Viewing wokeness as a highly decentered liberal religion helps us understand the movement’s extremism, its witch hunts, and its awakenings. It explains why high-status people and elite institutions mouth its mantras, why its moderates can’t stand up to its fundamentalists, and why it is both the product of, and an engine of, polarization.
It is a powerful essay, difficult to excerpt. One of his themes is that liberalism may have once been a set of principles, but it is now a quasi-religious identity. Another theme is that a decentralized religion tends toward radicalism, as extremists “outbid” moderates in the contest for emotional support from those who identify with the religion.
At this point, I am going to call this the best essay I have read this year.
By the way, American Affairs is the publisher of the essay. This journal does publish some real nuggets. But it also publishes a lot of essays that toss around “neoliberal” and “market fundamentalist” as epithets. Also, it has a paywall that kicks in after one article (I think), so you have to choose carefully when to click through to read. Note that I have a couple of forthcoming posts that reference other interesting essays, but I do not recommend those essays as highly as Kaufmann’s.