bourgeois philosophy

Exploring the Connection between Academic Philosophy and Imperialism


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Bourgeoisie, Bourgeois: For Marx the bourgeoisie was the property owning class, separate from the petit bourgeoisie and proletariat. Nowadays it’s used also to refer also to the middle classes. The ideology of the bourgeoisie is liberalism and it’s the dominant worldview in the era of global imperialism. Concretely, for everyone living in the first quarter of the 21st century when something is bourgeois it means that it’s in the service of economic imperialism, its superstructures, and of the people who rally for and benefit from it. This means that it’s in the service of almost everyone living in the first-world, with the possible exception of prisoners, slaves, some lumpen-proletariat, some sectors of neo-colonial populations, undocumented immigrants, and people in imperialist detention centers.  Back to top.

Bourgeois Democracy: Bourgeois democracy is the political system of many of the world’s Western imperialist superpowers. In the euro-american nation-state, for instance, it’s a capitalist class society where euro-americans have neo-colonial power over internal semi-colonies and where powerful euro-american multinational economic and financial institutions serve the interests of euro-american settlers in a two-party electoral system that determines the nuts-and-bolts execution of economic imperialism abroad and the distribution of profits from the third-world at home. Back to top.

Bourgeois Philosophy: 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. Some of it’s major characteristics are: first-world chauvinism, idealism, individualism, and uncritical engagement with liberalismBack to top.


Class: Social class is a historical feature of human society where a group of people’s role in the production process determines their social position, ideology and economic interests. In the era of imperialism, classes stratify nations, and class interests can either clash with or coincide with national interests in politics. This entry is incomplete. Back to top.

Class/National/Gender Suicide: The concept of class suicide was first used by Amilcar Cabral, a leader of the national liberation movement to free Guinea-Bissau from Portugal. He used it to describe desired behaviors of the national petit bourgeoisie ―of forgoing their narrow class interests and working in the broad national interests of the revolution ―which in his view, were necessary for the success of the revolution. The concept has now been generalized in use to describe the social practice of people who benefit from a type of structural injustice but who consistently work against that injustice by centering the material and revolutionary interests of the oppressed. Part of it means using privilege in revolutionary ways under the leadership of the oppressed to lend practical support to the institutions of the oppressed designed to undermine the structures that generate that privilege. Class/National/Gender Suicide is not to be confused with the type of “empathy” that is often invoked in idealist philosophical accounts defending bourgeois liberalism since it is not something that relies on the complex human ability to consider one’s self as akin to another, which decides nothing in terms of social practice. The role of empathy and other subjective features of the consciousness of the oppressor is minimal when it comes to Class/National/Gender Suicide, although the consistent social practice of militating on behalf of the oppressed and under their leadership can create new and re-enforce existing subjectivities in individuals against structural oppression. Back to top.


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First World Chauvinism: First world chauvinism is the adoption of ideologies and practices designed to justify, reinforce, and prolong the people of the first world’s economic exploitation of the rest of the world. Some of its important characteristics are: 1. Narrow nationalism/anti-internationalism, 2. First world exceptionalism, and apologetics, 3. Deliberate distortion of the relative status of first world people in relation to the rest of the world in favor of first world people, 4. Deliberate ignorance of the subsidies extracted by first world people from everyone else by imperialist governments/multinationals, 5. Deliberate ignorance of the fact that these subsidies are unjustly acquired at gunpoint through the first world’s military.

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. That vision is the vision of domestic neo-colonialism for the internal semi-colonies like Blacks and Chicana/os as well as neo-colonialism and imperialism, usually in its neo-liberal form, internationally for the people of the third world. 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. Back to top.


Gender Aristocracy: The gender aristocracy is a sector of gendered women, mostly in the first world, who enjoy class, national, and gender privileges secured by imperialism and are consequently content to hang onto second-place in the global power hierarchy of gender. The gender aristocracy aligns with imperialism and patriarchy to further entrench patriarchy, class, and national oppression of the rest of the world. White “feminism” serves the interests of the gender aristocracy as the chief ideological tool to justify both chauvinist complacency toward or militating for the continued and expanded gender oppression of most of the world’s women. Back to top.


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Idealism: Idealism is the tendency of philosophers to evaluate ideas and practices, and to structure debates all in terms of a purported absolute truth and absolute value rather than transparently and relative to a particular aim in a material context. These things are “absolute” because bourgeois philosophers treat them as categories and conceptions that have an existence prior to and independent of the people and relations that materially constitute them. This notion of idealism is different than that having to do with specific doctrines that philosophers call “idealism” ―doctrines having to do with the question of the fundamental “mental” or “abstract” nature of reality, or of mental contributions to the structure of objective reality or such accounts of the ontology of human experience.

Idealism of this type is a prejudice of bourgeois philosophers for two reasons. First, it’s a prejudice because the purported “absolutes” that serve as the measuring stick in idealist thinking are not the types of things that can be detached from the social relations and practices that form the basis for the relative determination of thoughts. In the case of bourgeois philosophy, these “absolutes” are overwhelmingly an expression of the aspirations of bourgeois people conditioned by their class and national privilege ―far from being absolute, they’re an expression of liberal ideals and a part of liberal ideology. Second, it’s a prejudice of bourgeois philosophy because it’s applied in a biased way when framing debates. In one direction, the bias favors liberal ideology and frames debates in such a way that it compares its “absolutes” to things that people from different classes and nations (that don’t benefit from liberalism and don’t share liberal ideology) do in the world. The predictable outcome is that the things that these groups do in the world always comes up short of the perfection of the bourgeois philosophers’ “absolutes”. In the other direction, the bias favors liberal practice ―it protects what people who have a hand in imperialism do by shining a spotlight on liberal ideology, fussing loudly about reforming or analyzing imperialist superstructures, while obscuring the social relations and practices that support them. Back to top.

Imperialism: Imperialism is an economic system that V.I. Lenin called “the highest stage of capitalism.” It became well pronounced in the early 1900s and is defined by the globalization of capital, the dominance of finance capital and the division of the world into imperialist and exploited nations. As the economic system that dominates the world, imperialism overwhelmingly determines of the material reality that all inhabitants of planet Earth face today, including war, the wealth of the few and poverty of the many and environmental destruction. The status quo promoted by imperialist interests across all aspects of life, including liberal academic institutions, is the biggest hindrance to changing this global economic system. Back to top.

Individualism: a liberal philosophical view about the primacy and power of individuals in shaping society and history. 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. Back to top.


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Liberalism: Liberalism is the dominant worldview in the era of global imperialism. It’s the ideology of people who benefit from imperialism and those who aspire to benefit from it, but everyone, regardless of their place in class society, is affected and influenced by it. The principles and values of classical liberalism, things like individualism, nominal equality before the law, bourgeois rights, and bourgeois democracy were put forth by European philosophers during the enlightenment, as a positive worldview against the ideologies of the aristocracy that were dominant at the time. During the 17th century, liberalism took shape as a specific philosophy and was adopted by the revolutionary bourgeoisie in the 18th and 19th centuries to establish many of the imperialist governments of today. Back to top.


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Narrow Nationalism: The nationalism of patriots of the imperialist countries, a chauvinism whose purpose is extending imperialist hegemony in the world. This is opposed to the nationalism, or internationalism of anti-imperialist people, whose purpose is the self-determination of all nations. Back to top.

Nation: “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” ―J. Stalin, Marxism and the National Question. Nations are stratified by class, gender and national minority and majority groups. The concept of nation, like that of gender and class, is central for understanding social relations that make up life in the era of imperialism where the imperialist nations live parasitically from the wealth and value created by the violent exploitation and oppression of other nations and wage war against other imperialists for economic hegemony and against the liberation movements of the oppressed. The concept of nation doesn’t lack the scientific merit of the eugenicist concept of “race” and adequately accounts for many of the features of history and contemporary society that race is frequently invoked to explain, ―features like widespread racism, police brutality, economic injustice, war, cultural imperialism, including the prominence of bourgeois philosophy, and the hegemony of european and euro-american imperialism. Back to top.

Neo-colonialism: Neo-colonialism is one of the political systems of contemporary imperialism. Its purpose is to meet certain needs of imperialism in an era where direct colonial occupation is untenable: to secure raw materials, to secure new and existing markets, and to enable the continued creation of superprofits. The system of neo-colonialism accomplishes its purpose for the neo-colonial populations through certain reliable means: nominally satisfying democratic demands otherwise achievable only with national self-determination, regulating the native development of capitalism in favor of foreign imperialism, promoting a wing of the neo-colonial bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie to manage the political and economic expectations of the people, and by promoting national instability and fragmentation between the neo-colonial classes and their native political leadership. Back to top.

Neo-liberalism: A mainstream and respectable form of imperialism enforced by imperialist governments and multinational firms beginning in the 1980’s that continues to this day (the first quarter of the 21st century). It is characterized by imperialist country support of neo-colonial bourgeois democracy in the third world with a domestic lackey ruling class, strong-arm “free trade” agreements and techniques to increase third world exploitation and secure debt, and expanded first-world military presence all over the world in preparation for imperialist war, but under the pretext controlling black markets and counter-terrorism. Back to top.

New-guard: The New-guard is a class of people involved in the practice and activities of bourgeois philosophy form the point of view of the first-world, bourgeois academic “left”. 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”. The New-Guard view is classical, traceable through the liberal reform and progressivism movements of euro-american settler education, but is heavy integrationist, idealizing the powerful victory for settlerism of the civil rights movement and utilizing it in a predominantly humanist 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 believes that under euro-american imperialism 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 under euro-american imperialism 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-Guard 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 a plastic olive branch. 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. Back to top.


Old-guard: The Old-guard is a class of mostly 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 who are involved in the practice and activities of bourgeois philosophy form a bourgeois liberal tough-love characteristic of the baby boomers. It’s a classical view, traceable though the liberal reform and progressivism movements of euro-american settler education, but adopting many of the cultural values of Regan era neo-liberalism about education. For example, the Old-guard 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. Back to top.


Patriarchy: Patriarchy is a type of structural injustice with regard to gender that benefits gendered men through privileges acquired through the historical and ongoing exploitation, disenfranchisement, and oppression of gendered women. As the system that shapes gender all over the world, patriarchy overwhelmingly determines the contemporary realities of gender for all of the world’s people, including things like rape, economic and social disenfranchisement and opportunity, bodily control, sexual slavery, and family organization. Back to top.


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Uncritical Engagement with Liberalism: A major characteristic of bourgeois philosophy; It is a bias of bourgeois philosophy and it basically means that bourgeois philosophers either believe or act as if liberalism is beyond all criticism. Bourgeois philosophers just take the limits that liberalism sets up for debate about itself and about anything else as given and start philosophizing. This wouldn’t be a problem if bourgeois philosophers didn’t opportunistically prey upon and influence a global audience of people who are philosophically inclined because their culture and institutions are artificially propped up by the inequities of global imperialism or if they didn’t try to pass bourgeois philosophy off as philosophy without qualification, or if liberalism wasn’t just a game only the world’s most privileged people can play, and if it didn’t exclude most of the world’s people in terms of consideration, relevance, and aspiration. But since none of this is the case, the uncritical attitude of bourgeois philosophers regarding liberalism is a problem because it censors and erases alternative views and shrinks philosophy to a point, making it a bigoted echo chamber for the world’s most privileged people. Back to top.


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