Cultural Marxism: Fact or Fiction?

 

Editor’s note: This article explores the usefulness of the term “Cultural Marxism.” It is an edited version of theological lecturer Rob Smith’s “Cultural Marxism: Imaginary Conspiracy or Revolutionary Reality?” which ran in the Themelios journal. 

In the last decade or two, Cultural Marxism has become something of a “boo-hooray word” in Western culture. That is, it’s a term that provokes an almost visceral reaction of either disgust or delight, denunciation or celebration.

From one perspective, this polarised reaction is puzzling. “Cultural Marxism” (also known as Neo-Marxism, Libertarian Marxism, Existential Marxism, or Western Marxism)[1] is a well-established term in academic circles and has appeared in the titles of numerous books and articles that treat it either dispassionately or favourably.[2] It simply refers to a twentieth-century development in Marxist thought that came to view Western culture as a key source of human oppression. Otherwise put, Cultural Marxism is nothing more than the application of Marxist theory to culture.

So why the commotion? The short answer is, due to its deployment by people like Jordan Peterson, Cultural Marxism has come to function as “shorthand for left-wing ideology,” particularly as this manifests in a range “progressive” developments and social justice causes.[3]

For this reason, many on the “left” side of the contemporary “culture wars” not only hear Cultural Marxism as an accusatory “snarl word” (which it often is) but dismiss its validity. Others insist that it explains much that is taking place in our current cultural moment.

What are we to make of all this? Is Cultural Marxism a misnomer? Is it an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory? Or is it an accurate way of describing a real ideology that is making a very real impact on our world?

The Neo-Marxism of Antonio Gramsci

To answer these questions, we begin with the Italian Marxist philosopher, Antonio Gramsci.

Born in Sardinia in 1891 to a working-class family, Gramsci became politically aware in his teens. Nevertheless, it was not until 1913 (at the age of 22) that he first joined a political party: the Italian Socialist party.

Although he was an able student with a very sharp mind, a combination of health problems and financial difficulties, together with his growing political commitment, led him to abandon his studies in early 1915.

At this point Gramsci gave himself fully to political activism and quickly rose to prominence in the Italian Communist party. In 1919, he founded the party newspaper L’Ordine Nuovo (“The New Order”) and, in 1924, become party head.

In 1926, not long after Mussolini had consolidated his power, Gramsci was arrested and charged with attempting to undermine the Italian state. At his trial, the government prosecutor is reported to have said: “For twenty years, we must stop that brain from working.”[4] After conviction, he was sent to the prison island of Ustica.

He was released some eight years later, in 1934, but in a very weakened state. He would only live for another three years, dying in 1937 at the age of 46.

However, during his years of incarceration, Gramsci wrote voluminously. Although slow to emerge, The Prison Notebooks (as they came to be called) have come to have a profound effect upon subsequent generations.

While in prison, Gramsci turned his mind to the question that haunted classical Marxism: Why hadn’t Marx’s predictions worked out in practice? Why, for instance, hadn’t the Russian revolution of 1917 replicated itself in other Western European nations? The answer, Gramsci believed, lay in the persistence of capitalist ideas embedded in the institutions of “civil society” (e.g., the family, the church, trade unions, the education system)—all the consensus-creating elements of society that are independent of “political society” (e.g., the police, the army, the legal system).[5]

All of this required a major rethink of Marx’s philosophy. For Marx, the material conditions of economic existence (“the base”) determine all other aspects of society (“the superstructure”).[6]

Gramsci believed this was back to front. Although there might be an interplay between material life conditions and intellectual life processes, it is the latter that largely determines the former. Otherwise put, culture is not downstream from economics, but economics is downstream from culture.

The significance of this inversion of classical Marxism is profound. What it means is that if you want to change the economic structure of society, you must first change the cultural institutions that socialise people into believing and behaving according to the dictates of the capitalist system. The only way to do this is by cutting the roots of Western civilisation – in particular, its Judeo-Christian values, for these (supposedly) are what provide the capitalist root system. In short, unless and until Western culture is dechristianised, Western society will never be decapitalised.[7]

How might this be accomplished? By an army of Marxist intellectuals undertaking (what was later called) “the long march through the institutions of power”;[8] that is, by gradually colonising and ultimately controlling all the key institutions of civil society. As Gramsci put it, “In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”[9]

Gramsci has been a major influence on a range of philosophers, historians, sociologists, educationalists, and, especially, cultural theorists.[10] Indeed, the whole discipline of “cultural studies” is largely the result of his influence and his impact on the humanities and social sciences has been nothing short of immense.[11]

While Cultural Marxism was not a term Gramsci ever used, it accurately describes his neo-Marxist philosophy.

The Frankfurt School

Nor was Gramsci alone in thinking along these lines. While he was languishing on Ustica, a group of German Marxist intellectuals, quite unaware of The Prison Notebooks, was exploring similar ideas. This brings us to a consideration of the work of the Frankfurt School.

The origins of the Frankfurt School can be traced to 1923, when the radical Hungarian Marxist, György Lukács, was invited to chair a week-long symposium in Frankfurt, Germany. Out of this came a vision for a Marxist think-tank and research centre, modelled after the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow.

While the early work of the “The Institute for Social Research” – its eventual formal name – moved in a classically Marxist direction, this all changed in 1930 when Max Horkheimer (1895–1973), a young philosophy professor at Frankfurt University, took over as Director. Under his leadership, the School quickly moved in a decidedly neo-Marxist direction.

Like Gramsci, Horkheimer was convinced that the major obstacle to human liberation was the capitalist ideology embedded in traditional Western culture. That, fundamentally, was what needed exposing, criticising and changing.

To help in this task, Horkheimer recruited a range of up-and-coming Marxist intellectuals – notably, Theodore Adorno (1903–1969) and Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) – who could help to blend classical Marxist doctrines with both Darwinian sociology and Freudian psychology. The aim was to produce a new, synthesised form of Marxism that would do the job that classical Marxism failed to do; radically transform Western culture and so help pave the way for a communist utopia.

In 1933, however, when the Nazis came to power, most members of the Frankfurt School (being not only communists but also Jewish) were forced to flee the country. Initially, they relocated to Geneva, where they already had a satellite campus. But eventually, they settled in the United States and, in 1935, the Institute for Social Research affiliated with Columbia University, New York City. The School did not return to Frankfurt until 1951.

The birth of Critical Theory

The chief collective enterprise of the Frankfurt School was the development of Critical Theory, a form of incisive social critique aimed at undermining the status quo in the hope of changing society for the better. Critical Theory stands opposed to (what Horkheimer called) Traditional Theory, which aimed only at explaining society.

Despite its desired positive outcomes, Critical Theory is an essentially negative exercise. In part, this reflects the pessimism of Adorno and Horkheimer, who feared that “the possibility of radical social change had been smashed between the twin cudgels of concentration camps and television for the masses.”[12]

Consequently, Critical Theory was long on trenchant, unremitting criticism of any aspect of Western culture that was deemed to be oppressive or dehumanising, but short on constructive proposals. As Marcuse wrote at the very end of his 1964 book, One Dimensional Man:

The critical theory of society possesses no concepts which could bridge the gap between the present and its future; holding no promise and showing no success, it remains negative. Thus it wants to remain loyal to those who, without hope, have given and give their life to the Great Refusal.[13]

Assessing the Work of the Frankfurt School

Assessing the work of the Frankfurt School is no simple task. Not only did members come and go (and one, tragically, committed suicide),[14] but the line between members and associates was not always clear. Furthermore, even those who belonged to the inner circle sometimes had strongly differing opinions and also underwent significant developments in their thought. The School was, thus, neither uniform nor fixed in its views. Horkheimer, for example, became increasingly theological in his reflections over time and even flirted with Catholicism toward the end of his life.[15]

Nevertheless, the primary project of the Frankfurt School was clear and unwavering: to identify the economic and social structures that had been created by industrial capitalism and to critique the ideas that defended the disparities of class and race.[16] For this reason, the label “Cultural Marxism” is a fitting description of the school’s philosophy. This is evident from Stephen Bronner’s summary:

The Frankfurt School called outworn concepts into question. Its members looked at cultural ruins and lost hopes and what hegemonic cultural forces had ignored or repressed. They demanded that those committed to the ideal of liberation respond to new contingencies and new constraints. They also intimated the need for a new understanding of the relation between theory and practice.[17]

Of course, no proper assessment of the Frankfurt School can be made without appreciating the historical context in which it developed, and its work was carried out. Living through the horrors of World War I (1914–1918), the failed Spartacist Uprising in Germany (1919), the experience of the Great Depression (1929–1939) and the rise of both Nazism and anti-Semitism (1932–1945) gave the members of the Institute plenty to critique and genuine reasons for pessimism. The dislocation of being émigré scholars, the destructiveness of World War II and, finally, the Jewish Holocaust (1939–1945) only added to their anxieties. For all these reasons, “it appeared to the Frankfurt School as if Western civilization had generated not human development but an unparalleled barbarism.”[18] Critical Theory needs to be understood against this backdrop.

Moreover, even after their move to the US, when their focus shifted to the domination of the “cultural industry” and the manipulation of mass society, their criticisms were not without point. For example, Horkheimer and Adorno’s conviction that “the system of cultural production dominated by film, radio broadcasting, newspapers, and magazines, was controlled by advertising and commercial imperatives, and served to create subservience to the system of consumer capitalism” is difficult to gainsay.[19]

Likewise, their contention that, under such conditions, the apparent freedom to choose “everywhere proves to be freedom to be the same” is also salutary.[20] Finally, their concern for the fate of the individual in mass society is insightful and commendable.

Nevertheless, a recognition of valid insights ought not to be confused with an endorsement of critical theory as a whole. As we have seen, the general consensus of the Frankfurt School members was that Western civilisation was effectively responsible for all the manifestations of aggression, oppression, racism, slavery, classism and sexism that marked post-industrial society. Marcuse even went so far as to call democracy “the most efficient system of domination.”[21]

Such a view, however, is not only simplistic but an indefensible misrepresentation of historical reality.[22] While the track-record of Western civilisation is far from unblemished, to demonise the key elements and attainments of Western culture is both myopic and ungrateful. Likewise, criticising an imperfect system when you have no idea how to build a better one is more than idealistic; it is irresponsible.

Furthermore, as we have noted, the writings of the Frankfurt School are plagued by an unresolved tension between utopianism and pessimism—a tension that sometimes reflects differences between different members of the school and at other times appears within the works of individual authors.[24] While the tension is partially comprehensible when viewed as a dialectic between what is and what could be, the future is always vague and, ultimately, unrealisable.

Consequently, the overall message that emerges is one of hopelessness. This explains why Lukács ended up referring to the school as the “Grand Hotel Abyss.”

The Lasting Impact of The Frankfurt School

What can be said regarding the lasting impact of the Frankfurt School? In a provocative speech given in January 2018, the German journalist, Robert Grözinger, likened the impact of the School to the story of the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.[26] For Grözinger, one line of Goethe’s original poem is particularly poignant: “The spirits which I summoned, I now cannot get rid of.”[27] In Grözinger’s view, the members of the Frankfurt School set in motion a whole generation of “hobgoblins” – the (so called) “68ers” – but, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, were increasingly appalled by the “terrible waters” they had unleashed.

There is strong evidence of this, especially in the case of Adorno. For example, in a 1969 interview, he distanced himself from the revolutionaries, declaring, “When I made my theoretical model, I could not have guessed that people would try to realise it with Molotov cocktails.”[28]

Marcuse, however, was of a different mind. He was proud of the influence the Frankfurt School had exerted on the sixties’ revolution, and criticised Adorno for labelling the student radicals as “fascists.” Indeed, such was Marcuse’s influence on the student protest movement that, at the Paris riots of May ’68, protesters held up placards with the names “Marx/Mao/Marcuse” emblazoned on them.

Moreover, there is ample evidence that Marcuse’s legacy lives on. Not only did he teach a generation of budding intellectuals to detest their own culture and history, but many then went on to infect subsequent generations with a desire to completely ‘burn the house down.’ Not surprisingly, as Alexander Zubatov writes,

It is a short step from Marcuse’s “repressive tolerance” to political correctness, free speech crackdowns, no-platforming, and the epidemic of boorish and thuggish university “protests,” Antifa intimidation and violence directed against illusory “fascists.”[29]

Cultural Marxism: Fact or fiction?

It is time to return to our questions: Is Cultural Marxism a myth? A misnomer? An anti-Semitic conspiracy theory? Or is it an accurate way of describing a real ideology that is making a very real impact on our world? And, if the latter, how should Christians respond to it?

It would be both simplistic and unwarranted to lay the entire blame for the contemporary civilisation crisis in the West at the feet of either the Frankfurt School or Antonio Gramsci. Many other theorists and activists have helped create our current cultural moment (e.g., Sartre, Beauvoir, Foucault, Derrida, Althusser, Kristiva, Said, Badiou, Rorty, Butler, etc.) and numerous historical and technological streams have helped feed our present political divisions—not least, the advent of social media.[30] And, as always, there are equal dangers on the extreme right as there are on the extreme left.

Furthermore, in regard to the Frankfurt School, since the 1970s, and particularly under the leadership of Jürgen Habermas and, more recently, Axel Honneth, its focus and energies have moved in a much more positive and productive direction.

Nevertheless, as ongoing interest in and reference to their work testifies,[31] there is no denying that the first generation of the Frankfurt School (in general) and Marcuse (in particular) have played a significant role in shaping the contours of the current culture wars. Political correctness,[32] the new intolerant-tolerance and ever-increasing erotic liberty are part of their legacy.[33] Similarly, Gramsci’s ideas have also borne very real (and not particularly appetising) fruit – not least in the arena of identity politics, intersectionality and the rise of victimhood culture (today’s versions of “class consciousness”).[34]

The answer to our first two questions, then, is straightforward: rightly understood, Cultural Marxism is neither a myth nor a misnomer. While not a label worn by either Gramsci or the early Frankfurt School, it helpfully describes the particular form of Marxist ideology they pioneered, and it is a label many of their disciples have been more than happy to apply to them and to wear themselves.[35]

What about the Conspiracy Theories?

The answer to the third question, however, is more complex. There are numerous Cultural Marxist conspiracy theories, especially surrounding the Frankfurt School—some superficially plausible, others patently laughable (like the one is which Adorno wrote all of the Beatles’ songs), some blatantly anti-Semitic and others just plain scary (like Anders Breivik’s Manifesto).[36] In light of this, there is some justification for describing Cultural Marxism as “a viral falsehood used by far-right figures, conspiracy theorists, and pundits to explain many ills of the modern world.”[37]

Of course, the main problem with all conspiratorial versions of Cultural Marxism is the same: for something to be a conspiracy it needs to be a secret. But there never was anything secret about the publications of Gramsci, the members of the Frankfurt School or any of their disciples. Their writings were and are readily available and repay careful reading. I am not, however, wanting to downplay the seriousness of the subversion these thinkers were advocating, nor am I denying the reality of plots (both human and demonic) against the Lord and his anointed (Ps 2). But I am doubting the existence of a faceless cabal of Cultural Marxists covertly operating behind the scenes of Western society.

Given the existence of conspiratorial explanations of the nature and goals of Cultural Marxism, is there a case for avoiding the term and using an alternative (e.g., neo-Marxism or Critical Theory)? In my view, there is no inherent problem with the label, but Christians ought to be careful with how (and to whom) it is applied. It can function as a kind of “weaponised narrative” that paints anyone who gets tagged with it as being “beyond the pale of rational discourse.”[38] It can even be a way of dismissing fellow believers who display a concern for justice or environmental issues or who are mildly optimistic about the possibilities of cultural transformation.[39] While we should certainly discuss and debate such matters, “Bandying terms like ‘cultural Marxist’ … around simply as a way of avoiding real argument is shameful and should have no place in Christian discourse.”[40]

Finding a Better Way

So what is the way forward?

Christians need to realise that in Scripture we have a far more penetrating analysis of both the problem and the solution than any critical theory could ever provide. In the gospel, we have a divine diagnosis of the fundamental human sickness – universal slavery to sin – and God-given knowledge of the remedy – the Lord Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we have nothing to learn about oppression and injustice from other quarters, but it does mean that we better understand both the underlying cause and its ultimate cure, and so have an infinitely better hope to proclaim.

Second, while we are not to cast “pearls before pigs” (Matt 7:6), we must not only be ready to answer those who inquire about our hope (1 Pet 3:15), but to “preach the word … in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2). For the gospel is still the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom 1:17), and the reaction of our hearers is not our responsibility; only faithfulness is. And, as both Scripture and history show us, “sometimes faithfulness leads to awakening and reformation, sometimes to persecution and violence, and sometimes to both.”[41]

Third, in terms of what H. Richard Niebuhr labeled a “Christ the transformer of culture” approach, there is scope for us to go one better than the Frankfurt School and develop what Christopher Watkin calls “biblical theory”; a theory that not only critiques contemporary culture but provides a more compelling vision for true human flourishing.[42] Otherwise put, we need to explain our culture through the Bible that we might better explain the Bible to our culture.

Fourth, while there may be wisdom in pursuing some version of “the Benedict Option,”[43] most of us can learn to engage in fruitful neighbourly conversation or workplace discussion about moral, social and spiritual issues. Some may even be in a position to impact public policy formation—perhaps in schools, businesses or some level of government.[44] In all our efforts to serve the common good, it is imperative that we model civility, speak graciously, avoid an “us-versus-them” mentality and, if possible, transcend political polarisation.

Finally, as turbulent as the current cultural waters may feel to many of us, we all have an ongoing responsibility to pray for our world (both its citizens and its governments) and to exercise godly influence in the way we live, love, listen, speak, write, protest and vote.[45] While the Bible instructs us to see ourselves as “strangers and exiles on earth” (Heb 11:13), “we must not exile ourselves, and we certainly must not retreat into silence while we still have a platform, a voice, and an opportunity. We must remind ourselves again and again of the compassion of truth and the truth of compassion.”[46]

——

[1] As far as I’ve been able to discover, the term “Cultural Marxism” was first employed (if not coined) by Trent Schroyer in The Critique of Domination: The Origins and Development of Critical Theory (New York: George Braziller, 1973). See, especially, ch. 6: “Cultural-Marxism: The Contradictions of Industrial ‘Rationality’” (199–223).

[2] For example, Richard R. Weiner, Cultural Marxism and Political Sociology (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1981); Ioan Davies, “British Cultural Marxism,” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 4 (1991): 323–44; Dennis Dworkin, Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left, and the Origins of Cultural Studies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997); Emily Hicks, “Cultural Marxism: Nonsynchrony and Feminist Practice,” in Women and Revolution: A Discussion of the Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism, ed. Lydia Sargent (Montreal: Black Rose, 1981), 219–38.

[3] Dominic Green, “What’s Wrong with ‘Cultural Marxism’?,” Spectator USA, 28 March 2019, https://spectator.us/whats-wrong-cultural-marxism.

[4] Christopher Hill, “Antonio Gramsci,” The New Reasoner Spring 4 (1958): 107.

[5] David McLellan, Marxism After Marx (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 203–4

[6] In Marx’s words, “The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness” (Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, reprint ed. [1859; Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1976], 3).

[7] See further, John Fulton, “Religion and Politics in Gramsci: An Introduction,” Sociological Analysis 48 (1987): 197–216.

[8] This phrase was first used by Rudi Dutschke, a prominent spokesperson of the German student movement of the 1960s and a great admirer of Gramsci.

[9] Cited in Damien Tudehope, “What’s Left of Western Culture? Just about Everything,” The Spectator, 9 October 9 2017,https://tinyurl.com/y4jdlbhg.

[10] For example, Louis Althusser, Raymond Williams, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, E. P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, and Stuart Hall.

[11] Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 208.

[12] Ian Craib, Modern Social Theory: From Parson to Habermas (Harlow: Pearson, 1992), 209.

[13] Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (London: Routledge, 1991), 261.

[14] Once Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) became convinced that he could not escape Europe and would soon be handed over to the Nazis, he took his own life with an overdose of morphine tablets.

[15] Stephen E. Bronner, Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 10.

[16] Stephen Whitfield, “Refusing Marcuse: 50 Years After One-Dimensional Man,” Dissent (Fall 2014), https://tinyurl.com/yyhwszt8.

[17] Bronner, Critical Theory, 113.

[18] Bronner, Critical Theory, 4.

[19] Douglas Kellner, “Cultural Marxism and Cultural Studies” (2004), 6, https://pages.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/essays/culturalmarxism.pdf.

[20] Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” in Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, ed. Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), 136.

[21] Marcuse, One Dimensional Man, 56.

[22] See, for example, Nick Spencer, The Evolution of the West: How Christianity Has Shaped Our Values (London: SPCK, 2016).

[23] Max Horkheimer, “On the Problem of Truth,” in Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Early Writings, trans. G. Hunter, M. Kramer and J. Torpey (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993), 177–215.

[24] For example, “In Adorno’s philosophy the hope is of the eventual, but impossible, reconciliation of human and society … It is, if you like, a tragic philosophy of history, but not necessarily a pessimistic one” (Craib, Modern Social Theory, 227).

[25] Robert Bocock, Freud and Modern Society: An Outline and Analysis of Freud’s Sociology (Dordrecht: Springer, 1976), 158.

[26] Robert Grözinger, “The Frankfurt School and the New Left: Sorcerer’s Apprentices and Hobgoblins,” Equity & Freedom, 5 February 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yy6zuz7l.

[27] German: “Die ich, die Geister, werd ich nun nicht los” (lines 91–92).

[28] Cited in Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923–1950 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), 279.

[28] Douglas Kellner, “Cultural Marxism and Cultural Studies” (2004), 6, https://pages.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/essays/culturalmarxism.pdf.

[29] Alexander Zubatov, “Just Because Anti-Semites Talk About ‘Cultural Marxism’ Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Real,” Tablet(November 30, 2018), https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/just-because-anti-semites-talk-about-cultural-marxism-doesnt-mean-it-isnt-real.

[30] See Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (New York: Penguin, 2018); Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity (London: Bloomsbury, 2019); Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody (Durham, NC: Pitchstone, 2020).

[31] For example, Stuart Jeffries, “Why a Forgotten 1930s Critique of Capitalism Is Back in Fashion,” The Guardian, 9 September 2016,https://tinyurl.com/z7xj5h9; idem, Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School (London: Verso, 2017); Stuart Walton, “Theory from the ruins,” Aeon, 31 May 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ybncfufl; idem, Neglected or Misunderstood: Introducing Theodor Adorno (Alresford: Zero Books, 2017); Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo, Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education (New York: Teachers College Press, 2017).

[32] “Political Correctness” has long been associated with communism. Leninists used it to describe steadfastness to party affiliations, Stalinists used it to evoke a sense of historical certitude, and Mao Zedong used it in his Little Red Book.

[33] Connections have also been drawn between the writings of the Frankfurt School and various other social and ideological developments—e.g., postmodernism, environmentalism and second-wave feminism. On postmodernism, see Craib, Modern Social Theory, 214–215, 225–227. On environmentalism, see Stephen T. Schroth and Michael J. Whitt, “Frankfurt School,” in Green Technology: An A-to-Z Guide, ed. Dustin Mulvaney (Los Angeles: Sage, 2011), 191–194. On second-wave feminism, see Douglas Kellner, “Erich Fromm, Feminism, and the Frankfurt School,” Illuminations: The Critical Theory Project (N.D.): https://pages.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/Illumina Folder/kell8.htm.

[34] See Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics(London/New York: Verso, 2001), 21.

[35] Kellner, “Cultural Marxism and Cultural Studies,” 7.

[36] Regarding the origins of the various Frankfurt School conspiracy theories, see Martin Jay, “Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe,” Salmagundi 168/169 (2010): 30–40.

[37] Chris Zappone, “Cultural Marxism—the ultimate post-factual dog whistle,” Sydney Morning Herald, 10 November 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y2lhffdz.

[38] Zappone, “Cultural Marxism.”

[39] See, for example, Carl Trueman, “Is Tim Keller a Cultural Marxist?,” White Horse Inn, 8 October 2018, https://www.whitehorseinn.org/2018/10/the-mod-is-tim-keller-a-marxist.

[40] Carl Trueman, “We All Live in Marx’s World Now,” The Gospel Coalition, 19 March 2019, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/live-marxs-world-now.

[41] Christopher Watkin, Thinking Through Creation: Genesis 1 and 2 as Tools of Cultural Critique (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2017), 142. R. Albert Mohler’s daily “Briefings” are one example of how this can be done.

[42] D. A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 228.

[43] That is, engaging in “strategic withdrawal” in order to develop “creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them” (Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation [New York: Penguin, 2017], 2).

[44] For a series of insights into the complexities and possibilities of such engagement, see Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited, 196–200.

[45] I am not suggesting there is always only one way a Christian should vote. It will depend on the issue and the options. Normally, given that human solutions to social and political problems are only ever partial at best and often create new problems in the process, Christians should not only listen to and learn from each other, but also give each other freedom to disagree as to the best way forward.

[46] R. Albert Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong (Nashville: Nelson, 2015), 151.

 

 

 

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