“Critical theory” – the coy self-description of the ideological Left – self-consciously describes itself by the totality of its rejection of the existing social order, in identical fashion to old-style Marxists (Marx himself was a “critical theorist”). The explicit agenda of critical theory is to undermine the credibility and authority of the status quo in order to prepare its annihilation. The task of undermining communal assumptions and stabilizing faiths is not incidental to the radical critique, but is its corrosive essence. It is what the theory intends. Yet, like the Marxist-Leninists of the past, critical theorists never confront the moral issue posed by their destructive agendas: What can be the rationale for weakening and ultimately destroying a system as liberal as the existing one, if no better has been devised?
Without its adherents noticing, the theoretical argument of the Left has been emptied of content by the failures of socialism. For what is the practical meaning of a socialist critique in the absence of a workable socialist model? In fact, there is none. By adopting an impossible standard, it is easy to find fault with any institution or social system under scrutiny. The ideal of socialist equality, for example, may or may not be admirable. But if social equality cannot be realized in practice, or if the attempt to realize it necessarily creates a totalitarian state, then the idea of such equality can have no significance except as an incitement to destructive agendas.
To raise the socialist ideal to a critical standard imposes a burden of responsibility on its advocates that critical theorists refuse to shoulder. If one sets out to destroy a lifeboat because it fails to meet the standards of a luxury yacht, the act of criticism may be perfectly “just,” but the passengers will drown all the same. Similarly, if socialist principles can only be realized in a socialist gulag, even the presumed inequalities of the capitalist market are worth the price. If socialist poverty and socialist police states are the practical alternative to capitalist inequality, what justice can there be in destroying capitalist freedoms and the benefits thy provide? Without a practical alternative to offer, radical idealism is radical nihilism – a war of destruction with no objective other than war.
This quote was submitted by reader Michael Dennin from American Patriot Council Blog. He had this to say about it:
Like David, I am a former New Leftist myself, so I can state with some degree of authority that one would be hard-pressed to find a more articulate exposition of socialism’s nihilistic nature and impulses than the one he presents on pages 29-30 of The Politics of Bad Faith: The Radical assault on America’s Future.
If you have a favorite Horowitz quote you want to highlight for others then please submit it here. Please include:
- “Horowitz Quote of the Day” in subject line.
- A link to where the quote is from. (No need to include this if it’s from a book.)
- Any remarks you’d like published explaining what value you take from it.
- Your preferred name and a link to your blog or homepage (if you have one.)