Left Is Not Woke - Susan Neiman - E-Book

Left Is Not Woke E-Book

Susan Neiman

16,99 €

Sammeln Sie Punkte in unserem Gutscheinprogramm und kaufen Sie E-Books und Hörbücher mit bis zu 100% Rabatt.
Mehr erfahren.

If you're woke, you're left. If you're left, you're woke. We blur the terms, assuming that if you're one you must be the other. That, Susan Neiman argues, is a dangerous mistake. The confusion arises because woke is fuelled by traditionally leftwing emotions: the wish to stand with the oppressed and marginalized, to address historic crimes. But those emotions are undermined by widespread philosophical assumptions with reactionary sources. As a result, wokeism conflicts with ideas that have guided the left for more than 200 years: a commitment to universalism, a firm distinction between justice and power, and a belief in the possibility of progress. Without these ideas, the woke will continue to undermine their own goals and drift, inexorably and unintentionally, towards the right. One of the world's leading philosophical voices, Neiman calls with passion and power for the left to return to the ideals that built the best of the modern world.

Sie lesen das E-Book in den Legimi-Apps auf:

von Legimi
zertifizierten E-Readern

Seitenzahl: 263

Mehr Informationen
Mehr Informationen
Legimi prüft nicht, ob Rezensionen von Nutzern stammen, die den betreffenden Titel tatsächlich gekauft oder gelesen/gehört haben. Wir entfernen aber gefälschte Rezensionen.



Table of Contents


Title Page




1 Universalism and Tribalism


2 Justice and Power


3 Progress and Doom


4 What’s Left?




End User License Agreement




























































































































































































Praise for Left Is Not Woke

“Bracing and invigorating … Neiman’s short, punchy, and brilliantly articulated argument is a call for those who regard themselves as being on the left to remember the distinction between skepticism and cynicism.”

Fintan O’Toole, The New York Review of Books

“Susan Neiman’s aim in Left Is Not Woke is to remind the left of the importance of universalist values. Her clarity of thought and expression, coupled with her beautiful prose, means that this must-read book should be read by everyone concerned with equality and justice.”

Stephen Bush, The Financial Times

“Let no one confuse what this book has to say with the tired right-wing denunciation of ‘identity politics.’ Left Is Not Woke accuses some trendy voices on the left of a fatal self-betrayal: renouncing the very grounds on which the left has traditionally stood, the concepts and principles in the name of which it has fought its battles and advanced its ends, above all, universalism.”

Ato Sekyi-Otu, Emeritus Professor of Social and Political Thought, York University, and author of Left Universalism, Africacentric Essays

“It is very possible that this book will be referred to frequently in the coming months of election campaigns, because what Neiman undoubtedly achieves in just 168 pages is an exemplary systematization and characterization of the lines of conflict that have been much discussed in recent years. Neiman’s bold emphasis on progress has something thrilling, which has become very rare in these hopelessly complicated times.”

Jens-Christian Rabe, Süddeutscher Zeitung

“In Susan Neiman the chic slanderers of reason and universalism have finally met their match. Left Is Not Woke brilliantly breaks through the left’s sheepish refusal to defend its own basic values against intellectual hucksters, careerist intimidators, and censorious poseurs who have hijacked major cultural institutions. It remains an essential and accessible philosophical guide to what’s gone wrong and how to begin setting it right.”

Sean Wilentz, Princeton University

“Susan Neiman’s new book will sharpen critical thinking.”

Elisabeth von Thadden, Die Zeit

“The flinty, readable Left Is Not Woke by Susan Neiman, the director of the Einstein Forum think tank, explores [woke views] usefully … Woke [she writes] ‘begins with concern for marginalized persons, and ends by reducing each to the prism of her marginalization … Woke demands that nations and peoples face up to their criminal histories. In the process it often concludes that all history is criminal.’ Neiman critiques pioneering texts of this kind of view. And the problem, she adds, is that ‘those who have learned in college to distrust every claim to truth will hesitate to acknowledge falsehood.’”

John McWhorter, The New York Times

“Philosophy, for Susan Neiman, is a martial art. Her sharp argument will stir a much-needed debate.”

Ivan Krastev, Chair, Centre for Liberal Strategies

“Like a latter-day Thomas Paine, she is in the first instance pleading for understanding the commitment to social progress and the above-mentioned first principles, animating it not as some otherworldly idealism but as common sense.”

Sharon Rider, Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective

“A necessary voice of sanity in a fractious debate. A cogent leftwing defence of universalism against its critics on both sides of the political spectrum.”

Kenan Malik, author of Not so Black and White

“Susan Neiman turns the world upside down…the prize-winning philosopher debunks the concept ‘woke’.”

Daniel Arnet, Blick

“[I]ncisive … crucial to the future of the left.”

The Vancouver Sun

“Illuminating and thought-provoking.”

The Irish Times

“Provocative, insightful, sure to stir controversy.”

Joyce Carol Oates

“Our quick and spontaneous thanks to philosopher Susan Neiman. The incorruptible analyst of human judgment cannot be easily categorized … Neiman is fighting for the idea of the left.”

Ronald Pohl, Der Standard

“Susan Neiman is one of our most careful and principled thinkers on the genuine left. In this nuanced and impassioned plea for universalism she has done a public service for readers of every political stripe. Left Is Not Woke is an urgent and powerful intervention into one of the most pressing struggles of our time.”

Thomas Chatterton Williams, Bard College, Staff writer, The Atlantic

“In Left Is Not Woke, a sharply pointed, eminently readable, and admirably succinct polemic, Neiman stomps hard on the thoughtlessness and even frivolity of a political and cultural phenomenon that has agitated, incited, and confused significant portions of the American public.Neiman’s book is … a meditation with bite. It is an overdue tonic for disquieted leftists who have come to believe their commitment to a fairer, more equal world condemns them to accept and justify the often outlandish claims and practices of woke culture. As she shows, they need not feel that way. Hers is a signal service.”

Jethro K. Lieberman, Washington Independent Review of Books

“Professor Neiman has written a brave book against a philosophy cutting through our cultural institutions. And she is right in her criticism. Finding a government, university, or major corporation that doesn’t follow a hiring policy dictated by woke protocol is almost impossible.”

Patrick Luciani, The Hub

“Succinct and compelling … Neiman devotes a chapter to each of [the] components of wokeness, laying out their ideological forebears and then skilfully dismantling them … Neiman’s fluid writing carries readers along.”

Marx and Philosophy Review of Books

“In a few pages Neiman succeeds in showing what dangers threaten when the ideas of the Enlightenment are ignored or even rejected, especially among those who consider themselves progressive. Anyone who disagrees with her need not wade through a jungle of possible interpretations. The author offers not only a substantive but also a stylistic alternative to the fuzzy relativism that has been a trend in the humanities.”

Deutschlandfunk Radio

“Neiman argues with great skill and self-assurance. When she defends the Enlightenment, which has a special place in all her work, against popular contemporary criticism, she writes trenchantly and convincingly: Kant, Diderot and Company are hardly infallible. But they cannot be used as scapegoats who allegedly legitimized racism, colonialism and Eurocentrism.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“A book that challenges the left’s own contradictions, exciting emotion and spirit.”

Wolfram Eilenberger, Deutschlandfunk Kultur

“Susan Neiman’s powerful new book calls out to everyone who hopes to advance the cause of justice for all. She envisages a progressive movement drawing from the full range of the human family, from people of all classes, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual identities. She urges them not to settle for merely replacing one oppressive regime of power by another, not to abandon the hope of genuine human progress. In her characteristically lucid and accessible prose, she exhorts all of us to aspire to more.”

Philip Kitcher, Columbia University

“Susan Neiman’s provocative book is an impassioned defense against the corrosive particularisms that have eroded solidarity on the left. To build a more just, equitable, and sustainable world, we need to acknowledge past victories, recognize the contingencies of our present, and embrace a radical politics of hope for our future.”

Kristen Ghodsee, University of Pennsylvania

“Susan Neiman offers a demanding and knowledgeable essay that calls on the left to take a complex approach to tackle oppression. A must-read.”

Rokhaya Diallo, author, filmmaker and journalist, Liberation, The Guardian, The Washington Post

“A dazzling defense of Enlightenment universalism as a steadying and inspiring guide to political action. Neiman’s book is aimed above all against a fashionably cynical denial of the possibility of mutual comprehension and moral solidarity across racial, sexual, and cultural divides.”

Stephen Holmes, New York University

“This book is a blessing.”

Claudia Kühner, Journal 21

Left is not Woke by the American philosopher Susan Neiman is one of the clearest, most honest and intelligent books written lately on the confusion that reigns in the politics of liberal democracies. Susan Neiman’s vibrant defence of the Enlightenment takes on a novel, inciting and even revolutionary dimension.

Andreu Jaune, The Objective

When published in Germany, Left Is Not Woke was immediately number 1 on the “Best Nonfiction” list published jointly by ZDF television, Deutschlandfunk Kultur radio, and the weekly magazine Die Zeit.

Left Is Not Woke is also the winner of the 2023 Austrian “Bruno Kreisky Preis für das politisches Buch.”

Left Is Not Woke

Susan Neiman


The right of Susan Neiman to be identified as Author of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Copyright © Susan Neiman 2023

This paperback edition published in 2024 by Polity Press

Polity Press65 Bridge StreetCambridge CB2 1UR, UK

Polity Press111 River StreetHoboken, NJ 07030, USA

All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purpose of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

ISBN-13: 978-1-5095-5831-5

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2022948592

The publisher has used its best endeavors to ensure that the URLs for external websites referred to in this book are correct and active at the time of going to press. However, the publisher has no responsibility for the websites and can make no guarantee that a site will remain live or that the content is or will remain appropriate.

Every effort has been made to trace all copyright holders, but if any have been overlooked the publisher will be pleased to include any necessary credits in any subsequent reprint or edition.

For further information on Polity, visit our website:politybooks.com


What this book is not: a call for bipartisanship, or a screed against cancel culture. Nor will I speak of the liberal virtue of working to understand those who do not share your views, though I think it’s a virtue. But I don’t consider myself a liberal, perhaps because I live in a place where ‘liberal’ just means ‘libertarian,’ and a variety of left-wing positions is always on offer. My own allegiances have always been partisan: I was raised in Georgia during the Civil Rights Movement and turned left from there. At a time when even ‘liberal’ can be a slur in American culture, it’s easy to forget that ‘socialist’ was once a perfectly respectable political position in the land of the free. None other than Albert Einstein wrote a proud defense of socialism at the height of the Cold War. Like Einstein and so many others, I’m happy to be called leftist and socialist.

What distinguishes the left from the liberal is the view that, along with political rights that guarantee freedoms to speak, worship, travel, and vote as we choose, we also have claims to social rights, which undergird the real exercise of political rights. Liberal writers call them benefits, entitlements, or safety nets. All these terms make things like fair labor practices, education, health care, and housing appear as matters of charity rather than justice. But these, and other social rights to cultural life, are codified in the United Nations’ 1948 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” While most member states ratified it, no state has yet created a society that assures those rights, and the Declaration has no legal force. In 530 languages it is the world’s most translated document, but the Declaration remains aspirational. To stand on the left is to insist that those aspirations are not utopian.

“It is quite possible to move gradually toward participatory socialism by changing the legal, fiscal, and social system in this or that country, without waiting for the unanimity of the planet,” writes economist Thomas Piketty.1 He argues that this can be done via tax increases that would amount to less than the tax rates in the United States and Britain during the post-war period of greatest economic growth. Identity conflicts, he concludes, are fueled by disillusionment with the very ideas of social justice and a fair economy.2 Still this book won’t discuss the view that the left should pay more attention to economic than to other inequalities. I think this is true, but that position has been defended before. What concerns me most here are the ways in which contemporary voices considered to be leftist have abandoned the philosophical ideas that are central to any left-wing standpoint: a commitment to universalism over tribalism, a firm distinction between justice and power, and a belief in the possibility of progress. All these ideas are connected. Except as occasional targets, they are hard to find in contemporary discourse. This has led a number of my friends in several countries to conclude, morosely, that they no longer belong to the left. Despite lifetimes of commitment to social justice, they’re estranged by developments on what’s called the woke left, or the far left, or the radical left. I am unwilling to cede the word ‘left,’ or accept the binary suggestion that those who aren’t woke must be reactionary. Instead, I’ll examine how many on today’s self-identified left have abandoned core ideas any leftist should hold.

At a moment when reactionary nationalism is rising on every continent, don’t we have more immediate problems than getting the theory right? A left-wing critique of those who seem to share the same values might look like an instance of narcissism. But it’s not small differences that separate me from those who are woke. These are not only matters of style or tone; they go to the very heart of what it means to stand on the left. The right may be more dangerous, but today’s left has deprived itself of the ideas we need if we hope to resist the lurch to the right. Woke reactions to the October 7 Hamas massacre underline how poor theory can lead to terrible practice.

The rightward lurch is international, and organized. From Bangalore to Budapest and beyond, right-wing nationalists meet regularly to share support and strategies, although each nation thinks its civilization superior. The solidarity between them suggests that nationalist beliefs are only marginally based on the idea that Hungarians/Norwegians/Jews/Germans/Anglo-Saxons/Hindus are the best of all possible tribes. What unites them is the principle of tribalism itself: you will only truly connect with those who belong to your clan, and you need have no deep commitments to anyone else. It’s a bitter piece of irony that today’s tribalists find it easier to make common cause than those whose commitments stem from universalism, whether they recognize it or not.

The woke are not a movement in any traditional sense. The first recorded use of the phrase stay woke was in the great bluesman Lead Belly’s 1938 song “Scottsboro Boys,” dedicated to nine black teenagers, whose execution for rapes they never committed was only prevented by years of international protests – led, it’s sometimes forgotten, by the communist party, while W.E.B. Dubois’ NAACP was initially reluctant to get involved.3 Staying woke to injustice, being on the watch for discrimination – what could be wrong with that? Yet in a few short years, woke was transformed from a term of praise to a term of abuse. What happened?

From Ron DeSantis to Rishi Sunak to Eric Zemmour, woke became a battle cry to attack anyone standing against racism, much as the phrase identity politics was turned inside out a few years earlier. From St. Petersburg, Russia, to St. Petersburg, Florida, the word is now such an expletive that many colleagues urged me not to criticize the woke at all, for fear that any critique would be instrumentalized by the right. Yet the right cannot bear all the blame. Barbara Smith, a founding member of the Combahee River Collective, which invented the term, insists that identity politics became used in ways that were never intended. “We absolutely did not mean that we would only work with people who are identical to ourselves,” she said. “We strongly believed in working with people across various identities on common problems.”4Some may argue that the seeds of abuse were present in the original intentions, but it’s clear that neither identity nor woke politics was used with the nuance they demanded. Both became divisive, creating alienation that the right quickly exploited. Universities and corporations are more prone to woke excess than community organizers working on the ground. The worst abuses are those of woke capitalism, which hijacks demands for diversity in order to increase profit. Historian Touré Reed argues that the process is calculated: corporations believe that hiring black staff will allow them to tap into black markets.5 The seizure is often straightforward and unashamed. McKinsey’s report on the film industry stated that “By addressing the persistent racial inequities, the industry could reap an additional $10 billion in annual revenues – about 7 percent more than the assessed baseline of $148 billion.”6 But even without raw exploitation of what began as progressive goals, woke has become a politics of symbols instead of social change. Woke capitalism was called the dominant motif at Davos 2020, but the gathering welcomed opening speaker Donald Trump with a standing ovation.7 The fact that right-wing politicians spit out the word woke with scorn should not stop us from examining it.

I understand why the French publisher who successfully translated two of my previous books declined to publish this one, for fear it could give aid and comfort to the right. “The situation is serious,” I was told. “Marine Le Pen could win our next election.” Indeed: the situation is very serious. Donald Trump could win the next American election, Germany’s far-right party is steadily rising in the polls, and Geert Wilders could be Holland’s next prime minister. But the dangers will not be averted by pretending that woke is not a problem, or a phantasm that the right invented to stifle every demand for social justice. On the contrary, if those on the liberal left cannot call out woke excess, they will not only continue to feel politically homeless; their silence will drive those whose political compasses are murkier into the arms of the right.

Like most ideas, universalism can be instrumentalized. Here France is conspicuous. The country that first proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man often claims a heritage immune to racism. But, as writer and filmmaker Rokhaya Diallo argues: “Our country, which constantly claims to be the home of the Enlightenment, is blithely trampling on rights, particularly freedom of expression.”8 Although French courts have ruled that the practice of racial profiling is a daily reality, “France pursues an ideal of assimilation and uses laïcité to standardize the display of cultures.”9

Diallo was never opposed to universalism in theory; she would like to see it realized in practice. “Universalism can be claimed from many different perspectives and cultures, and many intellectual sources that are not necessarily European. But the problem is that in France it has become a catchphrase to discredit certain struggles and it sounds like a disguise for white supremacy.”10 But unlike Diallo, many anti-racist activists have taken right-wing instrumentalizations of universalism as reason to dismiss the idea entirely.

Can woke be defined? It begins with concern for marginalized persons, and ends by reducing each to the prism of her marginalization. The idea of intersectionality might have emphasized the ways in which all of us have more than one identity. Instead, it led to focus on those parts of identities that are most marginalized, and multiplied them into a forest of trauma.

Woke emphasizes the ways in which particular groups have been denied justice, and seeks to rectify and repair the damage. In the focus on inequalities of power, the concept of justice is often left by the wayside. Woke demands that nations and peoples face up to their criminal histories. In the process it often concludes that all history is criminal.

Some critics of this book’s first edition found the definition above insufficient. They charged that without a more expansive definition and a list of examples, my critique lacked a target. The complaint was surprising, since examples of woke behavior are described almost daily in newspapers around the world. My aim was not to provide another list of them, but to understand the philosophical ideas buried in apparently harmless assumptions that undergird woke thinking. But, for those readers not yet tired of examples, here are three more, chosen from hundreds that display ways in which woke can be ridiculous as well as terrifying.11

A German publisher promoted a new book with the sentence: “This book will open your eyes.” She was immediately attacked for using words that might cause suffering to blind people, and forced to withdraw the ad.

The young black poet Amanda Gorman became an international success after reading her poem “The Hill We Climb” at Joe Biden’s inauguration. Seventeen foreign publishers quickly bought the rights. For the Dutch edition, Gorman suggested a white, non-binary Dutch writer, whose Booker Prize-winning work she admired. That’s the only good reason for choosing a translator: I like your work, want to take a crack at mine? Then a black Dutch fashion blogger wrote an article saying that Gorman’s work should only be translated by a black woman. The white author withdrew, but the story reverberated across Europe. A Catalan translation had already been completed and paid for but, since the translator was a white man, a new one was hired. A black rapper was found to translate into Swedish but, due to a shortage of black translators, Denmark hired a brown woman who wears a hijab. The German publisher found a very German solution and hired an entire committee of female translators: a black, a brown, and a white one.

However, as I write, the latest examples of woke behavior leave nothing to laugh about. For the postcolonial woke, Israel has long been located in the Global North, while Palestine belongs to the Global South. The folly of this bad-faith geography was revealed when many of the woke celebrated Hamas’s brutal massacre of over 1,200 Israeli citizens as “resistance to the Occupation” or even “poetic justice.” Justice it was not; many of the alleged occupiers had spent years working toward peace in ways that were direct and useful, such as bringing their Gazan neighbors to medical care. Others were three months old. But neither righteousness nor innocence made any difference. The victims belonged to the wrong tribe, and that was enough to murder them.

Need I add that bombing thousands of children who belong to the other tribe is no less a war crime? In Evil in Modern Thought I argued that dividing evils into greater and lesser, and trying to weigh them, is not only hopeless but probably obscene.12 Evils should not be quantified, but they can be distinguished. After corresponding with one of the pilots involved in the bombing of Hiroshima, the German Jewish philosopher Günther Anders made an important distinction. Anyone capable of leading a child to a gas chamber, or burning her alive, has an abyss where there ought to be a soul. Most of us couldn’t do it. But it’s easier to drop a bomb on a child you never see. Precisely for that reason, this kind of evil, Anders argued, is more dangerous. But what on earth prevents us from denouncing both?

I’ve long been a loud critic of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, not to mention its increasingly far-right government, and have taken considerable flack in Germany for those views. But my criticism of the Occupation has always been rooted in universalism, not tribalism, in a concern for justice, not power, and in the faith that it’s possible to make progress when people work for it together. Those commitments did not save the kibbutzniks on the Gaza border, but that doesn’t make them wrong. Lamentably, many who criticized the widespread celebrations of Hamas’s terror, and the acts of antisemitism that accompanied it, called them failures of the international left. That’s a grave mistake. Rather, it was a moment that showed how deeply woke postcolonialism has abandoned every left or liberal principle that we need to keep us straight.

It’s no accident that many have trouble distinguishing left from woke, or giving a satisfying definition of the latter. The concept itself is incoherent, for it’s built on a clash between feeling and thought. What’s confusing about the woke movement is that it’s born from traditional left-wing emotions: empathy for the marginalized, indignation at the plight of the oppressed, determination that historical wrongs should be righted. Those emotions, however, are derailed by a range of theoretical assumptions that ultimately undermine them. ‘Theory,’ in English, is such a nebulous and trendy concept that it’s even been used to launch a fashion line, but if the word today has no clear content, it does have some direction. What unites very different intellectual movements bound together by the word ‘theory’ is a rejection of the epistemological frameworks and political assumptions inherited from the Enlightenment. You need not spend years deciphering Judith Butler or Homi Bhabha to be influenced by theory. We rarely notice the assumptions now embedded in the culture, for they’re usually expressed as self-evident truths. Because they are offered as simple descriptions of reality rather than ideas we might question, it’s hard to challenge them directly. Those who have learned in college to distrust every claim to truth will hesitate to acknowledge falsehood.13

Since it sets standards in more than one country, the New York Times is always a good place to see how easily philosophical assumptions are smuggled into mainstream discourse without attracting attention, presumably including the attention of the journalists who write them down. While that newspaper still embodies the neoliberal consensus it always represented, since 2019 it has been increasingly, demonstratively woke. In addition to the contested 1619 Project, this turn has led to real progress, noticeably an increase in the number of black and brown voices and faces. But here’s a sentence the paper of record printed in 2021: “Despite Vice President Kamala D. Harris’s Indian roots, the Biden administration may prove less forgiving over Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda.” (In fact I wish that forecast had come true.) If you read it quickly, you may miss the theoretical assumption: political views are determined by ethnic backgrounds. If you know nothing about contemporary India, you may miss the fact that the fiercest critics of Modi’s violent Hinducentrism are themselves Indian. The bolder among them call it fascism.

At about the same time, most American media were puzzled by a surprising feature of the 2020 American election. Donald Trump’s racism toward blacks and Latinos had been on public display throughout his administration, yet he received more votes from those groups than he had four years earlier. Rather than question, for a moment, the assumption that demography is destiny, journalists hurried to explain the quandary by telling us that Latino communities are diverse: Puerto Ricans are not Cubans, Mexicans are not Venezuelans. Each community has a history, a culture, a set of interests of its own, and deserves to be respected as such. Apart from the fact that this hardly explained the rise in black voters, chopping tribes into tribelets is no solution. People are diverse. Neither black nor white nor brown communities are homogenous. We do things for other reasons than being members of a tribe.

Though the presumption that we don’t comes from media that are hardly friendly to the current Republican Party, the assumptions aren’t far from those that drove Donald Trump’s practice: appointing a neurosurgeon to head the department of urban development because he was black; giving his feckless son-in-law one of the world’s greater foreign policy challenges because he was Jewish; appointing a far-right Catholic to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg because both were women; appointing a diplomatic disaster as ambassador to Germany because he was gay. The fact that Berlin has been a gay-friendly town for most of a century didn’t prevent its citizens from undiplomatically expressing shock at Richard Grenell’s serial breaches of political conduct. Britain’s brief Truss-led government was only the latest to take the same tack: appointing the most diverse cabinet in British history while promoting the most conservative policies in living memory. The fig leaves were too small to cover the shame.

Which do you find more essential: the accidents we are born with, or the principles we consider and uphold? Traditionally it was the right that focused on the first, the left that emphasized the second. That tradition was turned around when a liberal politician like Hillary Clinton applauded the election of Italy’s first female prime minister as a “break with the past,” ignoring the fact that Giorgia Meloni’s positions are closer to Italy’s fascist past than those of any Italian political leaders since the war. It’s not surprising that theories held by the woke undermine their empathetic emotions and emancipatory intentions. Those theories not only have strong reactionary roots; some of their authors were outright Nazis. In a discussion of racial essentialism that took place in 2013, before the word ‘woke’ was common coin, historian Barbara Fields said, “People don’t know what kind of a toxic history they’re repeating. If you tell them, ‘Well why don’t you just go out and replicate the Nuremberg Laws and be done with it?’ they wouldn’t know what you were talking about.”14

How deeply were the intellectual labors of Carl Schmitt and Martin Heidegger connected with their membership in the Nazi party? There’s quite a lot of scholarship on the question, and this book will not wade into those weeds. Much of the literature is of the “Yes,