Sunday 11 November 2018

Camille Paglia: It’s Time for a New Map of the Gender World

This interview by Claire Lehmann of Camille Paglia is worth reading. Miss Lehmann is a liberal but a centrist, humane and reasonable one. Professor Paglia is on the left, but an older, unpuritanical form of being on the left. 

Professor Paglia says, marvellously, that she found 
'the blanket credulity given to women accusers during the recent U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh positively unnerving: it was the first time since college that I truly understood the sexist design of Aeschylus’s Oresteia, whose mob of vengeful Furies is superseded by formal courts of law, where evidence is weighed.'
She also talks very interestingly about the non-discrimination pseudo-religion and has the same views that I have reached.
Do you believe that politics and in particular social justice (i.e., anti-racism and feminism) are becoming cults or pseudo-religions? Is politics filling the void left by the receding influence of organized religion?
Paglia: This has certainly been my view for many years now. I said in the introduction to my art book, Glittering Images (2012), that secular humanism has failed. As an atheist, I have argued that if religion is erased, something must be put in its place.
Belief systems are intrinsic to human intelligence and survival. They “frame” the flux of primary experience, which would otherwise flood the mind.
But politics cannot fill the gap. Society, with which Marxism is obsessed, is only a fragment of the totality of life. As I have written, Marxism has no metaphysics: it cannot even detect, much less comprehend, the enormity of the universe and the operations of nature. Those who invest all of their spiritual energies in politics will reap the whirlwind. The evidence is all around us—the paroxysms of inchoate, infantile rage suffered by those who have turned fallible politicians into saviors and devils, godlike avatars of Good versus Evil.

My substitute for religion is art, which I have expanded to include all of popular culture. But when art is reduced to politics, as has been programmatically done in academe for 40 years, its spiritual dimension is gone. It is coarsely reductive to claim that value in the history of art is always determined by the power plays of a self-referential social elite. I take Marxist social analysis seriously: Arnold Hauser’s Marxist, multi-volume A Social History of Art (1951) was a major influence on me in graduate school. However, Hauser honored art and never condescended to it. A society that respects neither religion nor art cannot be called a civilization.
Camille Paglia has much the same ideas about this as me. 

Religion is back in our minds these days, largely but not only because of one particular religion. The clever people in our age are looking, in unpromising places, for substitutes
to fill the void left by the supposed death of God. Douglas Murray writes about the failure of art or science to provide an adequate substitute for God. Jordan Peterson is looking for a philosophy to supply this void, which he seeks to create from the ideas of Jung, Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn, although all three of those men believed in God and the latter two were profound Christians.

The anti-racism and anti-discrimination ideology is a prevalent and powerful religionOther substitutes include: Marxism (of course) and Critical Theory; Nietzscheanism; environmentalism; connected to environmentalism, paganism in its various either very right-wing or very left-wing varieties; connected to paganism and to witchcraft, feminism and New Age theories about reincarnation; and connected to reincarnation, Buddhism and water added to taste. 

Then there is the only real religion that any longer competes with Christianity on its own terms, Mahometanism. Carlyle described it as Christianity misunderstood.


  1. As always, she is brilliant in her analysis. Truly the last of the real intellectual.

  2. Sexual harassment by proxy:

    Journalist Hugh Heckman sued PBS Newshour last week because he was fired for saying – in a very low tone — “not bad” while looking at a photo of Meghan Markle.

    Two female co-workers who heard the off-handed remark felt the comment constituted sexual harassment toward the Duchess of Sussex. And because they had to hear it, they felt sexually harassed as well.

    Two days after making the “not bad” comment, Heckman was fired without so much as a hearing to deny the sexual harassment claim, according to the lawsuit.

    1. This story is extraordinary. I googled it and it is true.

  3. Religion is a type of ideology. The term “ideology” should only be used for belief systems that reject reality for “should-be” when the two come in conflict. Real (i.e.Burkean) Conservatism, atheism, modest theism such as a belief in an Aristotelian “unmoved mover” are not ideologies because they are fully compatible with reality ; whereas communism, feminism, Christianity, Islam, anti-racism, race equalism are all ideologies because they conflict with objective reality.

    Conservatism has been called a disposition. But we often use ‘ideology’ as interchangeable with “school of thought”, even though it’s not technically correct.

    1. Peter Clarke whose lectures I attended argued that conservatism is an ideology that pretends it is not one (but is purely empirical). I think it is also a disposition, a disposition which is normal and innate to love traditions and distrust new ideas. I suppose all religions are ideologies, though theistic religions, or Christianity at least, are very much more than belief systems. I think it is useful to describe atheism as a (19th century) religion - one that requires a leap of faith in the absence of a Prime Mover.