A persistent meme that floats around in radical left-wing, anarchist, communist and libertarian intellectual circles is the idea that there is something inherently bad and wrong with “socially constructed” reality. The reality we live in — so the argument goes — is built on a series of socially constructed norms that are not only not necessary for human society, but are downright destructive. The enlightened thinkers that focus on this gravest of social issues have of course escaped this oppressive matrix and are prepared to tell us what a true, natural, healthy and fulfilling human lifestyle would really look like. If only “everyone would wake up” or X oppressive group (government, capitalists, white people, conservative talk radio hosts etc.) would just disappear from the scene entirely.
To a more careful and discerning thinker the most baffling aspect of this trend is that the social constructs that come under assault are not actually subjected to rational scrutiny based on merit, social utility or any other criteria. They are recklessly attacked simply for the fact of being accepted and perpetuated by mainstream society. The a-priori assumption is that social constructs are bad just because. No other reason is given or needed. Often just crying “social construct” when discussing a particular social phenomenon is enough to disqualify it as invalid in the minds of these self-annointed would-be philosopher queens.
As we would expect given the value system of these habitual complainers, the social constructs that come in for abuse are members of the usual leftist rogues gallery: hierarchy, private property, gender, patriarchy, privilege, religion, trade, currency, race (with the caveat that ethnicity can be celebrated if and only if it is non-European), and so on. In place of these chimeras it is claimed that a “true” or “non-alienated” human existence would be characterized by egalitarianism, non-binary gender neutrality and some kind of democratic worker-managed cooperative environmentalist communism. It is a supreme irony that these crude quasi-intellectuals maintain a conceit of themselves as champions of “the little guy” while they attempt to destroy everything that might make his life meaningful. It is laughable that they proclaim a staunch support for political democracy while turning their noses up and contemptuously sniffing at anything that reeks of vulgar mainstream sensibilities.
The question that never seems to occur to this particular brand of social critic is “So what?” Who cares if private property or gender or whatever else is a social construct? Why is this considered a meaningful insight? Why does this make them necessarily oppressive? Indeed, could it really be any other way? Are we really expected to take seriously the notion that the tortuous, unworkable and nonsensical social program promoted by postmodern leftist radicals is the “natural” state of mankind? Do they really labor under the impression that their farcical brand of sexual, economic and racial egalitarianism is not in fact the epitome of social construction? Considering that maintaining even a thin pretense of “equality” and “tolerance” on a present day college campus requires a huge set of turgid regulations and constant bureaucratic oversight, this claim is prima facie ridiculous.
The insistence that traditional gender roles are socially constructed is particularly interesting. If there is one conceptual playing card in the social construct deck that it could be argued actually stems from nature, it would be gender. The objective physical differences between men and women are undeniable. These physical differences quite obviously indicate a previous adaptation to different social and biological roles that generally play out in the real world with the male acting as agent and protector and the female acting as nurturer and caretaker. Acknowledging that these roles need not be ironclad and have been reversed in some instances does not render them meaningless. The fact that genderbending transsexuals objectively must undergo reconstructive surgery in order to realize their conceptual gender identity is a dead giveaway as to which gender norm is socially constructed and which is at least relatively more “natural.”
What does it mean for something to be “natural” anyway? And even if we could identify the categorical difference between the natural and unnatural, why should we assume the natural to be superior? Thomas Hobbes made the argument that the natural state of man is desperate, soul crushing poverty combined with brutal “red in tooth and claw” competition for scarce resources. Given this, would we not want to construct society? Shouldn’t the best among us seek to be masters of nature, subject it to our will and construct our environment to suit ourselves rather than be slaves to the endless contingency of nature?
The fact that the majority of humanity shelters in the protective bubble of civilization constructed by past generations of superior individuals should be something to celebrate rather than a source of shame. Masters and patriarchs are a social good. They are the original providers of comfort and security for their societies. They lay the groundwork for human flourishing. There is no reason why we should decry the value system that enables and encourages the social construction and expansion of civilization. To so so is juvenile and poisonous. The constant hectoring of traditional values by the leftist intellectual class is no doubt prompted by an adolescent inferiority complex concerning not only their own weakness and lack of will to power, but also the source of their unearned comfort and relative position of influence in society. In short, they have daddy issues and insist on inflicting them on the rest of us. They are the adult version of the teenage emo chick that cuts herself for attention.
When I was still cutting my intellectual teeth in libertarian and anarchist political circles I used to waste endless hours on this question. I would spend far too much of my time attempting to refute deconstructivist attacks on property and capitalism by building arguments as to why private property was a “natural right” or why capitalism was an a priori moral necessity for human existence. But this was just falling into the postmodern trap. I had already given up the game. If you want to stop a leftist intellectual dead in his/her/xi’s tracks and turn their supercilious smirk into a thousand yard stare, simply acknowledge that yes, the values and institutions you defend are socially constructed and this is just fine. In fact it is a positive good.