The Genius of ‘Woke Capitalism’

Ralph Leonard

‘Woke capitalism’ is a phrase that has been on our lips for quite some time. To me it is the same old exploitative capitalism, just with a different aesthetic. For the past decade at least, the upper echelons of society and culture, pop culture, academia, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the corporate sector have been eager to demonstrate — or ‘virtue signal’ as some will prefer to say — just how committed they are in fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination and promoting equality, diversity and multicultural values.

Nevertheless, following the sickening murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, the new lease of life the Black Lives Matter movement has received, and the righteous ‘awakening’ (or ‘awokening’ if you will) across society in the United States and beyond to the reality of racism and poor black Americans suffering under the jackboot of police violence, this trend has accelerated and intensified to an unforeseen degree. Slogans, catchphrases and policies that have long been associated with esoteric academics and incandescent activists have now been affirmed by corporations. Ben and Jerrys has explicitly supported the ‘Defund the police’ movement. Goldman Sachs have established a $10 million fund to support organisation combating racial disparities, structural inequality and economic inequity. Adidas has pledged to reserve at least 30% of new positions for black and Latino people.

Co-founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian resigned from his position, specifically demanding to be replaced by a black candidate. L’Oreal and Unilever announced they will remove the words ‘whitening’, ‘fairness’ and ‘lightening’ from all skin care products they sell. White voice actors are recusing themselves from voicing black characters on cartoons, declaring black actors should voice black characters.

The English Premier League commemorated the movement with special made jerseys baring ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back supplanting the players names. The Statue wars that has enraged over the past few weeks has claimed statues and monuments dedicated to slave owners, colonialists and notable racists have either been toppled, removed or defaced. Though the cruzada has expanded itself to targeting any figure who is designated insufficiently ‘woke’ for its own cathartic sake — to the point where representations of abolitionists, Abraham Lincoln and the Shaw memorial have become ‘collateral damage’ in the campaign of symbolic purification.

Even the perennially irrelevant Dixie Chicks have made their contribution to this ‘reckoning’ by altering their stage name to simply ‘The Chicks’ (I’m not sure ‘Dixie’ axiomatically denotes you as a white supremacist per se, but you do you). What is noteworthy about this whirlwind of figurative cultural change is how swift, somewhat preemptive, dare I say how orderly it has been. In most instances there has barely been a struggle, let alone a riotous demand, let alone resistance from elites determined to guard their authority, except for some disgruntled mumbling on Twitter, or hysterical right wing screeds fretting about ‘cultural Jacobins’ and the ‘woke Taliban’.

Comparisons with the turmoil of the 1960s are en vogue, but a key difference is Black Lives Matter and the recent protests have majority support across all ethnic groups, even among white Americans, much more than Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement did in its apogee. … Read More

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