It’s currently in vogue for progressives to steal certain tools from the philosophy of existentialism and attempt to wield them clumsily at political adversaries. Whether or not leftists are aware of this, many of their rhetorical devices are ripped straight out of a vastly more nuanced and cerebral playbook, only to be applied in the most half-assed, amateur fashion possible. Let’s begin examining some of the most popular tropes and idioms mechanically regurgitated by these children.
“That’s just a social construct!” the liberal will breathlessly exclaim, as if he had just uttered the most groundshaking revelation ever issued from a human mouth. Anyone who’s even so much as stumbled into the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble by accident will find this kind of statement tirelessly redundant and overly obvious. Aren’t all concepts “social constructs?”
Obviously the leftist would like you believe this implies something negative about the category they’re attacking, that it is somehow questionable, tainted, or invalidated simply by virtue of having been defined by humans. “Gender” is a human idea, therefore it is arbitrary and meaningless. “Race” is a human idea, therefore it is arbitrary and meaningless. Many of them will also insist that an inability to precisely define a category renders it meaningless or invalid. They blithely go jumping straight into the Continuum Fallacy without so much as a hint of self-consciousness. If “woman” is an ill-defined social construct, why can’t you say the same for “baldness?”
The problem is that simply pointing out that a concept is a social construct isn’t sufficient to justify eliminating the concept altogether. To do this would require making a case for why this concept is objectionable. Doing this of course requires appealing to other socially constructed concepts which self-detonates the progressive’s entire premise altogether. For example, one could argue that the concept of “race” prevents “unity” and must be dissolved so humans can all get along. So what? “Unity” is a social construct, why should I care about it anymore than the social construct of “race?” All the liberal is doing here is creating a hierarchy of various social constructs with their pet creations on the top of the pile and their enemy’s concepts dissolved on the bottom with relativistic acid.
Essentially the liberal is clumsily playing with the existentialist concept of deconstruction, although in a much more hamfisted and simplified form. (Actual deconstruction involves examining hidden value judgments in human language and pointing out that superior/inferior hierarchies are ultimately meaningless since the top cannot exist without the bottom, but not many lefties have even heard of Derrida.) Most of them do not comprehend that this weapon they’re swinging cuts both ways and can be used to hack down and invalidate every single premise they hold. If you point this out, they’ll either remain unconscious of it and keep trying to Beg the Question while doggedly attacking “social constructs,” or they’ll accuse you of the very nihilism they’re unashamedly advocating.
Let’s be clear here, attacking a concept simply on the grounds that it’s the product of human minds is a fool’s game for complete philosophical amateurs.
This is one is my new favorite. The term originated in the mid 1990s and was immediately gobbled up by the social science community, who had apparently never once heard of a French Existentialist named Jean Paul Sartre. “Stereotype Threat” itself is used to describe a sort of self fulfilling prophecy where if members of a social group believe that another dominant social group has a negative perception of them, this will lead to stress and making decisions which may ultimately confirm the stereotype itself. Unfortunately a version of this idea was already covered many decades before by Sarte, who called this behavior “Bad Faith.” A person behaving in Bad Faith also feels their behavior is artificially limited by some sort of public perception and behaves inauthentically as a result. For obvious reasons the existentialist concept here makes leftist progressives very, very uncomfortable because it explicitly lays the ultimate responsibility for confirming a stereotype at the feet of the individual himself. This is yet another case of liberals being intentionally short-sighted and not following a premise to its logical conclusion. In the case of black test scores being lower because of this alleged “Stereotype Threat,” the liberal is also denying the possibility of black “agency” (Free will) and claiming that they are simply overpowered by and unable to resist negative stereotypes. This quickly begins to look more like self-deception by individuals rather than oppression by society, but I suppose “being your own man” must be some kind of sexist rhetoric these leftists have never heard of. Furthermore, how would you ever prove that the individual’s self perception is the result of an external cause and not simply due to personal paranoia?
The liberals desperately want to believe that the responsibility for an individual ultimately lies with society itself, but this merely raises a lot of nasty questions about how much free will an individual has to act authentically. In all these cases the leftist mode of thought is about completing the first part of the equation and then intentionally ignoring the possibility of taking the premise to its logical endpoint. These endpoints have already been exhaustively covered by philosophers and the final conclusions contradict the idea that you can use either existentialist deconstruction of “social constructs” or “stereotype threat” to definitively argue against either “gender roles” or “systemic racism.” The first case is disingenuous and short-sighted, the second has a lot of Hard Determinist premises tangled up underneath it.
In summation, the postmodern liberals are running with scissors.