New School brats
The anti-bourgeois sentiment that lies at the root of French left-wing thinking partly explains its rejection of all roles and functions that are not creations of its own. Its main power base has not been the university but the café: for to occupy positions of influence within the ‘structures’ of the bourgeois state was for a long time incompatible with the demands of revolutionary rectitude. Whatever influence the gauchiste enjoys must be acquired through his own intellectual labour, producing words and images that challenge the status quo. The café becomes the symbol of his social position. He observes the passing show, but does not join it. Instead he waits for those who, attracted by his gaze, separate themselves from the crowd and ‘come over’ to his position.
—Roger Scruton, “Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left.”
New York City college students could never be the gauchiste by this characterization. They wear their politics like jerseys and their beliefs like name-tags for some ordained social validation, as they sit way up high in their Stuyvesant apartments, without a moment of self-consciousness too bold to keep them from entering the “passing show” that they’re the stars of.
They perform their little acts and the audience, of which the performers are simultaneously a part, throw proverbial bouquets of flowers that are fungible currency for social favor.
The café is no longer the symbol of his social position. The institution is.
It is embarrassing to the French intellectualism of the left, notwithstanding the embarrassment the intellectuals subject themselves to with grand abstractions and casting Newspeak spells. What was once an existential longing for meaning—with intentions that, nevertheless, do not get them off the hook for their defense of ‘totalitarianism’—has devolved into supplanting meaning where none exists at all.
The French’s conception of freedom has placed themselves at the center of meaning. Meaning as it exists outside of them is inauthentic; it “otherizes” them. So, in the vein of Sartre, they commit themselves to the ‘totality’ of an abstract idea and believe, in egoistic naïvety, that they are morally righteous; everyone else is a peasant.
Their intellectual rigor has come to an end; they no longer occupy the café. They seek influence within the ‘structures’ or else proclaim ‘dismantling’ them altogether through some boyish desire for rampage and blood.
The bravado of the left is a mockery. Their politics are a sham.