Don't blame Karl Marx for "cultural Marxism"

One can spill gallons of ink on what followed from the Frankfurt School in academia. But for our purposes it hardly matters, because theories of cultural Marxism barely depend on anything those writers actually explored in their own work.

Nearly all the popularizers of the theory draw their analysis from ur-sources such as Lind’s essays and Buchanan’s 2001 book The Death of the West. The actual Frankfurt Schoolers mostly appear via a handful of out-of-context “incriminating” quotes that are used over and over. For example, Georg Lukacs (not a formal member of the school but an intellectual fellow traveler frequently roped in with them), in a preface to his obscurantist book The Theory of the Novel, wrote: “Who was to save us from Western civilization?” This cri de coeur from a man despairing of a world riven by the madness of World War I is supposed to be proof that modern cultural progressives are not pursuing what they think is right, or trying to rectify historical wrongs, but are deliberately seeking to destroy civilization.

The cultural Marxism obsession on the part of these conservatives is strictly surplus to requirements. American right-wingers hate multiculturalism and gay rights and radical feminism for their own sake, not because they were designed to pave the path for communism. But the story has the emotional advantage of allowing them to imagine that the trends they despise didn’t arise from a long history of the social abuse of blacks, gays, women, and immigrants, but from sinister machinations of commies striving to enslave us. Never mind that the unstoppable traditionalist “cultural decline” of the last several decades has not gotten the United States any closer to public ownership of the means of production.

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