ll also discuss an alternative to bourgeois liberal diversity that avoids the pitfalls of liberal neo-colonial “reform” that people who don’t benefit from bourgeois liberalism and their euro-american allies can work on right away without having to settle for the neo-colonialism of euro-american liberals.