Ex-Leftist Tells All

Michael Rectenwald, formerly a professor at New York University, spent his life as a leftist — a self-described Marxist, in fact.

When on Twitter he began to turn against the tactics and behavior we see routinely on the left, particularly on college campuses with their win-by-intimidation tactics, you know what happened: his leftist colleagues took it as an opportunity to examine that behavior carefully and open a dialogue with people of different views.

Just kidding.

You know that’s not what happened. That’s never what happens.

Instead, they completely isolated him on campus. Out of one hundred colleagues, perhaps two would say hello to him. People would not even get in the elevator with him.

They exiled him to the Russian department — where, he told me, people were told he was a bad person who was not to be spoken to.

But would he necessarily abandon leftism, just because of bad treatment by leftists? After all, even under the Soviet Union there were plenty of cases of communists condemned to death by the Party who nevertheless continued to believe. “The Party is always right,” they said.

Rectenwald is different.

He spent his career writing in left-wing journals about left-wing ideas. He knows everything there is to know about postmodernism, deconstruction, and all the rest of it. He knows these folks and their ideas inside and out.

And what happened to him at NYU caused him to reexamine all of it.

He’s since been reading Ludwig von Mises and describes himself as a libertarian.

“Three years ago I was writing critiques about the terminal decadence of capitalism,” he told me in one of his appearances on the Tom Woods Show, “and now I’m talking about the terminal decadence of Marxism from a libertarian perspective.”

In response to the Marxist slogan “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” Recentwald observes: “We know what that means: if you need a bullet in the head, you’ll get that.”

As it happens, I operate a libertarian dashboard university at LibertyClassroom.com, so I asked Michael: since you know leftism inside and out, create a course for me on postmodernism, cultural studies, and critical theory (of which Critical Race Theory is a subset). These schools of thought seem very good at wrecking societies, and people should probably understand what they’re up against.

Here are the origins of what some call “cultural Marxism,” and which have become disproportionately influential in politics, business, culture, and education.

Tracing the history of Critical Theory takes us back to the theorists of the Frankfurt School, the group of intellectuals who founded the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt University in 1923, then fled Nazi Germany ten years later. Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse emigrated to the United States and took refuge at Columbia University and later at U.C. Berkeley and elsewhere.

Postmodern theory first reached North America in the form of deconstruction, as expounded by the theoretical writing of French philosopher Jacques Derrida and literary scholar Paul de Man. Deconstruction was first taken up by members of the English faculty at Yale. In addition to de Man, J. Hillis Miller, Harold Bloom, and Geoffrey Hartman were the early adopters, who became known as the Yale Critics.

The invasion of the institutions of U.S. higher education by French cultural, gender, linguistic, literary, and social theory, later known collectively as postmodernism, began in the late 1970s, with the key figures being Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, and Michel Foucault.

Now you can read all these people – a truly dreadful way to spend one’s life – or you can listen to Michael’s lectures, which explain and critique these ideas and connect them to the various lunacies at work in our world.

We used to think these were stuffy academic ideas that we didn’t have to worry about because they’d never stray beyond the universities, where they could do only so much harm. Now that they’ve made their way into society and the world has lost its blankety-blank mind, we’ve got to pay attention to them.

So given the urgency and present-day relevance of the subject matter, I’ve decided to make Michael’s Liberty Classroom course, and two others besides, available to the public for free.

Know your enemy:


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