In the first of a series of longer reads, Lawrence Patihis and Ed Morrison warn academics in the UK of the dangers of critical social justice.
The saying “when America sneezes, the world catches a cold,” fits well with a new wave of ideas that has been crossing over the Atlantic, and now UK universities face a choice. This diaspora of ideas has variously been called identity politics, critical social justice, wokeness, and other names too. It is a uniquely modern adaptation of the critical social justice movement, with complex links back to postmodernism and various critical theories that emerged in the early and mid-twentieth century (such as in the Frankfurt School). The question is, do we incorporate critical social justice ideas into the administrative structure of our universities, or not?
Academics may be familiar with policies and slogans relating to decolonising the curriculum, positive discrimination, and a variety of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. In this essay we very deliberately do not step on those landmines and do not discuss specific policies or initiatives, but instead get right to the apparent cause behind the worst ideas within them—we address the underlying religious framework. We hold back on examples, again to avoid stepping on landmines. This article is for academics to read and realize: oh yes, there is a pattern to these group-based new ideologies. We do not wish to dictate those connections to you.
We are concerned that some of these emerging ideas are being uncritically accepted into UK universities, and have the potential to damage the UK’s strong empirically-focused tradition. In this essay, we choose to be optimistic, and see the present moment as an opportunity for UK academics to carefully evaluate them and sort the good ideas from the bad.
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