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Book Review: WOKE, INC.
Vivek Ramaswamy turns a deconstructionist lens onto the woke corporate world
There may be some people in the English speaking world that have yet to absorb ‘wokeness’ as a concept. For many it is a way of life, a way of looking at a world filled with power imbalances and structural inequities. For others it violates several deeply held beliefs in classical liberalism like freedom of speech and equality of the individual regardless of their immutable characteristics. Most would agree that it is a term used to describe the approach of affirming a person into identities such as race, sex, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity and so on - basically all the words listed in various pieces of human rights legislation around the world by which one should not be discriminated.
As the ideology goes, along with everyone being labelled appropriately, we are expected to then apply what is called an ‘intersectional’ understanding or be ‘awoken’ to their privilege, suffering, victimhood, and/or marginalization that is likely guaranteed to be present as a member of those groups.
This is not just a theory. It is a mindset that has made its way through academia and has recently been dominating the corporate world. It’s proponents claim that they are merely fighting for a more fair and just world.
With Woke, Inc., Vivek Ramaswamy takes on the monumental task of deconstructing the movement to reveal it’s weaknesses and opportunities for corruption in both the corporate world and political institutions. He argues that with the rise of Wokenomics, Capitalism itself has moved from serving the shareholder to serving the stakeholder - company’s employees, customers, and communities. But that shift of priority itself is a problem that has far reaching implications.
Woke, Inc. makes the case that with the move from shareholder to stakeholder capitalism, the ground has been laid for mixing societal morals with consumerism - all while promising a better, more environmentally sound world. But when powerful corporations with limited liability become the arbiters of right and wrong in a society, serious concerns are raised. With the emergence of Stakeholder Capitalism, Ramaswamy argues that “an unholy union between wokeness and capitalism” has taken hold of corporate life.
To further illustrate, he explores ways in which governments use the payback of loans to industry to fund partisan programs. Many of the destinations of these funds are government pet programs that they were unable to get funded through the legislative process. Of course, corporations can then launch massive campaigns promoting how they support these causes, how much it ‘matters’ to them. This brings the corporate world, one which is ruled by dollar votes, into the realm of moral arbiter.
When corporations were first granted limited liability, it was done so with tight constraints on how they could operate. The most important being the need to serve the shareholders first and foremost. They were not actually involved in society’s moral issues. Wokeness has changed that.
The principal danger without question is the policing of speech. With increasing frequency, many people are being censored or banned from the dominant social media platforms for speech that a government constrained by constitutional guarantees could not, but a corporation not so bound could do so simply by labeling the speech ‘hateful.’ Consider this - “Once it becomes acceptable to silence people under the banner of fighting hate speech, whatever powerful interests dislike becomes hate speech.” When social media companies with freedom to decide what speech to allow on their platforms and what speech to censor, are controlling communication between individuals, maybe we should be taking notice.
The author says the key to understanding how to react to this newly dominant ideology is to treat Wokeness as a religion. “The Church of Diversity,” as he calls it, practices the holy art of Wokeness, complete with original sin, redemption, and apostasy.
In every day life the difficulties in dealing with devotees to this faith are to be found in boardrooms, work places, and organizations everywhere. “Just as a Christian sees the hand of God everywhere in all of Creation, someone who’s Woke sees the guiding hand of identity-based power relations everywhere they look.” And just like the ‘church ladies’ of old, the bullies of intersectionality contribute to the chilling effect on Freedom of Expression in everyday life.
Much of what is explored in Woke, Inc. rings true. It’s a solid read for those wishing to have their beliefs challenged. For those who are navigating life in a Woke world, significant value can be found in the exploration of the evolution of the movement and the prescriptions for ameliorating the effects of an oppressive dogma.