Justice Discourse in the Internet Age, Part 2: Social Justice as a Discourse of Legitimation

The Davenant Institute’s blog has just posted the second of my multi-part series on the subject of social justice discourse in the Internet Age (you can read the first page here).

In keeping with broader shifts in our public life precipitated by the rise of the Internet, this emphasis on diversity is largely a matter of language and ‘optics’: it privileges ideology, discourse, and the spectacle over concrete and material social change. As Crawford points out, it is one reason why the policing of language has become so pronounced in elite institutional life. The degree to which the diversity discourse is window-dressing for cultural elites is much less easy to perceive in the context of social media, where practically everything is window-dressing and it is difficult to pierce through the spectacle that surrounds us.

All this emphasis upon language, ideology, and institutional window-dressing fits right into the highly performative nature of identity in the social flux of the upper middle classes, where, as Crawford puts it, ‘one has to enact one’s social value anew each day.’ Masterfully playing the increasingly complex speech game of woke discourse has become a means by which aspirants to the upper middle class demonstrate their worth. The minefield of this discourse has also become a way in which the upper middle class can protect its boundaries. One of the prominent uses of the ideology and discourse of social justice, as it currently functions, is that of weeding out gauche and uncultivated persons, who have not mastered fashionable elite norms. And social media, in opening up a vast arena of mutual display in discourse, affords a realm for the cultural elites incessantly and competitively to perform their enlightened identities. It is important for us to consider why social justice discourse is all the rage at places like Harvard, but viewed with hostility in many contexts of poverty and social disadvantage, where people recognize that social justice discourse functions in no small part to pathologize them and to keep them out.

Read the whole article here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, Politics, Society, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Justice Discourse in the Internet Age, Part 2: Social Justice as a Discourse of Legitimation

  1. Stephen Crawford+ says:

    Wonderful. Just to chime in: I don’t care for the videos you post. That’s largely because I try to avoid watching videos–strangely, I’ve discovered that I’m just not able to handle watching YouTube videos of any kind. I’m glad you put up the recordings; they’re much preferred to the videos, though even those I’ve only listened to a couple of. I guess my computer is kind of slow, so they also make your blog more difficult to navigate. I wonder if videos could be posted on another page or something like that.

    And to add a bit more: why the videos, anyway? Why not just post recordings? What does the video add? Not that you’re not a handsome guy and all. I realize people get pulled in by video in a way that doesn’t generally happen for just audio (part of my problem with video), but then is that really something you want to encourage?

    I’m also sorry that it’s taken away from your writing, or at least it seems to have. The off-the-cuff musings on different topics are fine, informative as they are, but you have a greater gift for the written word than you do for the spoken word. (Though, in my opinion, you do better when those spoken words are written before hand.) Maybe it’s that I appreciate your thoughts when they’re refined and carefully targeted.

    I thought I’d offer that feedback for you. It wouldn’t surprise me if the feedback you’ve otherwise received is overwhelmingly supportive of the shift in content; if that’s so, then a minority report can’t hurt. I don’t read many blogs. Yours might be the only one I regularly check. But it’s recently become considerably less suitable for me, and I thought I might as well let you know. I’m otherwise very grateful for your work, and it’s been most helpful for me.

    • My current choice is really between rare posting and videos/podcasts, or only marginally slightly less rare posting and no videos/podcasts. The vast majority of my writing time is on book projects nowadays. I don’t have either the time or the energy for lots more writing on my blog. The benefit of YouTube is that it is more of a community than Soundcloud, iTunes, and things like that. My audience is fairly evenly divided between podcast and video format right now, but YouTube is better for engagement.

      • Stephen Crawford+ says:

        Thanks for responding. I’m glad you’re working on book projects, and I’m especially looking forward to your book on sexuality. I’m also glad you’re not spreading yourself too thin by trying to do more than you can do. May the Lord guide and bless your endeavors!

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