BBC Sounds | Analysis
The Roots of ‘Woke’ Culture
Released On: 23 Mar 2020
Woke culture continues to become ever-more relevant to people in all walks of life, and this led to a recent BBC audio-documentary featuring feminist author Helen Lewis and produced by Craig Templeton Smith, “The Roots of ‘Woke’ Culture.” Given nothing more than its highly specialized use of language, it’s almost impossible to deny Woke culture has deep roots in a particular branch of the academic literature within the “theoretical humanities.” This is a matter of some controversy, and interest is picking up around it lately.
Lewis and Smith reached out to James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose, among many other academics and commentators including comedian Konstantin Kisin and writer Toby Young, to explore this. In particular, Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose were invited to discuss ways “Grievance Studies”—a name they gave an approach to cultural studies that relies upon appealing to and magnifying social grievances, especially based on identity—might contribute to “woke” culture. The “hoax” trio argue persuasively that much of woke culture has its roots in the Grievance Studies scholarship and further that these roots are profoundly postmodern in orientation, drawing heavily on the social Theorizing of Michel Foucault (though the Neo-Marxist influence of scholars in the Frankfurt School, such as Herbert Marcuse, is definitely felt). Other scholars interviewed for the documentary disagree.
We urge you to sit down and have a listen to this half-hour documentary about the roots of woke culture and see what you think. See if you agree with Lindsay and company that woke culture is, in fact, the combination of radical “New Left” activism and postmodern theory for the purposes of pushing a particular form of identity politics. Agree or no, let us know what you think below!