Toward a Tocquevillian America
core dilemma facing this nation as we move into the 21st century
is the insidious weaving of political correctness into the fabric
of American culture. There are two competing worldviews - opposing
forces locked in battle, engaged in an epic struggle for the
dominance of the American mind. The Culture War is indeed a
war, make no mistake, and the winner of that war will determine
the ultimate course of American cultural evolution.
Origins Of The Culture War
Steven Yates, PhD. and author of "Civil Wrongs: What Went
Wrong with Affirmative Action" recently wrote an article
on LewRockwell.com entitled "Understanding the Culture
War: Gramscians, Tocquevillians and Others" in which he
in turn reviews an article by John Fonte of the Hudson Institute,
published in Heritage Foundation's "Policy Review"
entitled "Why There Is a Culture War. Together the two
provide clear insight into the origins of the disease that is
Political Correctness and nicely articulate the basis of the
philosophy behind this website, The Tocquevillan Magazine.
On one side of the Culture War are the "Gramscians",
and on the other, the "Tocquevillians". The names
are taken from the intellectuals whom Fonte credits with authoring
the respective warring ideologies: The Italian neo-Marxist philosopher
Antonio Gramsci, French political philosopher and author of
Prison Notebooks, and Alexis de Tocqueville, author of
the esteemed and influential Democracy in America.
The Oppressors and The Oppressed
The liberal world-view so prevalent in America today can be
traced directly back to Gramsci, whether or not modern liberals
know the name - and most of them probably don't. Gramsci agreed
with Karl Marx that every society could be divided into two
classes, the "bourgeois" and "proletariat"
- oppressor and oppressed, respectively.
But Gramsci took it a step further and divided the oppressed
into subordinate groups instead of the single homogeneous proletariat
of Marx. Gramsci identified these oppressed groups as "women,
racial minorities and many criminals."
Gramsci distinguishes two ways that the dominant group exercises
control over the oppressed group, whereas Marx had written only
1. Direct control through force and coercion - political domination
couched in terms of service to the economic interests of the
2. What Gramsci calls Hegemony, which is the tacit use of a
values system that supports and reinforces the interests of
The oppressed groups don't even know that they are oppressed,
according to Gramsci, because they have absorbed the values
system, or "false consciousness", that represses them.
Yates points us to one example of this - the radical feminists
who speak of romantic candlelight dinners as a form of prostitution.
If a radical feminist claims that dinner is prostitution, or
that all sex is rape - even married, consensual sex, and if
"ordinary" women object, then the objection arises
only as a result of this "false consciousness" asserting
The Marxist Revolution - Infiltrating the Institutions
Gramsci argued that before there could be any Marxist "revolution",
it would be necessary to build up a "counter-hegemony".
In other words, a system of values that undermined the oppressor
group and that favored the oppressed groups would have to be
instilled into the cultural consciousness. The entry points
for the insinuation of this altered values system into the dominant
culture would be those institutions that we take for granted
- schools, churches, businesses, media, as well as art, literature
and philosophy. Only by infiltrating these traditional sources
of consciousness can the Gramscian revolution overthrow the
shackles of the oppressors and usher in a true Marxist revolution.
Brainwashing the working class
In the opening of his new book, Hooking Up, Tom Wolfe
says "by the year 2000, the term "working class"
had fallen into disuse in the United States, and "proletariat"
was so obsolete it was known only to a few bitter old academics
with wire hair sprouting out of their ears."
But while terminology has changed, the underlying socialist
philosophy remains as strong as ever. Wolfe points out that
the "proletariat" in the United States, people who
had undoubtedly never heard the name Saint-Simon, were nevertheless
"fulfilling Saint-Simon's and the other nineteenth century
utopian socialists' dreams of a day when the ordinary workingman
would have the political and personal freedom, the free time
and the wherewithal to express himself in any way he saw fit
and to unleash his full potential."
Ironically, the working man thus described does not boast of
having attained this level of freedom, indeed is often ashamed
of it, because he has "been numbed by the..."intellectuals",
who had spent the preceding eighty years being indignant over
what a "puritanical," "repressive," "bigoted,"
"capitalistic," and "fascist" nation America
was beneath its democratic façade". They have, in
other words, absorbed the "false consciousness" of
These intellectuals played an important role in the Gramscian
vision of the transformation of society. Specifically, Gramsci
called these "organic" intellectuals, as opposed to
"traditional" intellectuals. Organic intellectuals
were those who belonged to the repressed groups and were attempting
to undermine the dominant culture, with the help of any "traditional"
intellectuals who could be persuaded to defect. In fact, writes
Yates, "changing the minds of "traditional" intellectuals
was particularly valuable, as they were already well positioned
within the dominant educational institutions." Thus began
the "long march through the institutions" - a phrase
we owe to Gramsci.
Gramsci's notion of "organic" intellectuals is evidenced
in today's demands within the institutions for more and more
"diversity". But this is a diversity of faces, not
ideas. "Traditional" intellectuals wield power, especially
in education. But as Yates points out, the Gramscian gatekeepers
control who is admitted into the ivy-choked halls of academia,
and today's in educational institutions, dominated by feminists
of "all stripes and colors (and sexual preferences and
fetishes)" an outspoken conservative might save himself
the trouble of applying.
The reigning doctrine in our Gramscian educational institutions
is deconstruction. The high priests of deconstruction were two
Frenchmen, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. Of these Tom
Wolfe writes, "They began with a hyperdilation of a pronouncement
of Nietzsche's to the effect that there can be no absolute truth,
merely many "truths," which are the tools of various
groups, classes, or forces."
Gramsci described himself as an "absolute historicist,"
his views deriving from the philosopher Hegel. All systems of
value, all moral codes, are nothing more than the products of
the period in history and the culture that spawned them. There
is no such thing as absolute truth or objective morality. There
are only value systems that represent the interests of the bourgeois
or the proletariat, and the mission of the organic intellectuals
is to undermine the dominant value system. The chief means of
accomplishing this is to capture control of language, especially
the language of morality.
The Language of Morality
Wolfe writes of the doctrine that "language is the most
insidious tool of all." The duty of the "organic"
intellectual is to "deconstruct the language, expose its
hidden agendas, and help save the victims of the American "Establishment":
women, the poor, nonwhites, homosexuals, and hardwood trees."
Capturing control over language, especially the language of
morality, opens the doors to psychological control of the masses.
"Most people will reject ideas and institutions if they
become convinced of their basic immorality; most people, too,
lack the kind of training that will equip them to untangle the
thicket of logical fallacies that might be involved," writes
Having assumed control of the language of morality, especially
in institutions such as the media and academia, the way is now
clear for the Gramscian transformation of society.
The deconstruction movement in academia is a systematic
effort to destroy the values of "dominant groups":
straight white Christian males of non-Marxist European descent.
The values that are under attack are truth as the goal of inquiry,
transcendent morality as the guide to human conduct, freedom
and independence as political ideals, hiring and contracting
based on merit. In a Gramscian world, all of these are myths
of the dominant consciousness.
Yates points out that political correctness is the primary weapon
in the war against those values. Academic schools of radical
feminism, "critical race theory," gay and lesbian
"queer theory," the preoccupation with "diversity"
as an end in itself and all other forms of PC are direct descendents
of Gramsci - they are the chief arm of enforcement of the Gramscian
transformation of American society.
But there is a force arrayed against the powerful and moneyed
drive toward a Gramscian world. Fonte describes this opposition
force as the "Tocquevillian Counterattack."
The core philosophy here is that of American Excptionalism -
the idea that there are normative values embodied in America
that, far from being mere historical products, are to be embraced
for what they are: the values that make America the special
place that it is. Fonte describes a "trinity of American
exceptionalism" that define the unique development of America:
1. Dynamism. This is the support for entrepreneurship and economic
progress, including the changes that economic progress yields,
and support for equality of opportunity for all individuals
to participate in this process.
2. Religiosity. This is the idea that freedom is only possible
to a moral citizenry - that moral values have their origins
with God, that character development is a necessary component
of education, and that social problems should be dealt with
at the local level through the voluntary efforts of men and
women of good will and character.
3. Patriotism. Love of country. Support for the Constitution.
Limited self-government. The rule of law.
Other Opposition Forces
There is a third set of views, also opposed to the creation
of a Gramscian world, but that are not Tocquevillians in Fonte's
view because they do not accept all of the three components
above. These views might accept two of those three components
or emphasize one over the others.
For example, the libertarian author of The Future and its
Enemies, Virginia Postrel, puts most weight on the first,
distinguishing "dynamists" from "stasists."
Most Libertarians reject the second, adhering to philosopher
Ayn Rand's view that morality originates from the necessities
of sustaining human existence, or the exercise of reason in
responding to a knowable, objective world, rather than from
Then there are the members of today's pro-South movement who
mistrust the first and who believe that the third can only be
realized through secession.
Fonte describes adherents to this third set of views as "libertarians,
paleoconservatives, secular patriots, Catholic social democrats,
and disaffected religious-right intellectuals."
"Only The Tocquevillians"
But as an opposition force, Fonte doubts that those listed above
"will mount an effective resistance to the continuing Gramscian
assault. Only the Tocquevillians appear to have the strength
- in terms of intellectual firepower, infrastructure, funding,
media attention and a comprehensive philosophy that taps into
core American principles - to challenge the Gramscians with
any chance of success."
Thus far this group, for whatever reason, has not even come
close to stemming the Gramscian tide. Despite having its own
foundations, and despite considerable intellectual firepower
(Fonte names his favorite Tocquevillians: William Bennett, Michael
Novak, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Marvin Olasky, Norman Podhorets
and scholars such as Williams Galston, Wilfred McClay, Harvey
Mansfield and Walter McDougall, as well as writers such as Irving
Kristol and Charles Kesler) the Tocquevillians have yet to seize
the moral high ground.
Reclaiming the Language
One thing is certain, and that is that, as a beginning, the
Tocquevillians must reclaim the language of morality. We must
reject the premise of every Gramscian philosophical argument
and examine the language used to find the true meaning. We must
take advantage every opportunity to expose the liberal Gramscian
We must demand of our institutions, particularly the media and
our schools, that they explain or defend the relativistic "truths"
broadcast to our living rooms or fed to the minds of our children.
Tocquevillians must stop allowing themselves to be put in the
losing position of defending their beliefs against arguments
that assume the moral high road and instead reject the arguments
themselves as being based on false assumptions. In this way
we will gradually re-claim that "most insidious tool of
all", the language, and begin the long journey back to
America the way it was intended to be - a nation of free and
responsible individuals, subjects to no one.