Critical Theory

The 1619 Project. Systemic racism. Woke studies. The United States is in the midst of a cultural war that has been building for decades. It is a war of worldviews: a Judeo-Christian one on which Western civilization is built versus a Marxist worldview that seeks to transform America. Why is this happening?

Marxists believed that the poor would overthrown their rich oppressors and make a better world. But this didn’t happen. Why had the oppressed poor not revolted against their rich oppressors?

An Italian journalist and political theorist named Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) believed the oppressed had assimilated to Western culture instead of rejecting it. Gramsci said a “persistent and prolonged propaganda campaign” was needed to “undermine people’s confidence in traditional values and religious beliefs.” Such propaganda would lead them to reject Western values and embrace socialism.

Similarly, Georg Lukacs (1885-1971) was a Hungarian philosopher who believed that the greatest obstacle to Marxism was religious-based morality, specifically Christianity. Therefore, Lukacs called for “annihilation of the old values and the creation of new ones by the revolutionaries.” Such an annihilation of Christian values could be accomplished through education.

Consequently, Lukacs helped establish the Institute of Social Research in 1923 in Frankfort, Germany. (This is also known as “The Frankfort School.”) The purpose of the school was to train students in the exposing the “corruption” of Western principles of capitalism and the Judeo-Christian ethic.

After the Nazis closed it in 1933, The Frankfort School professors moved to Columbia University in New York. There they propagated the Neo-Marxist interpretation of West called “Critical Theory.” This theory spread to other universities across America.

Critical Theory is not a synonym for critical thinking. It has one goal: to criticize Western culture and eventually take control of it. The criticism of all societal norms will lead to the dismantling of them and subsequently replacing them with another worldview–a Marxist one. Gramsci said, “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.”

Three points are important to grasp in understanding Critical Theory. First, Critical Theory is an unrelenting attack on the West alone. It does not criticize Eastern culture or Muslim countries. Dr. Thomas Sowell of Stanford University explained it this way: “The sins of the human race are being taught to (students) as the special depravities of the United States or of Western civilization.” Sowell captures the issue that lies at the heart of the current culture war. Sinful humans have committed evil and atrocities across the centuries and across the world. However, many schools today teach our youth that these evils are unique to America or the West alone. 

Second, all Western institutions must be torn down according to Critical Theory. There is nothing redeemable about any of them. According to Critical Theory, the West is built on aggression, oppression, racism, slavery, classism, and sexual repression. Therefore, concepts of God, family, nation, law, capitalism, and the like have all been repudiated.  Jefrey Breshears, in A Brief History of Cultural Marxism and Political Correctness, said, “Based on utopian social and political ideals, Critical Theory offered no realistic alternatives, but it was nonetheless a devastating critique of Western civilization.”

Third, the legacy of Critical Theory includes Critical Legal Theory and Critical Race Theory. This why we see movements such as implicit bias training and the removal of American Founders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson today. Breshears summarizes: “In retrospect, the Frankfort School had a significant influence on the evolution of the American left over the past 70 years, particularly the kind of cultural Marxism that generated the New Left movement in the 1960’s.  Since then, the Left has launched an unremitting culture war of attrition that has largely succeeded in terms of secularizing American culture and undermining traditional values and institutions.” More on Critical Legal Theory and Critical Race Theory in the next blog.

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