Camille Paglia vs. Identity Politics: Return To Authentic 1960s Vision Where Consciousness Transcends Divisions Of Gender, Race, Ethnicity

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Via Jordan B Peterson on YouTube: An Earth-shaking meeting of the minds takes place between Dr. Jordan Peterson and feminist icon Camille Paglia. Peterson interviews Paglia, only to find that they agree on just about everything. They riff on their concerns about modern feminism, the myth of the Patriarchy, and the future of Western civilization.

In the above clip, Paglia and Peterson discuss the problem of the influence of neo-Marxist ideology in the universities --and in Western culture in general-- and postulate that a return to "the authentic 1960s vision" of "cosmic consciousness" could be the only way to transcend divisions of race, class, gender, and ethnicity that are being exploited and exacerbated by "lazy" Marxist intellectuals.

"On the largest scale, I am concerned about the future of Western culture, because I can see, as a student of history, it looks too much like Ancient Rome," Paglia stated. "Rome became over-expanded, it was at the mercy of bureaucratic creep... And Roman identity eventually got blurred in its incorporation of so many different cultures, which at first was a good kind of multiculturalism, but it eventually over-expanded and collapsed under its own weight."





She discussed how the problem is mostly rooted in education, from public schools to top universities: "I think the public school level has gone to Hell... this kind of feel-good public school education –which is a form of ideology—and indoctrination right now. It is all about No Bullying, and not about anything substantive."

"I think the cafeteria menu of the university curriculum has to be amended," she suggested. "We must return to historical courses that study from the earliest period – the Stone Age and early antiquities, in order to give perspective to our analysis of our present culture."

"I have been teaching for 46 years. I can tell the slow degradation of public school education, to the point now that students have absolutely no sense of world geography or world history. They know absolutely nothing about wars. And the reality, the barbaric reality of most of human history," she explained.

Peterson jokes: "That's triggering."

Next Paglia lets loose: "Identity politics has just got to stop!"

"Identity politics was necessary once," she explained. "We asserted gay rights with the Stonewall rebellion of 1969. We asserted women’s rights with the rebirth of Second Wave Feminism in the 1960s. But this endless preoccupation with a fragmentation of identity... We have to return to the authentic 1960s vision, which is about identity coming from consciousness, which transcends gender, which transcends all these divisions of race. Consciousness itself! Okay?"

"In the 60s, we had this idea that there was a human sensibility that transcended individual and nation, and there was this cosmic consciousness," she lamented. "This sense of the universe as a whole. To see the human being in relationship to great eternal principles of life and death, mortality, and so on."

"Whereas Marxism is blind," she said. "Marxism is very narrow. All it sees is the society. It sees nothing beyond the society! It doesn’t see nature. It is absolutely mad!"

Paglia describes the greatest crime of the Marxist intellectuals as the "abandonment of the Western Canon."

"People asserted that [The Great Western] canon was the product of bias, and of a provincial elitism," she said. "In point of fact, as a student of the history of the arts, I can assure people the canon, overwhelmingly so, is the result of what artists have determined. We say a work is important and canonical because ART IS FOLLOWING IT. We’re influenced by it! We have this beautiful cascading tradition of influence! It is another part of the philistinism of current education. To believe that there are these external reasons for why a work lasts, why a work written 500 years ago or 1,000 years ago has global relevance."

Peterson interjects: "As if it is some sort of political conspiracy that is based on power. As if anybody could even manage that! No matter how nefarious they were."

Paglia concludes: "I do want a multicultural curriculum. I do want a global curriculum. I want all the cultures taught. This is not the answer! This neo-Marxism in the universities is simply lazy. It is a lazy way to assert multiculturalism without actually doing the research and the study of other cultures!"

Selected transcript:


JORDAN PETERSON: There’s another strange element to this, which is that, on the one hand, the radical feminist-types, the neo-Marxists, the post-modernists, are very much opposed to the “patriarchy,” let’s say. And that is that unidimensional ideological representation--

CAMILLE PAGLIA: That has never existed! Perhaps the word can be applied to Republican Rome, and that is it.

PETERSON: Maybe it could be applied usefully to certain kinds of tyranny, but not to a society that is actually functioning.

PAGLIA: Also Victorian England, arguably, but other than that, to use the word “patriarchy” in such a slap-dash way is just amateurish. It absolutely just shows that people know nothing about history whatsoever – they have done NO reading.

PETERSON: So what confuses me about that, is that despite the fact that the patriarchy is viewed as this essentially evil entity, and that that is associated with the masculine entity that built this oppressive structure, the antithesis of that, which would actually be femininity –as far as I can tell—as you see with Care and with child-rearing, is also denigrated. So, it is like the only proper role for women to adopt is a patriarchal role, despite the fact that the patriarchy is something that is entirely corrupt.

The hypothesis seems to be: The patriarchy would be just fine if women ran it.

So, no changes, it would just be a transformation of leadership, and somehow that would rectify the fundamental problem, even though it is hypothetically supposed to be structural.


Next Peterson asks Paglia to discuss her view of what to expect in Western culture over the next ten years: “When you look forward and you try to be optimistic, what the Hell do you see?”

JORDAN PETERSON: So, I’m just going to close with something: There are elements in my character that are optimistic. I’ve, for example, worked for a UN committee, on the relationship between economic development and sustainability and I found out a variety of things that were very optimistic.
Like the fact that the UN set out to halve poverty between 2000 and 2015 worldwide, and they achieved that by about 2010. So we are in the period of the fastest transformation of the bottom strata of the world’s population into something approximating a middle class that has ever occurred.

And there are all these great technological innovations It looks to me like things could go extraordinarily well if we were careful. But I am not optimistic. Maybe that is just me because I also see five or six things that are happening – all of which appear at the level of catastrophe all happening at the same time. So one of the things that I’d like to ask you is: What do you see happening over the next ten years, in the universities and in the culture at large. You just put forward a proposal for the universities for the treatment of women, which I think is a very interesting one, because women have a different timeframe than men. But what the Hell is the proper way forward? I’ve been encouraging young men to tell the truth and to take responsibility, and there is a huge market for that message, but I’m not convinced by any stretch of the imagination that it is enough. When you look forward and you try to be optimistic, what the Hell do you see?

CAMILLE PAGLIA: Well, in the largest scale, I am concerned about the future of Western culture, because I can see, as a student of history, it looks too much like Ancient Rome. Rome became over-expanded, it was at the mercy of bureaucratic creep. And Roman identity eventually got blurred in its incorporation of so many different cultures, which at first was a good kind of multiculturalism, but it eventually over-expanded and collapsed under its own weight. I am concerned about whether Western culture is in a rapid decline. I think it would be very easy, because we are so interconnected and so overcomplex, to ruin. It would only take one major natural disaster to do that.

But the universities themselves, are all of a sudden, in the United States, much more attentive to issues of political correctness, because of the riots at Berkeley, which was the capital of free speech. The free speech movement happened in the spring before I entered college in 1964, one of the great principles and inspirational stories of my life, Mario Savio’s assertion of the supremacy of free thought and free speech. I think that perhaps we might just have turned a corner, but it is going to take a very, very long time for the universities to be reformed.

I think the cafeteria menu of the university curriculum has to be amended. We must return to historical courses studying from the earliest period – Stone Age and antiquities, in order to give perspective to our analysis of our present culture.

I want 50-75% of college administrators fired, and the money to be transferred over to faculty and to libraries and to instruction. I think that the way things are –the way people are being trained right now, including at the public school level.

I think the public school level has gone to Hell. When my mother came to America at the age of six, the old public school system was still very strict. She had an excellent education. She got all As even though she started out not speaking English. She learned to speak without an accent. So today, this kind of feel-good public school education –which is a form of ideology—and indoctrination right now. It is all about No Bullying, and not about anything substantive.

PETERSON: And it is not even seriously about no bullying.

PAGLIA: I can tell in my own students – I have been teaching for 46 years. I can tell the slow degradation of public school education, to the point now that students have absolutely no sense of world geography, or world history. They know absolutely nothing about wars. And the reality, the barbaric reality of most of human history.

PETERSON: That is triggering.

PAGLIA: Right! What a fantastic culture we live in!

Identity politics has just got to stop.

It was important once. I was a rebel against the WASP –White Anglo-Saxon Protestant—hegemony in American culture. It was suffocating. I was raised in the 1950s when WASPs controlled corporations, and politics and so on.

Identity politics was necessary once. We asserted gay rights with the Stonewall rebellion of 1969. We asserted women’s rights with the rebirth of Second Wave Feminism in the 1960s. But this endless preoccupation with a fragment of identity. We have to return to the authentic 1960s vision, which is about identity coming from consciousness. Which transcends gender, which transcends all these divisions of race. Consciousness itself! Okay?

There is no sense of that any longer!

PETERSON: I see that as a complete abandonment of personal responsibility.

PAGLIA: Yes.

PETERSON: Because, that consciousness, symbolically, and I got a lot of this from [CG] Jung, and from [Erich] Neumann, well that is the great logos of the West. That is the transcendent principle. Which is: Respect for the primacy of individual consciousness. And what goes along with that primarily isn’t individual rights, although that goes along with it. That is the reason why we HAVE individual rights, is for respect for that. But the responsibility that comes along with being an individual, instead of a member of some group – especially a victimized group!

I wrote an article with one of my students who had toured the mass grave sites in the former Yugoslavia. And one of the things that our research showed was the best predictor of genocide is victimization on behalf of the group that produces the genocide. An accelerated sense of victimization [leads people to say] we’ll get them before they get us.

Everyone is being taught now that they are a victim, and no one has any sense of how that is the essential tragedy of being – life is suffering. And that the world rests on a foundation of suffering. It is nothing to take personally, it is something to take responsibility for, instead of blaming and resentment, and all the things that have polluted our universities and culture.


Paglia on the "abandonment" of the Western Canon:

PAGLIA: Also it was the abandonment of the canon – people asserted that [The Great Western] canon was the product of bias, and of a provincial elitism and so on. In point of fact, as a student of the history of the arts, I can assure people the canon, overwhelmingly so, is the result of what artists have determined. We say a work is important and canonical because ART IS FOLLOWING IT. We’re influenced by it! We have this beautiful cascading tradition of influence!

It is another part of the philistinism of current education. To believe that there are these external reasons for why a work lasts, why a work written 500 years ago or 1,000 years ago [still] has global relevance.

PETERSON: As if it is some sort of political conspiracy that is based on power. As if anybody could even manage that! No matter how nefarious they were.

PAGLIA: Yes. And also, we in the 60s had an idea that there was a human sensibility that transcended individual nation, and there was this cosmic consciousness, okay. This sense of the universe as a whole. To see the human being in relationship to great eternal principles of life and death, mortality, and so on. Whereas Marxism is blind. Marxism is very narrow. All it sees is the society. It sees nothing beyond the society! It doesn’t see nature. It is absolutely mad!

How are you going to have a system taught in universities which thinks that this tiny thing of society, compared to the beauty and enormity of nature, should absorb all of our energy and attention.

I just think there is a parochialism and a provincialism, and now a kind of systematized elitism, and it has got to be rooted out. I want to return to basics. Great simplicities. Not all these faculty members teaching their little tiny courses that have to do with their own specialty. That has got to stop!

People should pursue whatever they want in the privacy of their research as scholars, certainly, that is necessary. But they must teach in the core curriculum. People must decide: What is crucial for an educated person to know?

I do want a multicultural curriculum. I do want a global curriculum. I want all the cultures taught. This is not the answer! This neo-Marxism in the universities is simply lazy. It is a lazy way to assert multiculturalism without actually doing the research and the study of other cultures!
We agreed on everything! I knew it!


Full interview:


Description from Dr. Peterson:

Dr. Camille Paglia is a well-known American intellectual and social critic. She has been a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (where this discussion took place) since 1984. She is the author of seven books focusing on literature, visual art, music, and film history, among other topics. The most well-known of these is Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism, was published by Pantheon Books in March 2017.

Dr. Paglia has been warning about the decline and corruption of the modern humanities for decades, and she is a serious critic of the postmodern ethos that currently dominates much of academia. Although she is a committed equity feminist, she firmly opposes the victim/oppressor narrative that dominates much of modern American and British feminism.

In this wide-ranging discussion, we cover (among other topics) the pernicious influence of the French intellectuals of the 1970's on the American academy, the symbolic utility of religious tradition, the tendency toward intellectual conformity and linguistic camouflage among university careerists, the under-utilization of Carl Jung and his student, Erich Neumann, in literary criticism and the study of the humanities, and the demolition of the traditional roles and identity of men and women in the West.

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