The Bureaucratic Tyranny of DEI

A few days ago, Fox News posted an article, “Parents push back on American colleges promoting DEI initiatives: ‘DEI is dangerous’,” by Elizabeth Economou and Nicole Pelletiere. They write, “Some universities across America are requiring compliance from faculty in the form of signed diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) statements, as conditions for tenure or promotion—arguing that DEI across college campuses is a top priority.” Their article then sounds an optimistic note: “However, there may be growing pushback in some areas from faculty as well as from parents—who claim that the DEI agenda actually challenges the diversity of viewpoints and opinions of students within the college environment. Some say it also promotes a culture of fear and intimidation.”

With little clamoring from the public, DEI is now everywhere.

The DEI agenda is indeed becoming ubiquitous these days and, while there is some pushback from faculty, parents, and students, it is not nearly enough. The lack of resistance, especially among faculty and students, is in part because of the culture of fear and intimidation that controls discourse and interaction on the modern university campus. I work at a university, and the fear and intimidation is palpable.

I have written about DEI programming on Freedom and Reason (e.g., The Origins and Purpose of Racial Diversity Training Programs. It’s Not What you Think; Can I Get an “Amen” to That? No, But Here’s Some Fairy Dust). Many of us are required to attend DEI workshops or perform online trainings as a consequence of our necessary existence in helping, learning, and working spaces where DEI ideas and practices are the guiding objectives. The notice just went out at my institution that new staff and faculty are required to undergo DEI training. It is incorporated in the program of employee orientation. Given what universities are turning out, I am sure many of the new arrivals will be eager to express their wokism. For those who aren’t so enthusiastic, they will sit silently or forced into pronouncements of bad faith.

Achieving diversity at any institution, according to DEI doctrine, requires drawing employees, students, etc., from a myriad of identity groups based on gender, race, religion, etc. If, e.g., blacks are “underrepresented” at an organization, then administrators and managers will aggressively seek black applicants and prefer those applicants over white or East Asian applicants. The same is true for advancement and promotion. Managers are not looking for the most qualified individual, but instead looking for personifications of an abstract demographic category to build an institution that “looks like America,” or more ambitiously, since universities are international, that “looks like the world.” (As the most racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse society on the planet, America looks like the world.)

Management is also, it must be said, looking for personifications (it goes beyond tokenism) who agree with the progressive agenda of the institution. A black conservative or Republican is highly undesirable. (Is he even black?) It is important to recruit those who are also woke as they will promote the agenda and extend progressive hegemony in their “community.” This is functional, as Swedish Marxist and populist Malcom Kyeyune argues, as “progressive theories of race and gender” secure “influence, employment, and prestige for underemployed university graduates.” He characterizes wokism as the highest form of managerialism. (His participation in Oikos suggests he also understands wokism also as a denationalizing force destructive to individual liberty and civil rights.)

One of the objectives of DEI, whether explicit or not, is to achieve a reduction in the number of straight white men at an institution by replacing them with representatives of the various groups deemed significant and useful to the establishment justified by the problem of “underrepresentation.” East Asians are increasingly unwelcome to help fulfill the scheme, as well, as they tend to excel in various fields central to the work of the university. One finds justification for the diminishment of straight white men, hereafter SWMs, in institutional life in the claim, informed by postmodernism and critical theory (critical race, gender, and queer theories), as well as postcolonial ideology and third worldism, that SWMs reside at the intersection of oppressor categories. (The question of why oppressors are leading the way in disempowering themselves through the deployment of DEI rules left unexplained.)

Achieving equity, a euphemism for SWM depowerment, requires eliminating aggregate differences among individuals in bureaucratic life, a goal that often demands the elimination of any norm or standard that prevents individuals from achieving parity with SWMs, norms and standards said are erected by SWMs to achieve systemic privileges—cis privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, white privilege. However, since all modern institutions are structurally bureaucratic and thus necessarily order roles and statuses hierarchically, parity requires, independent of merit, deliberate promotion of those mired in the intersections of oppressed categories to stations with more power and prestige. In this fashion, members of minority groups possessing victim subjectivities are integrated into the structure of power where their loyalty to the goals of DEI becomes useful for tightening the hegemony of the command-and-control structure.

Inclusion means adopting interaction rituals that, on the surface, make members of various identity groups feel included (hence the inclusivity rhetoric—but we might also say “useful” and “welcome”) in a world unjustly run by SWMs, rules of engagement necessarily requiring that individuals accept the very ideology that, with required speech acts all members are expected to affirm, manufacture and sustain the identity groups based on the oppressor-oppression matrix. Thus by officially treating individuals as personifications of abstract groups, the system reifies the progressive ideology of identity. It is a desire to live in air castles that denies their lords.

This desire leads to am authoritarian end. Why, if employees and students are tolerating the behaviors (that do not physically harm or interfere with the liberty of others), identities, and opinions of others, is that not good enough? That is all that is required in a free society. Why must employees and students affirm behaviors, identities, and opinions with which they disagree? Perhaps the chief difference between the liberal and the authoritarian is that the liberal advocates toleration while insisting on cognitive liberty, while the authoritarian, intolerant of opinions with which he disagrees, desires to censor and compel the speech of others. This desire reveals a deep and pathological insecurity, no? Why is it so important to have others affirm one’s beliefs and behaviors? Is the authoritarian unsure of them? Are these delusions that require illusions to sustain? (Recall what S. Freud said about the difference there.) I think so.

What is the character of the modern bureaucratic institution? Is it liberal or authoritarian? A member of a modern organization shaped by DEI goals and objectives is compelled to adopt ideological, political, and subcultural ideas that he may in fact, and for good reason, oppose. These goals and objectives run contrary not only to the individual’s rational interests but to the principles upon which free and open societies are based. The demands of DEI force employees and participants to either change their way of thinking by affirming doctrine and rehearsing slogans drawn from it or to act in bad faith, thereby simulating adherence to doctrine.

The rules so imposed are arrived at neither democratically nor rationally, but developed by largely unelected committees, checked by administrators and managers, and imposed bureaucratically. Bureaucratic rationality, however instrumental its rules may appear, is very often and in an emergent way routinely highly irrational. Moreover, as I have shown on my blog, the theory upon which DEI programming is based is irrational (see Critical Race Theory: A New Racism; What Critical Race Theory Is and Isn’t. Spoiler Alert: It’s Racist and Not Marxist; Crenshaw Confesses: Critical Race Theory is About Racial Reckoning; Awakening to the Problem of the Awokening: Unreasonableness and Quasi-religious Standards).

Why would freedom of thought and opinion be constrained in the modern university? Isn’t free thought and debate the main purpose of the modern university—it’s raison d’etat? Did we not win the right to be free from compelled speech in centuries of struggle with authority and tradition? No, diversity in the DEI scheme does not mean diversity of ideas, or cognitive liberty, where individuals at an institution can refuse to affirm the ideology of the various groups represented in that space without discipline, ostracization, or punishment. Intellectual diversity is subordinated in this scheme, even negated by the principles of inclusion. If criticism of or non-adherence to an ideology, such as transgenderism, makes trans people feel excluded, then it follows from the goals of inclusivity that such criticism is to be excised from the common space, which may involve removing from that space the critic, redefined as a bigot. Criticism of ideology is replaced by affirmation of the ideology in question, which must be, without any attempt to achieve a consensus, accepted as truth.

Oftentimes, the ability of a critic of one ideology or another to make his criticisms is not only restricted on the grounds of specific form and content, but the meta-act of criticizing the system that disallows such criticisms (the sin I am committing in this blog) becomes itself the target of suppression. Individuals may be disciplined, ostracized, or punished for asking whether such a system that excludes a range of opinions or recruits, hires, and promotes people on the basis of their race, is fair and just. It is the same here as it is in strict religious systems where criticism of both the doctrine and the mindset and the ruleset that insist on adherence to doctrine is blasphemous and heretical.

That the practice of censoring heretics may not appear as rampant as the defenders of DEI demand it should be for it to be considered a real problem, self-censorship is rampant. What people talk about at social gatherings where they can let down their hair is a lot different than what people talk about at the office. They know—or at least believe—that if they were to express their real opinions publicly they would be risk desired committee and teaching assignments, positions and promotion, and their reputation.

For those of us who are genuinely on the left, it is crucial to understand that, in this way of thinking, equity does not mean achieving class or economic equality but rather obtaining arbitrary advancement in the bureaucratic hierarchy by virtue of membership in imagined communities, the relative aggregate inequalities of which are “explained” by the theorized matrix of group-level oppressions. If not designed to do this work (and I am convinced it is so designed), DEI programming functions to entrench corporate power by directing management to marginalize and make disreputable ordinary understanding and the majority standpoint.

For example, Chris Rufo has documented that, at San Diego Unified School District (and he has found this elsewhere), teachers and students are being taught that heteronormativity, the fact of natural history that heterosexual relations are normative, simply meaning standard and ordinary (not arbitrary), a necessary truth found throughout the animal kingdom of which human beings are a part (necessary for perpetuation of the various species), is “straight privilege.” This notion is especially absurd in light of the fact that same-sex activity is documented among thousands of other animal species. But the goal, or at least the function, of DEI ideology is depicting ordinary understanding as bigoted and hateful in order to marginalize the majority and fracture the proletariat. As a general rule, DEI program exaggerates, manufactures, and promotes inter-group antagonisms and ressentiment and then provides the means to act on those psychological feelings of envy and hatred.

DEI is authoritarian and oppressive because it orders it program with a narrow range of theories selected by elites from a plethora of theories explaining various societal inequities—and the theories selected are the worst of the plethora from an objective and scientific standpoint. However, they are selected not because they are rationally valid or enjoy empirical soundness, but because they advance the interests of the corporate state or some interest group, which for the former functions in much the same way as a king in securing popular legitimacy for his rule by tapping members of the various tribes to sit on his court.

Have readers ever considered this function of DEI before? When you start going through the program with the ethic of individualism in mind and determined to rationally adjudicate its logic, it becomes very obvious very quickly what the program is about: DEI is a corporate state strategy of control that integrates into the command structure individuals drawn from a myriad of groups each of which is created and sustained by the strategy itself. It works by reducing individuals to personifications of imagined communities and, on the basis of a “theory,” determines their “rightful” place in the order of things. It moreover requires all individuals accept the overarching ideology that rationalizes all this. In other words, it is a racist and sexist project governed by a racist and sexist ideology. And, like racism and sexism historically, it functions to divide the working class and advance the interests of elites.

The assumption that inequality in demographic representation is de facto racism has smuggled into recruitment a new racism where concrete individuals are regarded as personifications of abstract categories and discriminated against on this basis. This should be illegal (and the Supreme Court will take up the matter soon). But affirmative action is only one of the more explicit ways the corporate state transgresses the principles of liberalism. There are more subtle maneuvers.

Consider the lie that critical race theory is not being taught in our nation’s public schools. There is a slight-of-hand at work in this claim. Finding few lesson plans specifically identifying CRT as the learning objective, we are supposed to believe that CRT is not present in the curriculum. But CRT doesn’t need to be explicitly taught to be present in the curriculum. What is required is that CRT is part of the operating system of the school system. The curriculum is then developed consistent with the “normative” framework of the institution. And so it is (see The Ethic of Transparency in Public Education—and the Problem of Indoctrination; Banning CRT in Public Instruction). We see the same thing with normalization of gender and queer theory in public education (see If QAnon is Not a Deep State Construct, It Certainly Functions that Way; The LGBTQ Lobby Sues Florida). I raise the issue of CRT and other ideologies because these are in back of DEI training.

DEI is antithetical to the struggle for free and open societies based on the ethic of individualism and equality. DEI and its guiding ideologies are anti-Enlightenment and illiberal. They are anti-democratic and anti-republican. That DEI is a major component of the prevailing corporate operating system, which also marks the university (which pioneered it) indicates that the institutions of the West have been hijacked by a powerful force the goals of which are contrary to the principles establishing and sustaining western nation-states, especially the United States. These forces are not mysterious. It is the work of transnational corporate power.

* * *

“Disagreement is not oppression. Argument is not assault. Words, even provocative and repugnant ones, are not violence. The answer to speech we do not like is more speech.” —Douglas Murray

Have you ever wonder how society became confused about the role of words in our lives? The errors that disagreement is oppression, argument is assault, and words are violence are, in part, the result of a theory derived from literary thinking wherein words do the work of actions in the minds of readers who have difficulty living in the real world. It may be said that words do violence to one thing or another, but words don’t do actual violence. The figurative is not real. However, those who live in fictional worlds find the things in it real.

It is very much the same with religious doctrine. This is why challenging the speech of the (quasi)religiously-minded produces such a profound reaction—up to and including actual violence. Short of that, excommunication, ostracization, and disciplinary action.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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