I read Left Is Not Woke by Susan Neiman 📚 over the weekend.

Good book marred by a bad title that provoked worse reviews from poorer thinkers. (re: title, relevant deBoer) The problem Neiman and deBoer might both have is that they think the current cultural moment is “politics” as they understand the idea.

Some of the responses to Neiman’s work are genuinely confused people wondering how anything they think has anything to do with Focault. That’s a reasonable response. If you’d left me to just read the source material, I don’t know what I’d make of it. It helped a great deal to watch the Chomsky/Foucault debate on YouTube, which forced Foucault to be a little more grounded in his language, and make some connections with things I see and hear today.

Anyhow, I liked the book. It’s short, brisk, confident, and moves lightly. The material on the congruence of neoliberalism and modern progressive culture isn’t novel, but it’s a good recapitulation of a few threads. Cites Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò and Touré Reed approvingly, and if she doesn’t touch down on Mark Fisher (don’t have my copy handy) she should have. Also identifies a few other people I want to go look up now.

There are ways and there are ways to grapple with a cultural tide. My preferred path is to listen and try to understand, even when I think there is something off or maladaptive about a line of reasoning, especially if I feel closer to the underlying moral reaction I’m hearing than any of the alternatives. Táíwò, the Reeds (both Touré and his father Adolph), Fisher, the Fields sisters, and now Neiman feel more honest and useful than the anti-woke outrage clown industrial complex .