The ideology that is most conveniently identified as “Wokeness” is much more accurately described by the phrase “Identity Marxism”. That is, Wokeness is a Marxian approach to identity politics for similar aims to those Marxism has always touted.
Wokeness is the quality or state of being “woke.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines woke as, originally: “well-informed, up-to-date.” And as updated in 2017, chiefly: “alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.” It is not a new term but it took on particular prominence during the beginnings of the Black Lives Matter movement.
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“Marxism has to be understood as a modernist religion. Marxism is actually a terrible but modern religion. And it has a theology at its heart” – James Lindsay
Dr. James A. Lindsay is an American-born author, mathematician and founder of New Discourses. He is a leading expert on Critical Race Theory, the dominant ideology behind the Black Lives Matter social movement.
Most people think of Marxism as an economic theory or, perhaps, a social theory, Lindsay says, this isn’t sufficient. Marxism, strange as it may sound, is a theology, the basis for a religion. This isn’t to say that Marxism or Communism is like a religion. It is to say that it literally is a religion.
The basis of the Marxian theology is work or, as they tend to have it, the work. You must do the work. The work is the basis of the Marxian theology in the same way that submission is the basis of Islam and atonement by grace through the sacrifice of Jesus as Christ is the basis of Christianity.
In Episode 64 of the New Discourses Podcast, ‘The Theology of Marxism’, Lindsay dives into the Marxian literature, including the writings of Karl Marx himself, to show that Marxism should be thought of as a theology by clarifying how this theology works. Understanding the theological nature of Marxism will, in turn, shed considerable light on the theological nature of Wokeness.
It is a particularly long episode, over three hours long, so we are breaking it into shorter, more manageable sections. It is audio only and if you choose you can listen to the full episode HERE.
“I’ve never really explained to people why I think that Marxism is best understood as a theology – not as a social theory, not as an economic theory. Certainly, communism could be understood that way as social, economic theory or kind of both – socioeconomic theory,” Lindsay said.
“But Marxism is a very specific approach to either socialism or communism, or actually both, and I am quite convinced it’s a theological development. In fact, I’ve argued in the past that it’s scientific or scientistic Gnosticism. It’s a gnostic religious movement. That observation is not original to me of course. Eric Voegelin, a catholic philosopher, is probably the most prominent name in a list of people who have identified it as such.”
Marxism is actually based out of Hegelian dialectical faith and Rousseauian anti-reason, very sentimentalist, subjectivist view. And “when you combine that with the Gnosticism you actually have a profoundly subjectivist religion, where the subject becomes the centre of religious view and the subject becomes a creator of the external world,” Lindsay said.
“Marxism has to be understood as a modernist religion. Whereas something like Catholicism or Protestantism or Islam or Buddhism are pre-modern religions, Marxism is actually a rather terrible but modern religion. And it has a theology at its heart – and that’s what I want to kind of uncover.”
Voegelin: Karl Marx Was an Intellectual Swindler (00:09:24)
Voegelin characterises Marx very poorly and connects him to both Gnosticism and Hegelian speculation.
“According to Voegelin [the Economic & Philosophic manuscripts of 1844] is when he realised that Marx was a gnostic. And that unlocked being able to understand Marx and being able to understand Hegel – that they are actually coming from a perspective of Gnosticism,” Lindsay explained as he prepared to read sections from Voegelin’s ‘Science, Politics and Gnosticism’.
“For Marx, rather than the theology being the study of God it’s actually the study of man … man as creator is replacing God as creator. And so, when you see it in that regard, the creative capacity being essentially infinite and, in a sense absolute, that man takes on the characteristics of God. Of course, when we start to invoke characters like Prometheus from mythology or even Satan, this is those themes that kind of come up so, you kind of get a flavour of what kind of theology Marx had depending on which way you want to frame that.”
For ease of reference, we have included images below of the relevant pages Lindsay read and commented on from ‘Science, Politics and Gnosticism’.
“His first word, if we take Voegelin at his word, that we have to say about Marx is that he was an intellectual swindler. In other words, he was fudging it and he knew he was fudging it. And Voegelin has quite the intense takedown of Marx following that. He was cheating people intellectually and he knew he was doing it – so he said ‘don’t question me’,” Lindsay explained.
- A short history of wokeness, Spiked Online
- The New Discourses Podcast with James Lindsay: Episode 63 Critical Education Theory Series, Part 3
- The Calamity of Scientific Gnosticism, by James Lindsay
- Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
- Science, Politics and Gnosticism, by Eric Voegelin, 1968
- The New Discourses Podcast with James Lindsay: Episode 64 The Theology of Marxism
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