Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, contends that internecine conflict on the left has become “a profound issue, particularly for those of us who are terrified that the hard woke left will enable the resurgence of authoritarian populism by inflicting damage on the moderate left and center and by driving voters to the right.”
Pinker made the case by email that
much of the recent escalation is due to three deeply rooted beliefs of today’s woke left: One is that progress comes from struggle — a good force defeating an evil force, rather than problem-solving — diagnosing the inevitable ills of something as complex as a modern society (including people and factions who disagree with you) and implementing remedies. The second is the belief that systems of oppression are implemented not in overt policies like Jim Crow laws but in subtle patterns in language and visual symbols that insidiously instill unconscious bias in everyone. To make things better, one has to root out and marginalize the perpetrators of this pervasive oppression, rather than just outarguing an opposing faction. A third, shared by their strange bedfellows on the populist right, is that democratic liberal society is unreformable — the system is so corrupt and decadent that it must be razed to the ground, because anything that rises out of the ashes will be better than what we have now.
Pinker challenged the goal of many progressive groups to “match the demographic breakdown of the country.”
This, as Pinker sees it,
is an algorithm for infinite recrimination because of an iron law of social science: nothing ever mirrors the demographic statistics of a nation. People of different sexes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religions will also differ, on average, in their tastes, life priorities, interests, educational histories, values, family patterns, and other cultural traits, and there’s simply no reason to expect a statistical miracle in which the members of an organization will duplicate the national statistics.
Pinker agreed that “there is real prejudice, to be sure, and it must be extirpated, but there will be unequal distributions of groups even without a drop of prejudice.”