The Woke Proximate: Unwitting CSJ Vanguards in the STEM Fields

One of my first posts began to develop a typology of professors and their relationships to the Critical Social (CSJ) Justice perspective. That inchoate typology had three dimensions: knowledge of, adherence to, and agreement with the CSJ perspective. The woke were defined as having knowledge of, adhering to, and being in agreement with the CSJ perspective. Dissidents, on the other hand, were defined as having knowledge of, but not adhering to, or being in agreement with the perspective. Given the three-dimensional definition, there are nine possible categories in this typology. In this post, I want to discuss the woke proximate and why they're important.

Who are the Woke Proximate?

The woke proximate are people not trained in, or familiar with, Critical Social Justice theory. Some are completely unaware of it, while others may know that it exists but not know very much more than that. While the woke proximate are not knowledgeable about CSJ, they do adhere to, and agree with, the perspective, or at least with its prescriptions. The woke proximate will agree broadly, for example, with "equity, diversity and inclusion" initiatives such as affirmative action and reparations. They will also typically agree with (and believe in) doctrines such as systemic racism, and support woke advances. Politically, they will be on the (extreme) left, collectivist and interventionist in outlook and often anti-capitalist. For the most part, the woke proximate are not trained in fine arts, the humanities or the social sciences. The reason for this is that most professors from these fields have now been trained in, or are familiar with, the CSJ perspective through their training. (This is not the case for most economists or those trained in a few other quantitative social science sub-disciplines.) As a result, the woke proximate tend to come from the natural sciences or other quantitative disciplines, especially those with environmental vocations, such as environmental science, climate science, etc.

There are three reasons why professors from these disciplines are likely to be woke proximate. First, for the most part they are well-intentioned. They support "social justice" and don't see or understand the difference between traditional social justice and Critical Social Justice. They believe that what is advocated by Critical Social Justice is the virtuous evolution of social justice developed by those (scholars) who have focused their attention on it. Second, especially for professors with an environmental vocation, the environmental and CSJ perspectives dovetail on a number of issues, particularly with respect to the perceived moral turpitude of liberal, western, capitalist society. This commonality is rarely theoretically motivated since the woke proximate don't really have a theoretical canon comparable to CSJ, given their natural science-dominated training.

To the extent that it is theoretically motivated, it is likely to be influenced by various shades of "red & green" Marxism (see e.g. Bahro 1984, Bookchin 1982) or "scientific" environmental catastrophism (e.g. Carson 2002). Third, the woke proximate, like woke professors themselves, are typically "action-oriented." That is, they believe themselves to have an important moral and activist vocation. The result is that while they are often trained in scientific, or quantitative, positivistic fields, they are disconcerted by the fact that science is amoral. Given the strength of their own (environmental) convictions, they can be persuaded that strict scientific rigor, or logical and argumentative coherence can be softened if a cause is sufficiently important and urgent.

The Woke Proximate as Unwitting CSJ Enablers and Vanguards

It is important to be aware of the woke proximate. First, it is common to believe that people trained in the sciences will be less susceptible to the attractions of the Critical Social Justice perspective. The truth, however, is that they can just as easily adhere to and agree with it, despite not being very knowledgeable about it. As such, they can hold the balance of power in situations and thereby enable CSJ advances. This is important to recognize when understanding how to manage the dynamics of situations, and as we'll see later, how to repel woke advances. Given their tendency to agree with the CSJ perspective, support CSJ advances, and their "scientific" appearance, the woke proximate are also the unwitting vanguard of CSJ in to the STEM fields. They represent thereby the greatest threat to fields not yet dominated by the CSJ perspective. Second, given their scientific background, although I haven't see this done successfully, I think they can be made to recognize the threat to science that the CSJ perspective represents, and so potentially become woke dissidents.


Bahro R. From Red to Green: Interviews with New Left Review. 1984.
Bookchin M. The ecology of freedom. New Dimensions Foundation; 1982.
Carson R. Silent spring. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2002 Oct 22 (originally 1962).

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