The Progressive Kyriarchy and Other Ironies - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

The Progressive Kyriarchy and Other Ironies

The politics of oppression permeate our existence. In my field of choice, English, questions of power are everywhere. Who is oppressing whom; how are structures of power upheld and transgressed; is capitalization a tool of the white, male, cissexist hegemons? But these seemingly academic questions are all too practical. From the Occupy Movement to transsexual bathrooms, there is a basic assumption: conservatives hold power and their institutional control must be broken in order to better civilization.

This seems quite reasonable at first. Of course, those in power must be conservatives because they don’t want change. But philosophical conservatives know this isn’t true. We believe in change: orderly change not hoisted upon a people by the ever-intensifying spirit of the mob, but change nonetheless. What if I told you the people in power are actually a mixture of liberals and progressives, that in reality philosophical conservatives are a minority who have about as much power as Zoroastrians in India?

The liberals in power would be the Neoliberals. The recent European Parliamentary elections were, in part, a protest against these hegemons. This movement both overlaps with and is contested by progressivism. Fair trade, for example, would most likely divide the two. Yet, these liberals are often called conservatives. I cannot imagine anyone from Aristotle to Richard Weaver supporting what we term Neoliberalism. Its historical supporters are conservative, at best, in a narrow sense and liberal in, perhaps, the worst sense.

Now for the progressive hegemons. Look at the use of tribunals in adjudicating cases of campus sexual assault; examine the almost complete lack of conservatives in academia; or even just look at the rapid changes in social practice and policy over the last half-century. One needn’t be a Luddite or a Ken Ham to recognize that progressives are gaining power. Of course, victim narratives are still used and it is true that some people still face discrimination for terrible reasons. Disagreeing with same-sex marriage is, for example, no reason to treat other human beings in an undignified manner.

In reality, however, philosophical conservatives, those who read Burke, Kierkegaard, Strauss, and Grant, are the people with almost no influence. Yes the Religious Right exists. Yes the Republicans may do well in this year’s elections, but that doesn’t add up to philosophical conservatism; it adds up to gun-toting, neoliberals with a dash of xenophobia. Philosophical conservatives have the opportunity to claim discrimination, to claim that they have been almost wholly disenfranchised. In short, we can transgress the new kyriarchy and appreciate the irony in doing so.

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