Get to Fouc: the real reason Tories like Liz Truss obsess over lefty philosophy

Michel Foucault and Lizz Truss
Joe Glenton

In her latest speech, minister for women and equalities Liz Truss took the opportunity to have a crack at the late French philosopher Michel Foucault.

Truss complained:

While we were taught about racism and sexism, there was too little time spent making sure everyone could read and write.

She blamed this on the French postmodernist thinker:

These ideas have their roots in post-modernist philosophy – pioneered by Foucault – that put societal power structures and labels ahead of individuals and their endeavours.

In this school of thought, there is no space for evidence, as there is no objective view – truth and morality are all relative.

In a strange turn of events, the version of the speech on the government website had several ‘political’ parts of the speech redacted. Although, it has been widely reproduced elsewhere.

But apart from misinterpreting Foucault, what’s really happening here is a coded attack on socialist notions of equality and the left broadly. It’s part of an increasing trend by the right of using left-wing philosophers, ideas, and even a mainstream antisemitic conspiracy theory originating in the far-right to buttress a conservative regime that has no answers to the crises we face.

Inherited racial guilt?

Until October 2020, the term ‘critical race theory’ had never been mentioned in parliament as journalist Daniel Trilling points out. Then, during a debate on Black History Month, Tory MP Kemi Badenoch told the house:

We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt.

Any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.

Cultural Marxism?

It gets worse. An antisemitic conspiracy traditionally espoused by the far-right, with clear origins in fascist thought, has become increasingly used by the conservative mainstream. The theory argues Western society has been undermined by a group of Jewish Marxist intellectuals. Its proponents include Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.

Tory MP Suella Braverman was criticised by the Board of Deputies for using it in 2019. Two others were placed under investigation after putting their name to an open letter which used the term in defence of supposed British values. In 2019, Tory backbencher John Hayes reportedly cited the concept as he railed against legacy allegations against north of Ireland veterans in a letter to a constituent.

Assault on the left

The thing is, while the Tories love to try and position themselves as defenders of the British working class against so-called ‘woke-ness’, they are terrible across all fronts: class, race, gender, LGBTQIA+, the lot. It’s hard to miss the strong element of divide and conquer in this latest proclamation.

But there is more to it than that. The Tories are offering an imaginary enemy – ‘woke’ thinkers –  to distract from a real one – them. They have no answers to the crises we face like plummeting living standards, the climate crisis and the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic they have so grossly mishandled.

It’s on us to move beyond narrow conceptions of equality that ignore the real complexities of intersectional struggle and refuse to accept ruling class divide and rule.

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons / Policy Exchange – Wikimedia Commons

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  • Show Comments
    1. Dear Canary writers,
      Why do insist on using the term ‘ The North Of Ireland’? This is a nationalist term, and not one which should be used by socialists.
      If ‘Northern Ireland’, doesn’t exist, why did PIRA go to war with the British in 1970? Please don’t reply that it was because of oppression. The oppression was being fought by the Civil Rights movement and others in their campaign for jobs, housing and voting rights. These were all won within a short time yet the war raged on.
      The PIRA changed the narrative from one of civil rights to one of ‘Brits out’, creating situations which would ensure more oppression, which would then allow them to recruit new members and keep the war going. Then after 25 years, when they finally realised the futility of their actions, they brokered a peace deal which would save face, and which copper fastened sectarianism.
      Some of us knew from the beginning just how futile such a tactic would turn out to be.
      All of this was a distraction from the task of transforming society in the interests of the working class and has divided the communities here even more than they already were before 1970.
      Northern Ireland exists, and changing its constitutional position will not bring us any closer to creating a socialist society. It is quite likely that a side effect of Brexit could be a united Ireland, that is a real possibility, but one which only transfer power from one set of neo-liberals to another. The fight for Territory is not our battle. Ours is the Class War!


    2. Perhaps they envy the nature of philosophy to really state a novel different view without waiting for it to be proven true.
      It must drive them crazy. Science is full on this kind of nowhere land intially but its recognised that thought ideas ,is very useful, and has consequences. One thinks of the math behind the atom bomb, and then it becomes true.
      Dumbfounded I’m sure how this could be. Now its quantum physics which many thinks isn’t even Common Sense according to Einstein. Of course it isn’t one’s normal to think in school simply to read, and write, and end up with this idea. What is there more to life than that Liz Truss, and her group contend.
      Just Read, and Write.
      To discourage thinkers about how to view the topic in a socially acceptable way shows a vast misunderstanding about what is philosophy.
      “Who is right”? is a severe stumbling block to finding out the truths of our how our modern era has come to be immersed in this open discussion. What is objective is dumbfounding to anyone creative.
      The virulent discussion of how are we different than apes when Darwins evolutionary theory evolved as it rolled over the Church’s views of creation with the strong voice of Aldous Huxley. All people have a creation story so why not add to it?
      Ours is now very different. How did we create this age is never asked or learned from.
      This has to be a frightening predicament for any ruling class.
      I’d say these people haven’t any solutions when it is now paramount to find ” answers”, and be leaders.
      Its their nemisis of their existence in this age, and good for us!

    3. I think Jeremy Corbyn has perceived this “Beyond the Politics” approach by what he says. Left, Right,Centre isn’t going to give us a future anyone will want to live with in the end. A planet being devoured by us the “Animal Politic”. Human rights however is a far different way forward for us in what’s left of the natural world.
      How to defend human rights as essential is a challenge.

    4. Excellent to hear the Canary is now in agreement with the Board of Deputy’s verdicts on what constitutes anti semitism . However they did apologise to Braverman over the false allegations. Maybe their apology to Jeremy got lost in the post?

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