Culture, Economy & Business, Politics

What’s Next When the Corporate World Goes Nuts?

Ten years ago, critical race theory was something you’d encounter only online or in academic settings, Democratic politicians were still talking about civil unions for homosexual couples, and the media and federal government were busy pointing out how far America had come in repairing the broken race relations of the past. Today, little remains of that old order. Just how fast has this transformation unfolded? Consider a simple measure of how frequently the word “racism” appears in the nation’s four largest newspapers: after staying basically constant from the 1970s to 2010, its usage explodes around 2012, with the Washington Post and the New York Times leading the charge.

Though this “Great Awokening” has scrambled political coalitions and upended widely held truths, wokeness itself remains a muddled concept. The obvious definition—that it is a belief system, what writer Wesley Yang has dubbed “the successor ideology”—has considerable merit. (See “The Identity Cult,” Winter 2022.) But as American polarization increases, it becomes clear that wokeness is also a social, economic, legal, and political phenomenon; it cannot simply be reduced to the ideas inside people’s heads. (See “The Genealogy of Woke Capital,” Autumn 2021.)

If wokeness is an institutional force, a comparative analysis can help describe it. Most Europeans can remember when America was considered stodgy and conservative, compared with progressive Western Europe. And yet, in 2022, the U.S. is experiencing deeper levels of polarization and social strife than other Western countries. Polls suggest a rapid loss of faith in public institutions. Americans identifying with either political party increasingly see the other party as a threat to democracy itself. Read more…

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