Home Left Philosophy The Social Economics of Wokeness
Home Left Philosophy The Social Economics of Wokeness

The Social Economics of Wokeness

What’s the appeal of ‘Wokeness’?
Let’s take two recent examples, Senator Kamala Harris and Terminator: Dark Fate. Both clunkers have two things in common. They’re overhyped vehicles that wasted millions of dollars of other people’s money, $25 million or so for Kamala, and an estimated $100 million for Terminator: Dark Fate, for negligible results, Kamala is polling at 2%, and Terminator: Dark Fate blew its opening weekend.
And they both took out identity politics insurance policies against their eventual failure.

Kamala didn’t run on identity politics just because it was a good winning strategy, but also because it was a good losing strategy. That’s why, as her campaign sinks, she keeps emphasizing two things, that she’s always won elections in the past, and that, if she loses, it’s because America may not be ”ready for a woman of color to be President of the United States”. Kamala isn’t losing. America is losing.
Like a lot of movie franchises with no reason to exist, Terminator: Dark Fate adopted ‘wokeness’ as its identity. It’s the latest in a series of ‘woke’ franchise cash cows to bomb, not because of their politics, but because their politics couldn’t disguise the hollowness of the cash grab at the heart of the movie.
Kamala’s candidacy also had no reason to exist. Neither Democrats nor Republicans, insiders nor outsiders, can define what the hell her message is, except the hollowness of her own ambitions. Like Obama, she tried to use identity politics and borrowed radicalism to disguise the hollowness, but just like movies, the difference between a bad cash-in and a good one is style, art, and entertainment value.
The only thing entertaining about Kamala’s candidacy or Terminator: Dark Fate are their failures.
‘Wokeness’ isn’t just a selling point for bad candidates and bad movies with no reason to exist except synergy and greed, which are two ways of saying the same thing, it also justifies their failures.
‘Wokeness’ may go broke, but nobody ever pays the price except the money people.
Kamala Harris took out an insurance policy by running on identity politics. Her defeat will not be due to her decisions or her flaws, but to America’s unreadiness for a half-black, half-Indian woman to be president. And since there probably won’t be another one of those running, her premise isn’t even disprovable. Terminator: Dark Fate defined itself around challenging sexism. And so that $100 million in estimated losses isn’t anyone’s fault except that of the sexists who weren’t ready to go watch it.
The ‘wokeness’ insurance policy has bigger and broader applications than a bad candidate and a bad movie. It’s all around us. Why is Dick’s Sporting Goods doubling down on its anti-gun politics after losing hundreds of millions of dollars? Because its ‘principled’ position was never about principles. It was a PR strategy to cover a risky shift away from its old customer base to a trendy urban outdoor sports market.
If Dick’s had played it safe, by selling firearms, while still making the transition, and failed, its leadership would have taken all the blame. Instead, Dick’s jettisoned its old customer base while appealing to its new customer base with a show of ‘wokeness’, while its leaders are hailed as heroes for their farce. Whatever happens to Dick’s, its leadership will never be seen as failures, but as courageous activists.
This cynical game pervades corporate life where ‘wokeness’ is an insurance policy for risky gambits, especially among start-ups and financial institutions. A controversial ad campaign, a minority CEO, and an environmental initiative are insurance policies against social and reputational failure by big business.
The ancient Greeks sacrificed to the gods before any risky venture. Their pagan descendants sacrifice to the gods of political correctness, they read the entrails of ‘wokeness’, and go forth fatalistically. If they succeed, it’s because they’re good people. If they fail, they’re still good people, but they failed because of the evil people, the racists, the sexists, the gun owners, and the enemies of all that is woke and true.
Success isn’t attributable to hard work, but to the right beliefs. Failure doesn’t bear any responsibility, but is due to a society that isn’t progressive enough to allow a project with the right values to succeed.
‘Wokeness’ shifts the axis of responsibility away from the individual and to all that it believes is evil.
This is as true of ordinary people as it is of giant corporations or presidential candidates. Identity politics indemnifies its heirs against failure, whether they’re Kamala Harris or the person in the next cubicle. Oppressed minorities never fail, like Kamala or a feminist killer robot, they are failed by society. To be underprivileged is be hailed for anything short of total disaster, with zero expectations or accountability.
What we think of as ‘wokeness’ elevated the social economics of embracing leftist politics from individuals to major corporations. By prioritizing social values over economic ones, the new credos of socially responsible investing and socially responsible corporate governance, and putting stakeholders over shareholders, upholding leftist politics became more important than making money.
That’s the appeal of ‘wokeness’.
Hard work is hard. Saying the right things isn’t.
Freedom of Speech is a part of the American work ethic because we were a society where what you did mattered, not what you said, what you accomplished, not to which group you belonged. That’s why America, not Europe, Africa, China, Russia, or whichever part of the world lefties think we should be more like this week, actually developed civil rights and the most equal society in the world.
Meritocracy is inherently equalizing. Ideological systems, no matter how much they preach the cant of equality, are inherently unequal because ideology is never accountable to anything outside itself.
Leftist politics are clerical politics. Their theology of values has been embedded into every institution, making the very idea of separation of church and state into an obscene mockery. And the essence of theocracy is the conviction that what you believe matters far more than whether you get results.
‘Wokeness’ is just the buzzword of the moment whose real meaning is that society is being reinvented from a meritocracy based around hard work to a theocracy for the exponents of leftist beliefs. It’s an engine that defines success in terms of its values while removing the penalty for real-world failure.
Of course, ‘wokeness’ is a huge hit. Unlike its movies.
Who’s likeliest to go ‘woke’? The lazy, the incompetent, the corrupt, the greedy, the insecure, and the powerful who want to keep a hold on power without having to honestly compete for it. Is it any wonder that the ‘wokest’ corps are huge corporations that once had a good product, but are just living off their brand and anti-competitive business model, e.g. Nike, Apple, Google, Procter & Gamble (Gillette), Disney, and the usual suspects who spend more money on diversity than on customer satisfaction?
Corporate America’s biggest ‘woke’ fans have a ‘broke’ product and no desire to do any better.
Meritocracy means that the lazy and the incompetent can’t just rest on their laurels. If people and organizations are judged by the work they do, then the elite must work harder than everyone else.
As the twenties of the twenty-first century dawn, would anyone accuse America’s elites, its political, academic, corporate, and government leaders of working harder than everyone else? There was a time when our elites, love them or loathe them, were overachievers. These days, a Harvard degree or a spot as a Fortune 500 CEO are as likely to demonstrate clerical membership as dedication and hard work.
The appeal of ‘wokeness’ to a lazy and incompetent elite, to an Obama or a Warren are obvious. They are just as obvious to corporate morbidly obese monopolies and multinational brand warehouses.
Why bother figuring out a business model or a revenue model when you can just virtue signal?
And the appeal is just the same to the college student who doesn’t want to work hard, and instead takes a detour into identity politics studies, and discovers that it opens doors in every infiltrated field. You can study math and science, and if you fail, it doesn’t prove you’re lazy or stupid, but that math and science are racist constructs invented by dead white slave owners. Like Kamala, you can’t fail. It’s math’s failure.
On a social level, you don’t have to do the hard work of developing character and working on yourself. ‘Wokeness’ means that your social failures, your dating problems, aren’t really your fault. And anyone on the wrong side of your temper tantrum can be subjected to an extended bout of ‘cancel culture’.
That’s what we used to call bullying before we ‘cancelled’ it and replaced it with cancel culture. The only difference is that bullying rewarded strength, while cancel culture rewards shows of weakness.
That’s ‘woke’ politics in both the micro, in a school, to the macro, a multinational corporation.
“Go woke, go broke,” is a common conservative saying. It’s true in one sense and not true in another.
‘Wokeness’ brings with it economic, structural and personal failure. But it’s also a social economic strategy of avoiding responsibility for those failures. It’s an insurance policy for incompetence. It’s a good hedge against risk. And it means never having to learn how to be a better human being.
Successful societies bring out the best in people while failed societies reward the worst in them.
As America makes the slow downhill journey from a successful society to a failed society, ‘wokeness’, by its many names, is an engine of change, an incentivizing agent for bad behavior, and a disincentive for the traditional success strategies of meritocracy. It doesn’t just punish success: it rewards failure.
Failed societies have successful people. They just use different strategies to succeed. The elites don’t lose out. It’s the hard workers and the strivers, and society as a whole who suffer the consequences.
No society is so failed that it doesn’t have an elite. ‘Wokeness’ is a new success strategy for a failed society. The people and organizations making use of it may not go broke individually. Not as long as the system that they’re part of extends its safety net to cover their losses and reward their values.
Instead it’s our society that’s going broke as its elites go woke.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

Thank you for reading.


  1. And like the socialists who say it isn't working great in Venezuela because the whole planet needs to be socialist for socialism to be paradise, they spend enormous energy demanding every one else go "woke", from "we need 20% degenerates as main characters in movies" to demanding hockey announcers be fired for liking remembrance day symbols.

    In the first place, the word "woke" is so insidious. "Wake up" used to mean "don't trust the government". Now "woke" means "politically correct".

  2. Anonymous14/11/19

    In a woke society, elected politicians scold their constituencies for failing them, not the other way around. “How you dare?” is the motto. kudos to little Greta, the next energy secretary if Dems win in 2024…

  3. Anonymous14/11/19

    Brilliant, Daniel! The science of judging
    society as validated through many lenses.
    Notably, the additional one of Atlas Shrugged.
    Successful: Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardon, John
    Galt. Failed: James Taggart, Wesley Mouch,
    Robert Stadler.

    Darwin is now validated by DNA, isotopes,
    geology: math, science and technology unknown
    in his day. Evolution shows the reciprocal
    causal link between changing habitats and
    organisms. Habitat and organisms affect each

    Failed individuals: Kamala Harris, J. Taggart,
    Mouch, Stadler create a “woke” society suited
    to them. This new society nurtures them, but
    dies from incompatibility with reality.


  4. Anonymous14/11/19

    It seems our "leaders" will do anything to avoid accountability. Thank you for the article as I did not know just what "woke" meant. Now I know it as another excuse for not being responsible about our behavior. there are so many undefined words/terms out there it gets very confusing for us old people who think we know what others are talking about.

  5. Anonymous17/11/19

    Wokeness is a concept of the self as a de facto master race: an defining though irrelevant personal characteristic (skin color, sex gender, political belief, whatever); endless demand for special privileges; the right - nay, the duty! - to shut or and/or destroy any perception of opposition; and so forth. It's a personal version of National Socialist Germany.

  6. I love Daniel Greenfield. To me, "Wokeness" is a desire to belong.
    But if you want to belong to a member of a group, you must share some common traits. In Germany during World War Two, the German government created the Institute for Race, Biological, and Anthropological Investigation. The purpose of this organization was to explore how group formation occurs within the context of race and society. They found, as expected, that race, culture, heritage, history, and religion all played a large role in group formation. After the war, both the United States and the Soviet Union branded this institute as being inherently evil. Why? Because the U.S. and Russia are both communist countries. That's why Russia uses the scythe and hammer on its flag. That's a concept being hammered into place.

    But what is that concept? It's individual identity. Aristotle said that man is a political animal, and that society is possible only because of reasoned and persuasive speech. But he also believed that self-government is impossible. Both he and Plato believed that there should be a Priest Class, and a Political Class, who together control society.

    In any case, neither man believed in freedom of speech; which is called "Logos." So what does a young person do if he wants to belong, but is restricted in what he can say? He can only join the group in physical activities. Smoking pot, sexual adventures, crime, etc. Those "woke" kids don't sit around talking about race or anthropology. And that's the problem. To be woke means to reject the idea that a person even has an identity. When two woke people share a smile, they are both mutually confirming that they are members of the group, and that membership will confer revolutionary immortality upon both of them them. If you look at this communist Marine poster, you will see the promise that Marines will live forever.

    If you read this short excerpt on Revolutionary Immortality, you will see that it is a political tool for destroying customs, religions, and mores. That's how China destroyed Hong Kong. First, they destroyed all of the established families.

    Revolutionary Immortality is the promise that you will never be a failure. Even if you are unhappy, and your life amounts to nothing, your existence will still be one small stepping stone to global utopia. So you can die with a clear conscience. Being woke doesn't require any effort at all. However, being Christian, American, White, Male, hardworking, honest, and reliable requires a lot of work. So why bother if everyone is going to hate you for it? You can just be woke.

  7. Anonymous19/11/19

    Excellent article and good comments. To me "wokeness" is a disease and one of those comical but telling reverse labels like calling a fat person Slim or a bald guy Curly.

    I just ended a 32 year friendship over "wokeness". A couple I knew became "woker" and "woker" over the past 5 years until every utterance was a virtue signal: "On the subway today i saw this pig white yelling slurs at a sweet brown gay who was so noble and held 'their' ground" or "You know hijab is really a very pure form of chastity". This from a former hippie slut who used abortion as birth control in the 1970s! I wrote them both a Dear John (Dear Che?) goodbye letter as diplomatically as possible since "woke" leftist retaliate as part of their "resistance" and I've been retaliated on before and am too old for more (yes old age brings cowardice -- I am not ashamed of that fact). In my letter I basically said I cannot speak to them about anything any more without censoring my words. Every interaction is me walking on eggshells and them strutting and crowing about some new "woke" incident. My sister said maybe they will get my meaning and change. Oh you naive woman! "Woke" is a disease that people willingly acquire. They want the disease because everyone else has it and Facebook demands it so they can show off that they have "morals", which are just another commodity you buy to show status like a mink stole or a sports car. What poisonous times we live in when you reliaze that witch burners are not just some sinister tyrants but are your neighbours and family who've contracted "woke". My sister's three adult daughters are beyond hope they're so lost to wokeness but her adult son has become a Christian so I at least have one young man (a real man) to help me face my burning torch and pitchfork neighbours in my cowardly old age! Whatever happened to just leaving people alone. Nope gotta get those likes on Facebook so you can show off to all the women in your neighbourhood that you have Oprah and Moochie 'morals" and mailed your free-trade organic soy bannock loaf to Greta on her yacht via passenger pigeon while cheating on your husband with a lesbian pretending to be a "man".

  8. Anonymous20/11/19

    Dear Anon Older Wiser;

    Many believe that friendship duration should
    buy “loyalty” even in the face of self serving
    hostility wokesters dish out. Congratulations
    for trusting your integrity when harangued by
    validation-hungry harpies. With or without
    your letter, they’ll condemn you. Probably
    they already guessed your inferior sanctity
    and were planning a surprise excommunication.

    Being your own true friend brings joy and is
    seen by like souls as true human value. You
    deserve mutual appreciation, and nature will
    attract it to you.


  9. Anonymous21/11/19

    Charlie, thank you sincerely for your kind words. It's comforting to know there are still some pearls left in a world full of swine.


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