Howard S. Schwartz’s latest book, Political Correctness and the Destruction of Social Order, offers a bird’s eye view of the catastrophic power of political correctness and a thorough psychoanalytic explanation for what continues to foster politically correct movements in the 21st Century West.
Schwartz is Emeritus Professor of Organizational Behavior in the School of Business Administration at Oakland University — and he writes like it. That is, he is a social scientist with a PhD in organizational behavior so he writes like a social scientist with a PhD in organizational behavior. Because of this, some pages have to be read and re-read, but it also means all the pages communicate something worth reading; something worth learning.
Schwartz posits the root of political correctness in the “pristine self,” which he describes as “a self that is touched by nothing but love.” It is a wholly narcissistic self–a self consumed with self that only relates to the world in ways that fulfill its desire to loved and elevated. This self is in rebellion against social order, which it views as an impediment to a self-fulfillment which is antinomian at its base. Because of this, pristine selves–much like the commonly referenced “snow flakes” in our very post-modern era–appreciate other selves not for the intrinsic value each self possesses but for the personal benefit each self might bring to another self — especially if that benefit is an advantage in the war against the laws of social order.
Schwartz puts it this way:
The pristine self is an idea of the self not having a boundary around it; it is not thought to need one. A person necessarily encounters other persons, but in the model of the pristine self such experiences with others are exclusively a matter of being loved.
From whence does the pristine self arise? Schwartz explains that it is arises from the clash between Oedipal and Anti-Odepidal Psychology, which he presents as a clash between an environment in which the self is all but smothered in motherly love and one in which the self wars with the father–social order in this case–in order to resurrect the feeling of being loved and nurtured throughout one’s life.
Freud tells us that, in the beginning of psychological life, we do not experience ourselves as separate from mother, but as fused with her. In this state, life is perfect. Mother is the world to us and loves us entirely. We thus experience ourselves as the center of a loving world, a condition Freud refers to as primary narcissism, and whose appeal is obvious. The advent of any degree of separation has the result that we desire to return it. Mother, then, is the unique object of our desire. We want to marry her, as Oedipus did.
The problem is that the father stands in the way. He has a bond with mother that does not revolve around us. We must get him out of our way, kill him, so we can marry and fuse with mother again. But there is a problem. Father is big and we are small. If a fight develops between us and father, it is not we who kill him, but he who will kill us. In fact, he does not even have to kill us. He can [castrate us], such as it is, and end the rivalry that way. The result is pure terror on our part, with the fear of being castrated ever present.
Schwartz stresses that the vast majority of us handle this tension by becoming like father–i.e., we absorb, perpetuate, and defend social order, social norms, etc. In so doing we realize we have a basis for a relationship with mother that still conveys fulfillment. But there is a segment of society reverts — that fights against social order and, seeing strength in numbers, actually seeks to kill father — i.e., to kill social order and the authority that upholds it. Their goal is to throw off external demands and live in a place where love is omnipresent.
This psychological framework makes many of the misunderstood leftist movements of recent years understandable. To be clear, making them understandable is not the same thing as making them rational; it just means there is a way to understand how the leftist mind reaches anti-societal conclusions.
Schwartz shows this by pointing to the “anti-bullying movement,” the “British riots of 2011,” and the Occupy Wall Street protests. These movements appear essentially different at first glance, until you stop and consider efforts to preserve the pristine self as causal in all three. An insatiable hunger to preserve the pristine self helps explain how such movements can be conducive for a relatively large number of people, even when the language of the movement is babel.
For example, Schwartz explains that the language of Occupy Wall Street was a throwback to the language of 1960s movements, with one key difference: Occupy Wall Street was not about the same thing nor was it carried out in the same way as the demonstrations of the 60s. He notes, “The [Occupy Wall Street] protesters certainly looked similar to the demonstrators of the sixties; in fact, many of them appeared to be the same. …But differences were also apparent, and widely noted. These were often put by saying that the Occupy group had no demands. That was certainly something that was not said about [the 60s demonstrators].” In effect, Occupy Wall Street ranted against current social order but was hesitant toward advocating a replacement for fear that any order might portend a divide between the pristine self and the love for which it hungers.
Therefore, the Occupy Wall Street protesters could mimic the 60s demonstrators but could not formulate coherent demands to accompany the protests. Scwhartz said, “The [Occupy Wall Street Rubric] is so idealized and generalized that it offers no guidance to the task of social reorganization that we would think the movement would be about.”
One thing Occupy Wall Street did provide was rage — a driving force in nearly every leftist movement of the 21st century. Ironically, Schwartz posits “ambient rage” as a characteristic of those absorbed in the pristine self. And he explains that rage is different from anger in that “rage is diffuse and unbounded.” It is not a sharp, directed force that is jealous for the preservation of American society but a condition that taints every interaction with others and is ever-ready to overflow in fury toward those who dare not agree.
This indiscriminate rage feeds and coalesces — at least temporarily — disparate protest movements that are, in and of themselves, a bundle of contradictions seeking change but lacking the prescience to know the change they wish to achieve.
In addition to being available at Amazon, Political Corrrectness and the Destruction of Social Order is available to students and faculty as a free ebook though Springerlink at university libraries or as a custom paperback for a nominal charge.
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of “Bullets with AWR Hawkins,” a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.