More On Woke, The Three Waves And It Is Not Going Away! At Least Not Yet

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We at Men’s Voices have for years been striving to understand the forces behind the dramatic changes sweeping across the Western world in society, culture, politics and endeavouring to see where we are headed and what the future holds. This phenomenon has been going on in varying forms and levels since the 1960s but over the past ten or fifteen years has attained a new intensity. It goes under the blanket term “woke” and this ideology has captured all major institutions including universities, media, professional bodies and politics itself. Although it affects all groups and sectors it is particularly inimical to men and boys, especially straight white men and boys. This hostility is fierce and unrelenting and accounts for the plight of men and boys in society and neglect of their concerns.

While most academics in the Social Sciences and Humanities are either thoroughly woke or else remain silent there is a small number who continue to analyse it, to speak out and warn about its consequences. We think of Matt Goodwin in the UK, author of Values, Voice and  Virtue and a regular Youtube contributor; James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose authors of Cynical Theories. Currently one who is prominent is Professor of Politics at the University of Buckingham, Eric Kaufmann.

He has written about the New Taboos of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in his recent book

Taboo: How Making Race Sacred Created a Cultural Revolution which strives to understand the origins of Woke, gives figures on its penetration of society and  makes recommendations to combat it.

Eric Kaufmann

By tracing its origins to the sacralization of historically disadvantaged race, gender and sexual identity groups which began in the mid-sixties, Kaufmann identifies how cultural socialism was taken up with enthusiasm by well-meaning left-liberals, whose ‘minorities good, majorities threatening’ lens on the world obscured this ideology’s illiberal implications.

Drawing on extensive studies of changing cultural attitudes he shows how, over time, the emotional power of this taboo extended as the zone of the sacred expanded to include innocuous ‘microaggressions’, creating the illiberal climate we see today. Its rise suppresses the free debate that makes effective policy-making possible, harming the minorities cultural socialists purport to help. Only if we shift from encouraging minority fragility to building minority resilience and use state power to check institutional illiberalism, can we restore cultural freedom.

Efforts to understand Woke

Many efforts have been made to understand this phenomenon with books by Chris Rufo, James Lindsay, Yascha Mounk. Marxism, Feminism, Postmodernism have all been advanced in part explanation for what is happening.
Does Woke originate in a March Through the Institutions-type master plan, a result of top down diffusion or is it instead a Viral Awokening, a bottom up, leaderless movement working like an epidemic spreading outwards?
Is this an Elite Intellectual Programme or are we witnessing Spontaneous Empathic Emergence?

Were the Marxists unable to rouse the workers on the basis of class so they moved on to issues of Race and Sex as the postmodernists would have it?
Kaufmann does not see the energy driving it as intellectual but as arising from emotional attachment to groups which were marginalised, hence the emphasis on the making sacred of historically disadvantaged race, gender and sexual identity groups. The remedies advanced are radical: Equal outcomes for historically disadvantaged groups and special protections for these are key aims. Equal outcomes, not just equal opportunities, have profound effects, discrimination being just one. Protections include the penalising of “offensive” speech and the enactment of hate speech laws.

The Rules of the Game

A Totem pole shows the hierarchy of oppression. At or near the top are black and transgender people. Feminists have had to make way for these groups. At the bottom are straight white males.

Conformity and Censorship

There are rules. White straight males can gain redemption through virtue signalling and allyship with those higher on the pole. Those with lower oppression points walk behind those with higher, known as the privilege walk or allow these to speak first in deference to their higher points. This is a religion with a Holy Trinity of Race, Gender and Sexuality (sexual minority groups).

Left Liberalism is moderate on the economy but radical on culture. This is a grassroots movement working from below, empathising rather than systematising, with a majorities bad, minorities good outlook.
He says the Taboo about race is the Big Bang of the current order. A key insight is that the linking of the US with racism and genocide did not first appear during the riots of 2020.

Susan Sontag writing in Partisan Review in 1966 declared that the US was built on racism and genocide; the white race is the cancer of human history.
Antifa grew out of the Weather underground from the 1960s.
Sex and Gender followed Race as sacred entities. The zone of sacredness is expanding.
Kaufmann acknowledges the work of previous writers on this subject and outlines where he differs from their analysis. He sees neo-Marxism, Marxist feminism, critical theory and postmodernism as important but secondary influences. Rather than dwell on these he prefers to ask: what made the ground so fertile for these ideas to take hold?

Surveys Data

He gives data from surveys in social science departments of British Universities. The  hard left accounts for no more than 10%-25% of academics.

The 50%-60% of liberal leftists in the Social Sciences play a decisive role; while they may not  support cancel culture  they don’t oppose it either. This soft left is the reason for the success of the woke culture, most academics support mandatory diversity statements.

Young leftists are much more woke than older leftists. Young academics are much less tolerant than older ones in support for dismissals of offending academics. While social media are decisive, schools are another reason why young people are more woke. This is why he is pessimistic.

The will of citizens is not being respected because of the institutions like universities, NGOs,  the NHS in Britain.  Populace is 2 to 1 against woke.

Three Waves

He charts three waves in the ascent of  woke: the first was in the late 1960s with student revolts and sit-ins on campuses, calls for drastic reforms of the syllabus, the manifestation of black power. The second occurred in the early 90s with the advent of political correctness, Afrocentrism, multiculturalism, speech codes.  These waves levelled out but did not decline, the ideas incorporated in them became institutionalised.

The third  wave or Great Awokening began in 2010-2015 and is currently in full spate. This is the most drastic and saw the arrival of cancel culture, critical race theory, white privilege; the calls for decolonisation of universities and the institutionalisation of the sacred values of Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity; all amounting to a radical remake of the culture.

Protesters in Virginia denounce CRT June 2021

Have we reached peak ‘woke’? some have asked. Recent events in academia, business and public debate may suggest the tide is turning. There is less cancelling of people, Harvard and MIT have just abolished mandatory diversity statements for hiring and the Tavistock clinic has closed.

Wrong, Eric Kaufmann argues. True, the energy behind cancel culture has peaked. But DEI-fuelled ‘cultural socialism’ – which advocates harsh restrictions on free speech, due process and national symbols in order to reduce “psychological harm” and bolster the esteem of formerly marginalized groups – is set to maintain and perhaps even increase its power, with younger generations increasingly intolerant of differing perspectives.



Are you up for a challenge? Advocating for men and boys is not a cause that  makes headlines or get you on chat shows. But it is a vital cause which calls for grit and determination. We are looking for new ideas and  ways to break the silence and are seeking men women who want to help out.

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