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The Great Reset, Part V: Woke Ideology | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on March 2, 2021

“The battleground is in people’s heads, and if the battle is won on that ground then the peace and tranquility of society are guaranteed.”2 Ideology on this account is not the same as world view. It is rather the mental programming necessary for domination and control short of the use of force. Ideological indoctrination is easier, less messy, and less expensive than state and state-supported violence.

Michael Rectenwald

In previous articles, I’ve discussed the Great Reset and introduced several ways of understanding the economics of it. The Great Reset can be thought of as neofeudalism, as “corporate socialism,” as “capitalism with Chinese characteristics,” and in terms of “stakeholder capitalism” versus “neoliberalism.” In future installments, I intend to treat the technological (transhumanist) and monetary (centralized banking and digital currency) aspects that Klaus Schwab and others anticipate and prescribe.

But in this essay, I wish to consider the ideological aspect of the Great Reset. Just how do the planners mean to establish the reset ideologically? That is, how would a reset of the mass mind come to pass that would allow for the many elements of the Great Reset to be put into place—without mass rebellion, that is? After all, if the Great Reset is to take hold, some degree of conformity on the part of the population will be necessary—despite the enhanced, extended, and more precise control over the population that transhumanist technology and a centralized digital currency would afford.

This is the function of ideology. Ideology, as the Marxist historian of science Richard Lewontin has argued, works “by convincing people that the society in which they live is just and fair, or if not just and fair then inevitable, and that it is quite useless to resort to violence.”1 Ideology establishes the “social legitimation” that Lewontin sees as necessary for gaining the assent of the ruled. “The battleground is in people’s heads, and if the battle is won on that ground then the peace and tranquility of society are guaranteed.”2 Ideology on this account is not the same as world view. It is rather the mental programming necessary for domination and control short of the use of force. Ideological indoctrination is easier, less messy, and less expensive than state and state-supported violence.

Some may argue that the ideology of the Great Reset is simply socialist-communist ideology. After all, in many respects, socialist-communist ideology supports what the Great Reset promises to deliver. And this may work for some. There are those who would welcome, on socialist grounds, the “fairness,” “equality,” or “equity” that the Great Reset promises. Socialists might overlook or excuse the oligarchical control of society on the basis of the supposed fairness, equality, or equity among the mass of the population, and on the presumption that the oligarchy will be overthrown in the not-so-distant future. Socialism embeds a levelling predisposition that puts a premium on “equality” among the visible majority, even when that equality comes as a great loss for many otherwise “middle-class” subjects. In fact, when I briefly entertained the rantings of members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, including its leader, Bob Avakian, they admitted to me that worldwide socialism would mean reduced standards of living for much of the world, especially in the United States. They had no problem with this; in fact, they seemed to relish the prospect. No doubt, as Friedrich Nietzsche suggested, socialism is fueled, at least in part, by ressentiment—by resentment and envy for the property owner. Much could be said about socialists’ apparent approval, or at least conditional and temporary acceptance, of big monopolistic oligarchical corporatists and their preference for big business over small.3 Socialists see monopolization under capitalism as inevitable, as necessary for producing a more consolidated target to be overthrown, and as a sign of the imminent collapse of capitalism and the coming socialist-communist apocalypse.

Likewise, many socialists will be amenable to the Great Reset on principle—especially those who accept its rhetoric at face value. But for all its newfound popularity, socialism-communism still doesn’t represent the majority. While popular among Millennials and other millennialists, socialism-communism remains unsavory for many. It is regarded as alien, obscure, and loosely connotes something negative. But more importantly, for reasons that I’ll give below, socialist-communist ideology is not the ideology that best fits the goals of the Great Reset. This is where wokeness comes in.

What exactly is wokeness? As I write in Beyond Woke,

According to the social justice creed, being “woke” is the political awakening that stems from the emergence of consciousness and conscientiousness regarding social and political injustice. Wokeness is the indelible inscription of the awareness of social injustice on the conscious mind, eliciting the sting of conscience, which compels the newly woke to change their be­liefs and behaviors.4

This is as close to a definition of wokeness as I can manage, gleaning it as I have from the assertions of those who embrace it. Of course, the etymology of the word “woke,” and how it became an adjective describing those who are thus awakened into consciousness of social and political injustice, is another matter. I discuss the etymology in Google Archipelago:

“Woke” began in English as a past tense and past participle of “wake.” It suggested “having become awake.” But, by the 1960s, woke began to function as an adjective as well, gaining the figurative meaning in the African American community of “well-informed” or “up-to-date.” By 1972, the once modest verbal past tense began to describe an elevated political consciousness. In 2017, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) recognized the social-conscious awareness of woke and added the definition: “alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.”5

Yet there are as many definitions of wokeness as people who’ve heard of it, as is the case with most anything the least bit controversial. I’m sure that others can and will add to the definition or suggest that wokeness should be defined altogether differently. But the above definition and historical-semantical renderings are sufficient for our purposes. According to adherents, then, wokeness is enhanced awareness of social and political injustice and the determination to eradicate it.

But what could wokeness have to do with the Great Reset? As a corrective, wokeness is not aimed at the sufferers whose complaints, or imagined complaints, it means to redress. Wokeness works on the majority, the supposed beneficiaries of injustice. It does so by making the majority understand that it has benefited from “privilege” and preference—based on skin color (whiteness), gender (patriarchy), sexual proclivity (heteronormativity), birthplace (colonialism, imperialism, and first worldism), gender identity (cis gender privilege), and the domination of nature (speciesism)—to name some of the major culprits. The list could go on and is emended, seemingly by the day. This majority must be rehabilitated, as it were. The masses must understand that they have gained whatever advantages they have hitherto enjoyed on the basis of the unfair treatment of others, either directly or indirectly, and this unfair treatment is predicated on the circumstances of birth. The “privilege” of the majority has come at the expense of those minorities designated as the beneficiaries of wokeness, and wokeness is the means for rectifying these many injustices.

And what are the effects of being repeatedly reprimanded as such, of being told that one has been the beneficiary of unmerited “privilege,” that one’s relative wealth and well-being have come at the expense of oppressed, marginalized, and misused Others? Shame, guilt, remorse, unworthiness. And what are the expected attitudinal and behavioral adjustments to be taken by the majority? They are to expect less. Under woke ideology, one will be expected to forfeit one’s rights, because even these rights, nay, especially these rights, have come at the expense of others.

Thus, wokeness works by habituating the majority to the reduced expectations that I introduced in my first installment on the Great Reset. It does this by instilling a belief in the unworthiness of the majority to thrive, prosper, and enjoy their lives. Wokeness indoctrinates the majority into the propertyless future (for them, at least) of the Great Reset, while gratifying the Left, its main ideological propagators, with a sense of moral superiority, even as they too are scheduled to become bereft of prospects.

One question remains. Why is wokeness more suited to the objectives of the Great Reset than socialist-communist ideology? To answer this question, we must recall the selling points of socialism-communism. Despite the levelling down that I mentioned above, socialism-communism is promissory. It promises benefits, not deficits. It does not operate by promising the majority that they will lose upon its establishment. Quite to the contrary, socialism-communism promises vastly improved conditions—yes, fairness, equality, or equity but also prosperity for the mass of humanity, prosperity that has been denied it under capitalism. The workers of the world are called to unite, not under the prospect of reduced expectations, but on the basis of great expectations—not, according to Marx, to establish utopia, but at least to destroy and replace the current dystopia with a shared cornucopia. We know, of course, how this promise is kept. But it is nevertheless still proffered and believed by all too many in our midst.

We have seen, on the other hand, the subtractive character of woke ideology. Wokeness demands the forfeiture of advantages on moral grounds. Unlike socialism-communism, it does not offer empowerment or advocate the takeover of the means of production and the state by political means. Wokeness is a form of recrimination that compels the abdication, not the acquisition, of goods.

Woke ideology, I contend, has tilled the soil and planted the seeds for the harvest that the Great Reset represents to the ruling elite. Was wokeness intentionally crafted for this purpose? I don’t think so, but it nevertheless can and is being adopted for these ends, just as other ideological formations have been used for other ends. The ruling elite appropriates the available means at its disposal to effect its plans, including available ideologies. Woke ideology was available and ready for appropriation and application. Wokeness serves the Great Reset best, and thus we see the language of wokeness in the books and other literature devoted to its establishment: fairness, inclusion, etc.

Naturally, wokeness will not work on everyone. But the demand has been made so universal that unapologetic, noncompliant dissenters are figured as regressive, reactionary, racist, white supremacist, and more, and are dismissed, if not punished, on those grounds. Wokeness has thus attained dominance. Countering it will be a major requirement for challenging the Great Reset.

  • 1. R.C. Lewontin, Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA (New York: HarperPerennial, n.d.), p. 6.
  • 2. Lewontin, Biology as Ideology, p. 7.
  • 3. Matt Bruenig, “Small Businesses Are Overrated,” Jacobin, Jan. 16, 2018,
  • 4. Michael Rectenwald, Beyond Woke (Nashville, TN: New English Review Press, 2020), pp. 7–8.
  • 5. Michael Rectenwald, Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom (Nashville, TN: New English Review Press, 2019), p. 42.


Contact Michael Rectenwald

Michael Rectenwald was a professor of liberal studies at New York University (retired).

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‘The God That Failed’: Why the U.S. Cannot Now Re-Impose Its Civilisational Worldview — Strategic Culture

Posted by M. C. on June 30, 2020

Tucker Carlson, a leading American conservative commentator known for plain speaking, frames the movement a little differently: “This is not a momentary civil disturbance. This is a serious, and highly organized political movement … It is deep and profound and has vast political ambitions. It is insidious, it will grow. Its goal is to end liberal democracy and challenge western civilization itself … We’re too literal and good-hearted to understand what’s happening … We have no idea what we are up against … These are not protests. This is a totalitarian political movement”.

Alastair Crooke

It was always a paradox: John Stuart Mill, in his seminal (1859), On Liberty, never doubted that a universal civilisation, grounded in liberal values, was the eventual destination of all of humankind. He looked forward to an ‘Exact Science of Human Nature’, which would formulate laws of psychology and society as precise and universal as those of the physical sciences. Yet, not only did that science never emerge, in today’s world, such social ‘laws’ are taken as strictly (western) cultural constructs, rather than as laws or science.

So, not only was the claim to universal civilisation not supported by evidence, but the very idea of humans sharing a common destination (‘End of Times’) is nothing more than an apocalyptic remnant of Latin Christianity, and of one minor current in Judaism. Mill’s was always a matter of secularized religion – faith – rather than empiricism. A shared human ‘destination’ does not exist in Orthodox Christianity, Taoism or Buddhism. It could never therefore qualify as universal.

Liberal core tenets of individual autonomy, freedom, industry, free trade and commerce essentially reflected the triumph of the Protestant worldview in Europe’s 30-years’ civil war. It was not fully even a Christian view, but more a Protestant one.

This narrow, sectarian pillar was able to be projected into a universal project – only so long as it was underpinned by power. In Mill’s day, the civilisational claim served Europe’s need for colonial validation. Mill tacitly acknowledges this when he validates the clearing of the indigenous American populations for not having tamed the wilderness, nor made the land productive.

However, with America’s Cold War triumph – that had by then become a cynical framework for U.S. ‘soft power’ – acquired a new potency. The merits of America’s culture, and way of life, seemed to acquire practical validation through the implosion of the USSR.

But today, with America’s soft power collapsed – not even the illusion of universalism can be sustained. Other states are coming forward, offering themselves as separate, equally compelling ‘civilisational’ states. It is clear that even were the classic liberal Establishment to win in the November U.S. elections, America no longer has claim to path-find a New World Order.

Yet, should this secularised Protestant current be over – beware! Because its subterranean, unconscious religiosity is the ‘ghost at the table’ today. It is returning in a new guise.

The ‘old illusion’ cannot continue, because its core values are being radicalised, stood on their head, and turned into the swords with which to impale classic American and European liberals (and U.S. Christian Conservatives). It is now the younger generation of American woke liberals who are asserting vociferously not merely that the old liberal paradigm is illusory, but that it was never more than ‘a cover’ hiding oppression – whether domestic, or colonial, racist or imperial; a moral stain that only redemption can cleanse.

It is an attack – which coming from within – forecloses on any U.S. moral, soft power, global leadership aspirations. For with the illusion exploded, and nothing in its place, a New World Order cannot coherently be formulated.

Not content with exposing the illusion, the woke generation are also tearing down, and shredding, the flags at the masthead: Freedom and prosperity achieved via the liberal market.

‘Freedom’ is being torn down from within. Dissidents from the woke ideology, are being ‘called out’, made to repent on the knee, or face reputational or economic ruin. It is ‘soft totalitarianism’. It recalls one of Dostoevsky’s characters – at a time when Russian progressives were discrediting traditional institutions – who, in a celebrated line, says: “I got entangled in my data … Starting from unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism”.

Even ‘science’ has become a ‘God that failed’; instead of being the path to liberty, it has become a dark soulless path toward unfreedom. From algorithms that ‘cost’ the value of human lives, versus the ‘costing’ of lockdown; from secret ‘Black Box’ algos that limit distribution of news and thinking, to Bill Gates’ vaccination ID project, science now portends despotic social control, rather than a fluttering standard, hoist as the symbol of freedom.

But the most prominent of these flags, torn down, cannot be blamed on the woke generation. There has been no ‘prosperity for all’ – only distortions and warped structures. There are not even free markets. The Fed and the U.S. Treasury simply print new money, and hand it out to select recipients. There is no means now to attribute ‘worth’ to financial assets. Their value simply is that which Central Government is willing to pay for bonds, or grant in bail-outs.

Wow. ‘The God who failed’ (André Gide’s book title) – a crash of idols. One wonders now, what is the point to that huge financial eco-system known as Wall Street. Why not winnow it down to a couple of entities, say, Blackrock and KKR (hedge funds), and leave it to them to distribute the Fed’s freshly-printed ‘boodle’ amongst friends? Liberal markets no more – and many fewer jobs.

Many commentators have noted the wokes’ absence of vision for the future. Some describe them in highly caustic terms:

“Today, America’s tumbrils are clattering about, carrying toppled statues, ruined careers, unwoke brands. Over their sides peer those deemed racist by left-wing identitarians and sentenced to cancelation, even as the evidentiary standard for that crime falls through the floor … But who are these cultural revolutionaries? The conventional wisdom goes that this is the inner-cities erupting, economically disadvantaged victims of racism enraged over the murder of George Floyd. The reality is something more … bourgeoisie. As Kevin Williamson observed last week, “These are the idiot children of the American ruling class, toy radicals and Champagne Bolsheviks, playing Jacobin for a while, until they go back to graduate school”.

Is that so? I well recall listening in the Middle East to other angry young men who, too, wanted to ‘topple the statues’; to burn down everything. ‘You really believed that Washington would allow you … in’, they taunted and tortured their leaders: “No, we must burn it all down. Start from scratch”.

Did they have a blueprint for the future? No. They simply believed that Islam would organically inflate, and expand to fill the void. It would happen by itself – of its own accord: Faith.

Professor John Gray has noted “that in The God that failed, Gide says: ‘My faith in communism is like my faith in religion. It is a promise of salvation for mankind’’. “Here Gide acknowledged”, Gray continues, “that communism was an atheist version of monotheism. But so is liberalism, and when Gide and others gave up faith in communism to become liberals, they were not renouncing the concepts and values that both ideologies had inherited from western religion. They continued to believe that history was a directional process in which humankind was advancing towards universal freedom”.

So too with the wokes. The emphasis is on Redemption; on a Truth catharsis; on their own Virtue as sufficient agency to stand-in for the lack of plan for the future. All are clear signals: A secularised ‘illusion’ is metamorphosing back into ‘religion’. Not as Islam, of course, but as angry Man, burning at the deep and dark moral stain of the past. And acting now as purifying ‘fire’ to bring about the uplifting and shining future ahead.

Tucker Carlson, a leading American conservative commentator known for plain speaking, frames the movement a little differently: “This is not a momentary civil disturbance. This is a serious, and highly organized political movement … It is deep and profound and has vast political ambitions. It is insidious, it will grow. Its goal is to end liberal democracy and challenge western civilization itself … We’re too literal and good-hearted to understand what’s happening … We have no idea what we are up against … These are not protests. This is a totalitarian political movement”.

Again, nothing needs to be done by this new generation to bring into being a new world, apart from destroying the old one. This vision is a relic – albeit secularised – of western Christianity. Apocalypse and redemption, these wokes believe, have their own path; their own internal logic.

Mill’s ‘ghost’ is arrived at the table. And with its return, America’s exceptionalism has its re-birth. Redemption for humankind’s dark stains. A narrative in which the history of mankind is reduced to the history of racial struggle. Yet Americans, young or old, now lack the power to project it as a universal vision.

‘Virtue’, however deeply felt, on its own, is insufficient. Might President Trump try nevertheless to sustain the old illusion by hard power? The U.S. is deeply fractured and dysfunctional – but if desperate, this is possible.

The “toy radicals, and Champagne Bolsheviks” – in these terms of dripping disdain from Williamson – are very similar to those who rushed into the streets in 1917. But before dismissing them so peremptorily and lightly, recall what occurred.

Into that combustible mass of youth – so acultured by their progressive parents to see a Russian past that was imperfect and darkly stained – a Trotsky and Lenin were inserted. And Stalin ensued. No ‘toy radicals’. Soft became hard totalitarianism.




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