May 02, 2014

Political Correctness as a positional good

This article is extremely interesting. It posits that for many people, political correctness is a "positional good". She defines it in the article, but briefly, a positional good is one that a person owns for snob appeal, to set oneself apart from the rabble. Ownership of the positional good is a way of declaring, "I'm better than you lot!" And it continues to be valued by the snob only as long as it is rare and distinctive.

The idea, then, is that being one of the perpetually aggrieved is a way of being morally superior. I'm open-minded and inclusive, which makes me better than all those damned bigots out there. In order to maintain their perceived moral superiority, they must continue to believe that in fact the majority really are racists. If they don't act like it, then it doesn't mean they've ceased to be racist, it only means they're getting better at hiding it. So you start looking for code words, the so-called "dog whistles", or increasingly minor and more obscure slights.

One reason I like this theory is that it does a decent job of explaining the rising tide of hoax hate crimes. If they truly think that they are surrounded by racists who are just biding their time, then faking a hate crime is fake but accurate, as it were. It embraces truthiness. If the hoax works then it keeps the pressure on all those racists. It also has the added benefit of making the hoaxer a victim of racism. And being a victim is even higher moral status among such people than simply being one of the open-minded moral elite.

UPDATE: I bet being a vegan is a positional good for a lot of people.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at 04:28 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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