“Cultural Marxism” is the new epithet of choice

I’ve been informed I am a “cultural Marxist”. No idea what that means, but I keep bumping into it. It seems to be a sort of right wing swear word, but I’m jiggered if I can figure out what it means, particularly since I’m not a Marxist and I always took Marxism to be a theory about economics, not culture. If one of youse guys could tell me what it is supposed to mean, who coined it, and why, I’d be beholden to you. If I’m to be cursed as a “cultural Marxist” I should at least have some idea of what my nefarious agenda is.

  • RFlaum

    See here for one definition. Or, if you’d prefer a version not written by a frothing racist, it’s basically the old “long march through the institutions” thing, tinged with a hefty dose of paranoia and conspiracy theory — the idea is that political correctness and liberal ideas expressed in pop culture are not just wrong, but part of a deliberate and organized attempt to undermine the culture.

    • http://mondayevening.wordpress.com/ Marcel

      A “deliberate and organized attempt to undermine the culture”? Well gosh, that’s just crazy. What are they positing, some kind of supernatural entity that’s working against civilization and humanity?

      • RFlaum

        Okay, fair enough, I wasn’t thinking in those terms. I meant intentional on the part of the writers/teachers/whatevers.

    • Richard Mehlinger

      Do you mean cultural Marxism as it actually is, or cultural Marxism as it exists in the fevered brains of those who believe Barack Obama is somehow a Communist Nazi Muslim?

      I ask because the definition that RFlaum links to does not describe Cultural Marxism; in fact it’s not Marxist all. Any form of Marxism, by definition, insists on the primacy of the material–that is why it is called dialectical materialism. To the Marxist, material conditions–economics, biology, and geography, basically–form the “base”, and everything else forms the “superstructure”. I Actual cultural Marxism tends to be interested in the economics of culture and power structures within culture. But it still insists that culture is predicated on the material. However, they most certainly do NOT believe that “all human behavior is the result of culture and thus malleable”. That is, in its most boiled down form, the fundamental tenet of postmodernism, and in fact the postmodernists and the Marxists often disagree.

      For the record, I find postmodernism–which is deeply skeptical of liberal, Whiggish, and progressive ideologies–to be far more amenable to and compatible with Christianity than Marxism.

    • Thomas R

      The idea that all human behavior is the result of culture is a pre-Marxist idea, that looks to be more linked to classic liberalism and Romanticism.

      I guess I would have thought “cultural Marxism” would mean more thinking of cultures in purely material ways or maybe favoring a cultural “leveling” that treats “pop culture” and “high art” as exactly equal. So an expert in “Harlequin Romance” novels is equal to being an expert on Dostoyefsky, studying Adam Sandler movies is equal to studying Akira Kurosawa, etc.

  • JB

    As for “a deliberate and organized attempt to undermine the culture”, if you substitute “Christianity” for “the culture” then that’s what the World has been doing for 2,000 years.

    • Sally

      I thought it was our job as Christians to deliberately attempt to undermine the world’s culture . . .

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        No, it’s to help conform culture to Christ. We’re called to be about culture’s conversion. We are, to paraphrase, rebels *with* a cause. Any old rebel with or without a cause can undermine something.

        • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

          Rebels with a cross!

          • http://www.usmc.mil S. Murphy

            You win the internet for today!

  • http://backoftheworld.com Ryan M.

    Is it anything like being a cultural Catholic? Like maybe your grandparents were Marxist when they came to this country, and as a kid your family still went to rallies on May Day and Mao’s birthday, but now you don’t agree with the Comintern’s teachings on a lot of social issues?

    If so, isn’t being a cultural Marxist a step in the right direction?

    • Dan Berger

      Like like like.
      To get past the filter, I do indeed like this comment and find it both amusing and edifying.

  • Kirt Higdon

    It’s basically just 60s and post-60s liberalism – abortion rights, gay rights, politcal correctness, etc.

  • Chris M

    Do you have a penchant for perusing books on brutalist architecture while listening to the Soviet National Anthem, drinking vodka and eating borsht?

    • Darren

      Add some rye bread, half-sour pickles, and pirogis and it sounds like a pretty good time!

      (minus the national anthem)

      • ivan_the_mad

        Way to make my lunch seem completely unsatisfying, Darren.

  • The Next to Last Samurai

    You cultural Marxists get off my lawn!

    I used to be a conservative myself (quit when they all cracked up, I feared it was contagious) and don’t remember anyone using the term “cultural Marxist.”. Maybe they all just got tired of saying “liberal” all the time and wanted a little variety.

    • S. Murphy

      Dude, if you have a lawn, you’re a conservative! I bet you even water it and stuff.

      • The Next to Last Samurai

        To be strictly accurate, I’d have to yell “Get off my obscenely rich, tax-dodging, corporate landlord’s lawn!” but I found that by the time I’d finished yelling that, they’d got bored and wandered away on their own.

  • Will

    Is a “cultural Marxist” like a “neo-Catholic”?

  • ivan_the_mad

    There is an academic meaning to the term, which is the application of Marx’s analysis to culture.

    But in the popular parlance of the right, if someone says, “You’re a cultural Marxist!”, what they’re really saying is, “I’m intellectually bankrupt and really angry that I can’t articulate what I want at McDonald’s, let alone a cogent argument for my principles!”

    Hope that helps.

  • http://www.sff.net/people/john-c-wright/ John C Wright

    Cultural Marxism is Political Correctness. Whoever is calling you this name does not know what it means.

    A cultural Marxist is one who applies the analysis (I use the word loosely) of Marx to cultural rather than economic issues. The analysis of Marx, in turn, was an attempt to apply Darwinism to economics rather than to biology. Marx held that all historical phenomena could be understood as a by product of a ruthless and irreconcilable was between what he called different economic classes, the capitalists, who were rich and the oppressors, who invested, and the proletarians, who were poor and oppressed, who labored for a wage. Marx did not mention what happens when a poor man invests, or a rich man, such as a lawyer, takes a wage, because his mythology only allowed for a simple combat of perfectly pure poor and perfectly evil rich.

    The events of the Twentieth Century have clearly and abundantly demonstrated that Marx was an ignoramus when it came to economics. Russia and China and other places that attempted various socialist schemes of nationalization and collectivization did not achieve the promised prosperity, much less achieve the promised people’s utopia.

    The Marxists in academia, undeterred by the failure of their idol, merely applied the Marxist myth to cultural issues in the form of Political Correctness.

    Political Correctness is a quasi religious dogma that says that it is virtuous to believe certain things that are not true, and the harder they are to believe, and the more obviously false they are, the greater is the virtue in believing them. The primary manifestation of this is in a self imposed speech code, where words are perverted from their ordinary meaning, and phrased used instead which either mean nothing, or mean the opposite of what they pretend they mean.

    The certain things a somewhat arbitrary list of Politically Correct pieties, but not completely arbitrary: they all have in common two things. First, each entry on the list is a rebellion against traditional authority, either worldly authorities such as plutocrats and monarchs, or otherworldly authorities such as bishops and popes. Second, each entry on the list portrays the world as an irreconcilable Darwinian power struggle between groups of oppressors and oppressed.

    Finally, the Cultural Marxist seeks an overthrow of the current culture and its replacement by a Politically Correct utopia.

    So, for example, the nuclear family, ruled by a father with an obedient wife and children, is anathema to Cultural Marxist. He seeks a revolution where families will consist of sexual partners of any number or either sex, existing only for so long as each sees fit, and no social disapproval of any particular arrangement can be permitted in speech or thought. In race relations, the historical hegemony of the Caucasians (a group whose membership either includes or excludes Spaniards and Jews as the rhetorical need requires) must be obliterated and disparaged, so much so that even to refer to it in this sentence, I run the risk of being accused of racism. In religious matters, the Christians are always wrong, and the Catholics most wrong of all.

    Political Correctness could not possibly last a second in the mind of any sane man if its true nature were revealed. Political Correctness is a stalking predator rather than a hunting predator: that is, it camouflages itself. The Marxist concern for the poor and downtrodden is part of the camouflage. Anyone who has been to Soviet Russia or Red China or the bloodstained realm of Pol Pot or the island-sized concentration camp of Cuba can tell you the poor are far, far worse off there than in any so-called capitalist country, where the main health risk of the poor is obesity. Nonetheless, Marxist concern for the poor and downtrodden makes them talk and sound like Christians when we talk about justice for the poor. Marxist hatred of the rich and powerful, and their desire to have that power for themselves to work an imagined revenge can also sound, to dull ears, like Christian warnings against the spiritual dangers of riches, how camels cannot pass through the eye of a needle, and so on.
    So, having not seen the comment, I assume your accuser either did not know what a Cultural Marxist was, or he was deceived by the camouflage of Marxism and mistook your Christianity for its opposite, the spirit of antichrist we call socialism.

    • IB Bill

      Yes. Cultural Marxism is a very specific academic thing. It’s called by many names, especially Critical Theory. It’s the application of Marxist terms and analysis to culture. John C. Wright has excellent comments, but he really doesn’t explain what that analysis is.

      A partial example is John’s example on family. Cultural Marxism is about studying hierarchies, and showing how the more powerful parts of the hierarchies establish and maintain their power (and oppression) through the manipulation of culture, i.e., by controlling the use of cultural terms and institutions. Deconstruction applies this idea to language — showing the, ahem, phallocentric, nature of the literary “canon” (use quotation marks liberally) and that is used to establish and maintain patriarchal hegemony, i.e., the power of the male.

      Key to understanding cultural Marxists is this: There is only power, no truth. Culture is actually a battle to the death over who controls the terms of the debate and its acceptable frames of reference. Same-sex marriage proponents, for example, were able to frame the debate as one of civil rights, akin to racism, and control the terms of the debate so that any moral condemnation of homosexuality was equated with bigotry and racism. This was straight up cultural Marxism — especially the complaint that marriage is inherently discriminatory and heteronormative, and thus oppressive. In this way, cultural Marxists could both claim the mantle of the oppressed while simultaneously justification of its marginalization of its opponents (esp. Catholics). To a cultural Marxist, this is just evening the score.

      Even though of us who are political conservative have to be careful — cultural Marxism has infected our culture and even those of us who are agin’ it can easily accept it as a frame of reference.

      Why Mark was called a cultural Marxist I have no idea.

    • Tim Jones

      That was made of awesome. Thanks.

    • j. blum

      Communist Manifesto, 1848.
      Origin of Species, 1859.

      Applying Darwinism to economics. Neat trick, Karl.

      And wasn’t Darwin applying Malthusian economics to biology?

    • The Next to Last Samurai

      Careful, John, you’re inching towards an All-Explaining Theory of Everything. Maybe you should take a break from the P.c. stuff for a while.

    • Richard Mehlinger

      Marx was not a Social Darwinist. I cannot stress this enough. The mechanisms he described for how society operated and the stages of history were not remotely Darwinian. They were Hegelian. Marx saw history as a series of stages, with the shape of society determined by its means of production. However, as Marx saw it, the means of production tended to evolve, while society remained static. Eventually the two would become so out of joint that there would be a revolution of some form, and society would be remade to more closely match its economic base. Marx insisted that this, in fact, had already happened: the French Revolution had overthrown feudalism, and ushered in a liberal state more consistent with the capitalist economic system which had been gradually developing in Europe since the Renaissance. Marx, looking at the tremendous injustice of 19th century capitalism, predicted that this process would repeat itself, ultimately destroying capitalism and culminating in a just society where future revolutions would be unnecessary. He was less incorrect in this than he has widely been considered to be. Liberal democratic capitalism WAS very nearly defeated by revolutionary ideologies in the 20th century–though ultimately the ones that came closest to ending liberal democratic capitalism were the fascists, not the Soviets.

      He was also a genius, and a brilliant analyst of capitalism (and in many ways he tremendously admired it–he certainly thought it was a major improvement over feudalism); his works are still regularly assigned by economics departments, which have a reputation for being conservative and libertarian bastions. The thing is, while it was a brilliant analysis, it was fundamentally limited by the era and the economic conditions in which he lived.* Marx saw capitalism as it existed in the 19th century–in other words, capitalism in arguably its most brutal and unjust form. He rightly argued that such a system could not continue to exist indefinitely, but–and this was his fatal flaw–he underestimated capitalism’s flexibility and adaptability. Unlike feudal societies, capitalist societies were able to adapt their form of government and social structures to the new economic conditions, and to ameliorate (though not eliminate) the injustice, instability, poverty, and class conflict that Marx thought would ultimately lead to socialist revolution. In fact, those reforms wound up saving capitalism.**

      In short, Marxism failed because the welfare state, antitrust law, social insurance, and government safety regulators blunted the most brutal and inhumane aspects of capitalism, while later capitalists like Henry Ford began to realize the monetary possibilities of a well-paid work force with leisure time. Many of these changes (e.g., the 40-hour work week) were part of the short-term demands in the Communist Manifesto, designed to better the conditions of the workers before the revolution was ready. What Marx did not foresee (and which certain contemporary conservative visionaries, like Bismarck, did) was that they would ultimately render his revolution unnecessary and undesired. It is thus one of the great ironies of history that Marxism’s long term vision failed in large part because its short term vision succeeded.

      As for all you wrote about “cultural Marxism” and “political correctness”… well, I hate to say it, but you just don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. At worst, political correctness is inconvenient and self-parodic. At best, it’s simply “good manners” (No, you may not grab your secretary’s rear. No, you may not toss around racial epithets in the office. No, you’re professor will not be happy with you if you say “that’s so gay”). Very occasionally, usually in academia, it winds up unjustifiably costing someone a job. A stalking predator it is not.

      *Observant readers will note that this is statement is in fact a Marxist criticism of Marx himself. In fact he himself insisted that all thinkers are fundamentally limited and shaped by the material and economic conditions in which they live.

      **Which is why the extent to which they have been rolled back in the past 30 years should give any true conservative cause for alarm. Should the conditions of the Great Recession continue as they are, the specter of revolution may once again return.

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        Thank you. I just knew there was something “off” about using the word “Marxism” that way.

      • Harry Piper

        Yes! More of this. Actual history and knowledge instead of furious rants!

      • ivan_the_mad

        “Which is why the extent to which they have been rolled back in the past 30 years should give any true conservative cause for alarm.”

        You mean to tell us “that thinking folk of conservative views ought to reject the embraces of … Those who instruct us that ‘the test of the market’ is the whole of political economy and of morals”??? Next you’ll be telling us that’s what Russell Kirk wrote. Oh, wait …

      • Claude

        Thank you for this! Well done!

      • IB Bill

        I was enjoying this until you started talking about cultural Marxism. Derrida himself said deconstruction is done in a certain spirit of Marxism. The cultural analyses are specific Marxist. PC is far from a harmless anomaly. And I know what I’m talk about. Visit an English department. It may be that the Cultural Marxists there aren’t actually culturally Marxist according to your definition; fine, but your argument is with them, not me.

        Otherwise (setting aside also your swipe at Reagan), I enjoyed your description of Marxist economics.

      • http://www.sff.net/people/john-c-wright/ John C Wright

        You are certainly correct that Marx was a Hegelian. He says as much: his notion of ‘materialist dialectic’ was a deliberate inversion of the spiritual dialectic of Hegel.

        Despite the anachronism, however, Marx understood the social changes as an evolution based on a struggle between the powerful and powerless classes. He did not have an notion of ‘survival of he fittest’ (for then he would indeed have been a social Darwinist) but he did have a notion that the innate logical flaws of capitalism would lead to its destruction, as they had for feudalism before it. I hope I am not misleading anyone if I call that Darwinian: the unsurvival of the unfit.

        As for the rest, I respectfully disagree with your attempts to laud Marx as some sort of economic genius, or even as an economist. He did not understand the origin of the value of goods and services, did not understand the law of supply and demand, did not understand the price mechanism, did not understand the time-value of interest, did not understand Ricardo’s theory of comparative goods, did not understand the contributory value of management, or investment: he based his whole theory on the labor theory of value, which had been proposed by Adam Smith and exploded by later economists long before Marx took pen to paper, and on a false dichotomy between use value and labor value. His analysis of the source of the profit, that it is merely exploiting workers, is fallacious, even ridiculous, on every level.

        However, you are wrong about political correctness. The idea that it is the same as simple courtesy is a false one; the idea that those who are not politically correct grab the buttocks of secretaries is a slander.

        No one is more rude and abrasive than the politically correct, no one care less about chivalry toward women or the dignity of the human person. They care nothing about courtesy. They accuse the Patriarchy of abusing women because it fits the model of oppressor and oppressed. It is not courtesy toward women they seek, but power, to empower the powerless. Everything they talk about sees the world in terms of a power struggle.

        Nor is it a parody, nor is it harmless. It is an effective and deliberate tool for shaping public discourse by controlling language and hence thought, by accusing any who disagree. For example, the sexual malfunction known as homosexuality was always discussed in previous ages in terms of insanity, perversion, and sin. Under the cultural Marxist analysis, this is merely the oppression of the heterosexuals against a group now defined as a minority, and the issue is framed as a civil rights issue, nothing more. Any man who thinks it against nature or against decency to lust for sodomy with boys is now condemned as race-bigot — albeit in this case the race is a sexual behavior rather than a skin color, so the language has to be adopted and new terms invented.

        No one aware of the events of the last three decades can be unaware of the unparalleled effectiveness of this rhetoric and this tactic. Public discourse on the issue now consists solely of civil rights talk, or defensive statements by the decent defending themselves from charges of bigotry.

        No one can call this simple courtesy or dismiss it as self parody. It is a brutal and effective weapon.

        • IB Bill

          Thumbs up to this explanation, John. Tks.

  • http://catholiccinephile.wordpress.com/ Evan

    What? Where? When? Am I missing something?

    • midwestlady

      Yes.

      (The parser says my comment is too short, so this is merely a sentence to lengthen it. Good day.)

  • Rosemarie

    +J.M.J+

    So what does “cultural Marxism” have to do with actual Marxism? I really hate it when people use words to mean what they don’t mean. Like when feminists overuse the world “rape.” They think they can harness the power of the word to stigmatize other undesirable activities, but they only end up diluting the power of the word. If “rape” can refer to anything from sexu@l assault to a catcall, then the word is meaningless. Even so, if “Marxism” can refer to a myriad of different political and social views that do not originate in the Communist Manifesto, then it means nothing.

    • midwestlady

      It’s an analogy, dear. Same f(x), different x. Same operation, applied to a different set of raw materials.

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        I still think it would be better to give it a more precise name. If someone misused the term by applying it to Mark, while other people here were left scratching their heads over its meaning, then it’s apparently not clear enough.

  • http://www.sff.net/people/john-c-wright/ John C Wright

    It is to sigh. “ruthless and irreconcilable wars”

    Always reread before pressing submit.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      If you typed that whole thing and that’s the only typographical error you made, I say that’s pretty impressive.

  • LC

    Here’s a purported explanation of the term and its history:

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1508620/posts

    Here in Pittsburgh, I’ve heard the term used by local conservative talk show host Jim Quinn, whose show is, I believe, syndicated. Admittedly my only acquaintance with Quinn are the snippets I may catch when scanning the stations during my morning drive. If the topic intrigues me, I will listen for a bit; but I am not a regular listener and thus don’t know whether he’s responsible for the term spreading in wider conservative circles.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      I don’t know if he’s responsible, but I’m sure he uses it as a substitute for actual reasoning. I lived near Pittsburgh for a while, too, and he’s crazy. The man is like Glenn Beck on steroids with the conspiracy theories and the labeling things Marxism.

  • http://www.sff.net/people/john-c-wright/ John C Wright

    Mark, with all due respect to your other commenters, the term ‘Cultural Marxist’ has a meaning, and it is not a swear word and it is not a confession of intellectual bankruptcy. At least, no one has ever accused me of being out of intellectual capital, and I use the term.

    Cultural Marxism is not the same as the Christian disloyalty to worldly powers and principalities, and it is not a meaningless exaggeration. Cultural Marxism is using Marxist methods to overthrow cultural institutions (the family, the church, the fine arts, the language) rather than political and economic ones.

    • Mark Shea

      Okay. But I’m not a Marxist, have no intention of overthrowing cultural institutions (in fact, I aim to build them up) and don’t know what Marxist methods are–yet am still declared a Cultural Marxist by, for instance, these guys (because I have noted that both Cdl. Dolan and Fr. Benedict Groeschel–those two Marxist bombthrowers–had noted that female cardinals were a possibility) and these racist tools. So I naturally am still confused about what others mean by it. I’d never noticed the term before and was a bit surprised to discover that I am something I was not aware I am and still am unclear how to define. It does seem to be a swear word and, on the lips of the Pro-Western Christianity White Supremacists, and strikes me as a badge of honor rather than otherwise. I suspect that it is a term that, if it once had utility (like “gentlemen”) it is rapidly losing its meaning since it is being latched on to as a swear word by fringe racist nutjobs on the Right (such as the pagan right wingers at Occam’s Razor, who find Peter Hitchens and the Discovery Institute guilty of “cultural Marxism” since both worry that the Darwin Mythos leads (as it in fact has done) to social Darwinism and the evils of “scientific racism”. These guys *love* racism and so seem eager to declare its opponents “cultural Marxists”. I get the feeling that, however precisely you use the word, for a lot of other people its a term that is used to describe lots of different bogeymen. It might be a good idea for you to write a piece to reclaim it and define it before it is permanently corrupted by these wahoos.

      • midwestlady

        Can one be a Cultural Marxist and not be aware of it? I ask sincerely because I do believe it’s possible, if one goes about it in certain ways.

      • http://www.sff.net/people/john-c-wright/ John C Wright

        “It does seem to be a swear word and, on the lips of the Pro-Western Christianity White Supremacists…”

        Nazis hate their twin brothers the Communists for the same reason that Catholic and Protestant or Shiite and Suny fought wars: they disagree over minutia of dogma. The word ‘Cultural Marxist’ does not suddenly lose its meaning just because a Nazi picks it up to use it as a club to batter a Commie with.

        The free people of the West still are right to use the words we use to define and disarm the Socialists and the Politically Correct and the Church Haters, and the other serfs of the Dark Lord. If someone is misusing the term, they should be corrected. If too many people misuse the term, it does indeed become a meaningless swear word.

        Now, my experience is the EXACT opposite of yours. I move in circles that use this term, and use it in its precise meaning, and I have never heard any Nazis using it, much less using it against Catholic apologists. So this is the first time I have heard the term abused.

        • Mark Shea

          Whereas for me it was nearly the first time I’d noticed it used. :)

    • ivan_the_mad

      John, so does ‘Marxist’, and yet an astoundingly large portion of demagogues in the right’s infotainment complex can’t use that one correctly either, instead degrading the term to mere pejorative. Obama, for all his faults and errors, is not a Marxist; a little time with Google will show you quite a lot of right-wing writing asserting that he is, and it really comes down to a word redefined to mean “I hate him, waaah! He’s doing things I hate!”

      It is those who use the term without understanding it and apply it so wrongly (e.g. labelling Mark as such) as a smear that I accuse of intellectual bankruptcy. I hope it is clear that I do not think for a minute that applies to yourself.

      • MtMama

        Argh! It’s like the overused “fascist.” FYI, Matthew Fox (yawn) recently called JPII (!) and Benedict “fascists” for trying to overturn Vatican II and demanding obedience. When Obama is called a “socialist” and I try to correct the misapplication by explaining what socialism actually is and it’s not what Obama is doing, I am called a socialist. There is no such thing as rational thought anymore. It’s all reaction.

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          Exactly. Even if the term has a meaning, it has devolved into just another slur to hurl at people who disagree with you. Commie! Fascist! Pinko! Nazi! Cultural Marxist!… after a while the terms lose any real meaning.

  • Stu

    Maybe they meant Groucho Marx.

    Zeppo?

    • Margaret

      In that case, I really think the reference must be to Harpo and Chico on the cultural front, them being such talented musicians and all…

      • Stu

        Zeppo never gets any love.

        • j. blum

          He did in Horse Feathers–from the College Widow.

          • Stu

            Well, she was a Cultural Marxist.

    • Rosemarie

      +J.M.J+

      Ah! After all this time I’ve finally realized what I am… a Groucho Marxist. It’s all so clear now!

      • Dan Berger

        Considerably better than being a grouchy Marxist. I’ve seen one or two of those.

  • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

    Basically it just means looking at the culture through a lens of oppressed classes and oppressor classes, giving rise to egalitarian outrage over those nasty oppressors, which (goes the narrative) justifies police power to destroy the oppressors.

    As John C Wright says, it is Marxism applied to culture.

  • Mark (not Mark Shea)

    I googled it and found this defintion:

    “Cultural Marxism: An offshoot of Marxism that gave birth to political correctness, multiculturalism and “anti-racism.” Cultural Marxism maintains that all human behavior is a result of culture (not heredity / race) and thus malleable. While traditional Marxists focused on class identity in racially homogenous countries (with poor results during WWI), Cultural Marxists facilitated the racial organization of non-whites, while simultaneously asserting that “race does not exist” for white people. Cultural Marxists typically support race-based affirmative action, the proposition state (as opposed to a nation rooted in common ancestry), elevating non-Western religions above Western religions, globalization, speech codes and censorship, multiculturalism, diversity training, anti-Western education curricula, maladaptive sexual norms, the dispossession of white people, and mass Third World immigration into Western countries. Cultural Marxists have promoted idea that white people, instead of birthing white babies, should interracially marry or adopt non-white children. Samuel P. Huntington maintained that Cultural Marxism is an anti-white ideology. “

    • Dave P.

      Cultural Marxists have promoted idea that white people, instead of birthing white babies, should interracially marry or adopt non-white children.

      So my rad-trad cousin is a “cultural Marxist” for marrying a Chinese gentleman and having children thereby. Another traditional Catholic couple I know is “culturally Marxist” for adopting children from all different races. Devotion to Sts. Martin de Porres, Charles Lwanga, Josephine Bakhita, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Andrew Dung-Lac must be a sign of “cultural Marxism”, as is venerating enablers like Peter Claver and Katherine Drexel…

      Oh, and Abp. Lefebvre must have been a “cultural Marxist” for doing extensive missionary work in Africa and resigning his see to let a native African take over…

      • Mark Shea

        Actually, with post-Christian pagan right wing racists like Occam’s Razor and most of the people on their blogroll, that is *exactly* what is being asserted. One of the false gods worshipped when a culture leaves Christ is blood and soil racism.

        • Reactor

          Yep. To the neopagan right-wing, Christianity, with its egalitarian elements and concern for the weak, is essentially a species of leftism. At bottom they see it as an alien (=Jewish) imposition on healthy Germanic or Greco-Roman spirituality. Of course the contributions of Christendom to Western culture are too magnificent to dismiss — and Christendom was hardly “egalitarian” as a modern leftist would understand the term. So the pagans resort to claiming that Christendom was great in spite of rather than because of Christianity, which was a mere accidental patina overlaying the Northern European/Mediterranean essence. Sigh.

  • Beccolina

    It means you’re a Marxist who enjoys fine wine, good literature, classical music, etc . . . wait, that would be a CULTURED Marxist. Anyway, you look more like a good beer sort than a fine wine sort. It’s the beard.

    • Gary Keith Chesterton

      Mark doesn’t drink beer.

  • The Deuce

    I was just getting ready to explain it, till I saw John’s superior description up above. Darn you, John C Wright, for giving me no choice but to do my real job instead.

    • Ed Pie

      Go read one of his books instead. Win-win.

      • http://www.sff.net/people/john-c-wright/ John C Wright

        Thank you kindly. I am surprised and pleased to find someone who read my books.
        (I don’t recognize your name. Is that you, Mom?)

  • Maiki

    I assume it is getting all the cultural aspects of marxism people like (or want if they are the ruling class) since the economic parts clearly are a failure.

  • The Deuce

    Well, maybe I can throw in a few examples to make John’s explanation a bit clearer.

    For instance, take the basic logic of Marxism. Replace “the proletariat” with “women,” replace “the bourgeois” with “the patriarchy,” and replace “surplus value” with “social status.” Bam! You’ve now got feminism.

    Or replace “the proletariat” with the peoples of backwards, violent cultures and religions, and replace “the bourgeois” with Western Civilization, and replace “surplus value” with all the advantages of civilization. Bam! You’ve not got multiculturalism.

    Etc, etc.

    It’s the same basic logic as Marxism, but applied to groups and quantities that aren’t necessarily defined in economic terms:

    1) Divide people up into Group A (women/Muslims/gays/proletariat) and Group B (men/Christians/heterosexuals/bourgeois)
    2) Declare that Group A is completely identical and equal to Group B in every single relevant way.
    3) Conclude that therefore, the only reason Group A has less of quantity Y (respect/civilization/”marriage rights”/money) than Group B, is because Group B is *evil* and has kept Group A down by somehow cheating and stealing the Y that they naturally and rightfully own from them.
    4) Therefore, we need to keep punishing Group B, and taking away or destroying their Y, until their underlying equality with Group A becomes manifest. At that point we will have a totally fair brother(sister)hood of humankind, and total equality, forever and ever, amen.

    • Mark Shea

      Okay. But since neither I nore Groeschel, nor Dolan, nor Peter Hitchens, do this, I’m still getting the impression that “cultural Marxism” is becoming one of those swear words used by some on the right as “Nazi” is used by some on the Left: a content-free swear word that simply indicates dislike.

      • The Deuce

        I agree, and in fact I think that the sources who have accused you of it above are actually far closer to being cultural Marxists than you are. The idea that “all historical phenomena can be understood as a by product of a ruthless and irreconcilable wars between different classes” is remarkably close to how they see things.

        • Mark Shea

          Bingo.

  • Jared B.

    My best guess as to why you might’ve gotten slapped with that label (mind you I did not go to either of those forums) — you’re on record as being okie-dokie with having a pope from developing countries like in Africa or Asia. This cultural marxism thing sounds similar to another term I heard recently to describe people who promise not to freak out if a non-European is elected: ethnophobia https://www.google.com/search?q=ethnophobia as in the opposite of xenophobia—the irrational hatred of one’s own culture, “self-hating white guy syndrome”, etc.

    So, clearly some people have not read…anything you write. http://www.mark-shea.com/insens.html

    • The Deuce

      Of course, one of the basic, foundational ideas behind Marxist “logic” is that all people in the designated “oppressor” group are automatically bad, simply by virtue of being in that group, and that all their arguments and claims are automatically invalid and to be dismissed as “false consciousness” and self-interest regardless of how factual and rationally well-supported they are. Those who say that an African Pope would be an affront, simply on the basis of his being from Africa, are buying into that exact same idea, and as such are cultural Marxists themselves, even if they’ve reversed the usual Leftist designations for “oppressor” and “oppressed” groups.

      • Richard Mehlinger

        Er, no? You realize that Marx was an upper middle class lawyer, and Engels managed a factory for his father, its owner? Marxists–at least the old-fashioned ones–don’t claim that all “members of the oppressor ‘group’” are wicked, because such a claim would be patently ridiculous. Really about the only place you find that kind of hackneyed thinking is among second wave feminists or on Tumblr.

        Also, false consciousness is primarily associated with the oppressed, not the oppressor. It’s what happens when members of the oppressed group sympathize with or work for their oppressors.

        Is it really too much to ask that people learn what the words mean before slinging them around like mud?

        • “jerry”

          “an upper middle class lawyer”
          an upper-middle class philologist – his PhD was “The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature”
          otherwise, pretty good post back there.

          • Richard Mehlinger

            Oops >_>. In my defense, I was writing at 3 am and memory failed, haha.

  • Harry Piper

    Ask an actual Marxist (if any exist) or someone with detailed knowledge of Marxism what the word means. Most of us are conservative Catholics – you’re asking the wrong people.

    • Scott W.

      Actually, many of us were Political Correctinistas before converting. We know the Enemy a little too well sometimes.

      • Harry Piper

        A lot of things are politically incorrect. Like upholding the Church’s traditional teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts – that would be seen as politically incorrect, but absolutely no one would use that term; they’d prefer to call us bigots or something. When someone uses the phrase “Politically Correct” it’s almost always some sort of quite smug conservative (or libertarian – Bill Maher, for instance) giving himself a pat on the back for being so independent-minded and heroic – “What I’m about to say isn’t very politically correct…”.
        Problem is, a lot of actions would probably fall under the vague banner of political incorrectness- racism, beating up gay people, misogynistic remarks or behavior – see where I’m going with this? To be politically incorrect does not by definition make you a wonderful Christian or great human being. I’m not having a go at you, I just think we should identify the Enemy as the Enemy rather than with vague ideologies that have long been abandoned.

    • “jerry”

      i’m not a marxist but hang around with people who are. basically, there’s no such thing as cultural marxism, it’s a feverdream of the right. marxism is a critique of the operations of capitalism. if your topics isn’t capitalism, you’re not doing marxism.

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        Thank you. I knew I couldn’t be too crazy in thinking that, if you’re going to call something “Marxism,” it should have to do with the topic that concerned Karl Marx, y’know, economics and class struggles. If it doesn’t, then call it “Political Correctness,” call it “post-60s liberalism,” call it “Critical Theory,” call it whatever term really fits, just don’t call it Marxism.

        • The Deuce

          On the contrary. Calling something “cultural Marxism” can be very illuminating when applied to systems of belief that are logically analogous to Marxist reasoning, and which arise from the same political quarters among which Marxism was most popular. I find that people who object to this sort of thing in principle are simply uncomfortable with philosophical discussion of ideas and how they relate to each other, or like “jerry” above are adherents of the political position being critiqued and don’t want to be labeled, or both.

          • “jerry”

            “like “jerry” above are adherents of the political position being critiqued and don’t want to be labeled, or both.”
            not sure i follow. as i said, i’m not a marxist, nor a “cultural marxist,” esp. as i assert there is scarcely any such thing. marxist reasoning is hegelian dialectic applied, marx claimed, to the history of economics. just because some people claim to be practicing “cultural marxism” doesn’t mean that marx would agree that they are, not even that there is such a thing.

            “Calling something “cultural Marxism” can be very illuminating when applied to systems of belief that are logically analogous to Marxist reasoning”
            so, can you give an example of this “cultural marxist” reasoning? also please to tell me the elements of the example that you bring that are marxist.

            • The Deuce

              I gave two examples in a previous comment to this very post: feminism and multiculturalism.

              • “jerry”

                then you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

                • “jerry”

                  (sorry, that got cut off.)
                  then you really don’t know what you’re talking about.
                  unless, of course, you show what elements of feminism and multiculturalism are marxist, which you haven’t done.

          • Rosemarie

            +J.M.J+

            >>>I find that people who object to this sort of thing in principle are simply uncomfortable with philosophical discussion of ideas and how they relate to each other, or like “jerry” above are adherents of the political position being critiqued and don’t want to be labeled, or both.

            Or maybe they don’t like it when the definition of a word is expanded to the point of meaninglessness through overuse. A word’s power is in its meaning. Broaden the definition too much and it will begin to lose its power.

    • http://www.sff.net/people/john-c-wright/ John C Wright

      I’ve read and studied DAS KAPITAL, which is Marx’s complete explanation of his economic theory and his vision for a utopia. I have also read other writers of the period, both for and against, examining the theory, and I have the scholarly training to analyze what I read. I am qualified to have an opinion on what the word ‘Marxist’ means.

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        And those of us who have read and studied The Communist Manifesto don’t?

        (And no, I’m not a communist. It was required reading in a college course and it left me unimpressed. I tend to agree that Marx was no economic genius.)

  • JK

    From what I could gather, the poster said that gleefully pointing out that women could be cardinals amounts to “graveling” [sic] before the feet of cultural Marxists. And since that’s what it is, I see no reason why Shay should object. “See, I’m way too edgy to be pigeonholed like those angry traditionalists.” Such a winning strategy for evangelization — or at least for avoiding excessive ridicule from the smart set (cultural Marxists) who despise the Catholic priesthood.

    • Mark Shea

      It must be my hatred for the Catholic priesthood that prompted me to post Fr. Barron’s rebuttal of Garry Wills’ ridiculous “Why Priests?” and to go on HuffPo and defend the Catholic male and celibate priesthood from the cultured despisers there. Meanwhile, over at Fortress Tradus Katolicus, the Truly True and Purely Pure thank God that they are not like other men and continue their valuable work of dumping boiling oil on their own troops as they go outside the walls to do battle for them in the world.

      The greatest enemies of Traditionalism are Traditionalists. You make it ugly when it is beautiful.

      • JK

        Mark,
        You missed my point (perhaps because I failed to make it very clearly.) I’m not questioning your devotion or your orthodoxy; but it often seems that when people raise issues like this –”You know, women could be made Cardinals some day.” –, they do so more out of a desire to placate those who despise the male priesthood, more out of a desire to sound open and broadminded to those outside the fold, than out of true curiosity about the consequences of adopting such a course of action. That fact that this guy accused you of playing to the “cultural marxists” does not mean that he thinks you are one, and I certainly don’t either. But I detect a subtle frisson of pleasure in your entertaining ideas which are likely to endear you to the sophisticates who might watch you on HuffPo and to evoke the ire of “pharisaical traditionalist.” That having been said, I applaud your efforts in fighting the good fight here and in other public venues and I pray for your continued success.

        • Mark Shea

          My “subtle frisson of pleasure” was at discovering Groeschel and Dolan had noticed the same thing I had long noticed. I don’t have a burning interest in women cardinals, nor in the bureaucracy of the Church generally. Nor do I think the “sophisticates at HuffPo” pay the slightest attention to me as a general rule. The pharisaical traditionalists chose to act as judge, jury and executioner all by themselves–as is their custom. I did not raise the question in order to lobby for such a course of action, but merely to note that it is possible the Church might one day do it and that it would not be a rejection of Sacred Tradition to do so. Thank you for your kind words about my efforts.

    • Will

      Graveling must be like casting pearls before swine.

      • S. Murphy

        ‘graveling’ ought to be the Old English for zombie.

  • Marty Helgesen

    A quick visit to Google confirms my recollection that there were three African popes in the early centuries of the Church. They were from North Africa. Perhaps people who object to the idea — I don’t recall seeing any such objections myself — are objecting to the idea of a pope from Sub-Saharan, black Africa.

  • Nadine

    My guess, from reading on it, is that Cultural Marxists are people who generally support policies that hurt Westerners / white people. See:

    http://destoryculturalmarxism.blogspot.de/2013/01/what-is-cultural-marxism.html

    Interesting… Never even heard of “Cultural Marxism” before…

    • Richard Mehlinger

      As I mentioned above, whoever wrote this blog post is A: a racist, and B: an ignoramus. It is not in any way a reliable or accurate description of “Cultural Marxism”.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Remember back in the ’60s and ’70s when any time the hippies didn’t like something, they screamed, “Fascism!”

    Well, the Right has taken that page from the playbook. They scream, “Socialism!” at everything, when they obviously have no real grasp of the differences between socialism and capitalism. Screaming “Marxism!” just means they read the occasional article online as opposed to just listening to Hannity, O’Reilly, and the rest.

    • Richard Mehlinger

      This. A thousand times this. Though, to my great dismay as an historian, the hippies are still screaming “fascism”! Seriously, words have meanings, and sloppy language inevitably leads to sloppy thinking.

  • http://www.hancaquam.blogspot.com PNP, OP

    Speaking a real former cultural Marxist, I can say–without hesitation or fear of contradiction–that Mark Shea is not a cultural Marxist. Or, a Marxist of any kind.

    Mark, your patience with combox twaddle is far, far greater than mine.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

    • Mark Shea

      You blew it. This was your chance to say, “I knew Karl Marx. Karl Marx was a friend of mine. You are no Karl Marx.”

      Seriously, thanks. I’m always amused when I get accused of something that never occurred to me. Just last week I discovered that noting a celibate priesthood is a discipline and that there can be exceptions was part of my nefarious scheme to welcome conservative Anglicans into the Church in order to pack the priesthood and keep out women and homosexuals. I had no idea I was so clever.

      • Dave P.

        Well, you’re a Dark Lord, aren’t you? You have to have a variety of schemes to keep your enemies off-balance and guessing what you’re really about…

      • Claude

        Ha! Even I thought that was a bit much.

  • http://attheturnofthetide.blogspot.com Caspar

    So far as I understand it, cultural Marxism was Antonio Gramsci’s adoption of the Jesuit method of cultural infiltration with the Gospel. He replaced the Gospel with Communism’s basic tenets and there we went. Some of the prime texts for this sort of inculturation of Marxism are Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (; ) and Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Liberation theology is a great example of the method at work.

  • http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/ Martin

    Mark,
    The whole ‘Cultural Marxism’ thing is an extension of a meme I’ve seen crop up in other contexts – like all new ideas, it’s a mere repackaging of a very old one. Two centuries ago, Auguste Comte wanted Catholicism without Christianity; ‘cultural Marxists’ want Marxism without Marx. Richard Dawkins has described himself as a ‘cultural Anglican’ (for some reason, an analogy of wanting doughnuts without dough springs to mind), and I have seen the term ‘cultural Muslim’ used to describe the late Pakistani politician Salman Taseer, in a very interesting book written by his son Aatish Taseer entitled ‘Stranger to History’.

  • Sage

    If you have no idea what it means, you should look it up.


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