Book Reviews

The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray

We’re in a time of radical change. Subjects previously never put to question are now heavily debated. Is gender something you’re born with or is it something that is socially constructed, or you ‘perform’ as Judith Butler would say. Can you choose to be gay or are you determined to be so? Are women and men the same? These topics are important to talk about. Only then can we get a full view on these things. Only there are movements out there which make it impossible to talk about these things. They don’t want to put these things into question. Murray argues in this book that the views of the new radical left are inherently contradictory. The claims made in favor of the equality between men and women, completely contradict the claims of transgenders. While those claims contradict the ones made about race. In this book Murray tries to show these contradictions.

            Murray brings a contrast between two views: hardware and software. Hardware are the things you are born with. You can’t help that you have them, it’s just nature. Emotions may be classified as hardware for example. We inherently have emotions; we can’t naturally change that. Software are the things that are implanted within you. These are certain ideas, for example conservatism or liberalism. These things are changeable. You can change being fat, by exercising. The themes which there is now a lot of debate about are trying to fall into a certain camp. They want to be either hardware or software, depending on what the political goal is. Murray has four main parts in his book, each covering some topic of discussion.

            His first part is about being gay. There is a movement trying to make gay a hardware issue, which means that one cannot choose if one is gay or not. There is a lot of speculation about this. It seems that science can’t really solve this question, so it comes to philosophy to answer the question. Here the idea of sexual identity comes into play. The new movement tries to create a LGBTQ identity. But this falls short, because it is quite ambiguous. There are a lot of differences between gays and lesbians or transgenders, pure ideologically. There is a lot of difference between people ideologically in general whether they are gay or not. Which is why there is a conclusion that being gay, and homosexual can be two very different things. But then the question rises, what is the hardware? The identity of being gay or actually having sexual urges towards someone of the same sex? Murray argues that this doesn’t really make sense.

            The second part is about women and more specifically the third wave feminist movement. Here the issue is that men and women are supposedly the same and all the difference are socially constructed. This goes against biology as Murray points out. There are in fact a lot of differences between men and women, for example one having a penis and the other a vagina. But the idea is that women are as capable as men to do the same jobs. This goes back to the early feminist movements which advocate for equal rights between man and woman. Judicially we have achieved this. Still, there is a difference in pay between men and women. There are more rich men than there are rich women. It seems that there is still inequality between them. Well Murray argues, there is because men and women are different. Which means that the actions will differ and so do the results. He also points at the hypocrisy which he sees in the movements. Women and men are equal, yet women are more suited to do particular things, making them better in some situations. That women are better at some things than men is a truism. But isn’t it possible that men are more capable at other things? Not according to the third wave feminism says Murray.

            The third part is about race, which has been getting a lot of attention. We only have to think about the death of George Floyd and the movement which sprung from it. Race is seen as a intrinsic part of your identity. But says Murray, this wasn’t always the case. Martin Luther King Jr. was against this view. He wanted to live in a world where your race didn’t define who you were. Murray claims that the new movement has completely shifted the perspective of Martin Luther King Jr. Even though racism is at an all-time low, it is seen as ever so prevalent. Which is explainable. If there is a murder every day, then people will stop to care about this. It’s just a way things are. But when someone gets murdered only once a year, then we’re surprised this happened. Our society isn’t a place where people get murdered so this shouldn’t be happening.

            The fourth part enters the transgender debate. Again, there is a conflict between what is hardware and what is software. Here the emphasis lies on the characteristics unique to men and women. Notice the direct contradiction with the second part. Murray argues that transgenderism has had a record in acceptance and ideological influence. Murray proceeds to give scientific explanations to why people might identify as transgender. He also goes a bit deeper into the influence it has on children. Or rather, how parents sometimes push children in this ideological vortex.

            Murray concludes that these four parts do not complement each other but contradict one another. There are just some complications that have been pointed out by science. The goal is to make a hierarchy of oppression. All these groups are being oppressed in some way, but when you see the data, says Murray, this isn’t what is shown. Homosexual couples earn on average more than heterosexual couples. Asians earn on average more than white people in America. There is something political going on.

            This book was a good book to read. Murray supplies his claims with scientific evidence or gives testimonies from people who have experienced the ideology of the four groups. Basically, this is a book trying to debunk the claims of the radical far left, who are severe social constructionists. I believe he succeeds to prove his stance in quite a clear fashion. Obviously, there is the occasional hiatus in his arguments but overall, I believe this to be a good critique to the claims the radical far left makes. If you want to have some rebuttal points against the far left this is a good book for you. I believe it is also a good book for those on the left who are more moderate and want to know where the left is going in the mist and misses the point. The left is about the common person, not about esoteric groups. That means that the left should focus on more than the groups that Murray gives. Which it obviously does, but in this world where we more and more go to the extremes, it is valuable to hear the other side of the argument. Communication and debate is the way forward and this book will deepen the debate a bit.

By elenchusphilosophy

Philosophy student from Ghent, Belgium. I write about what I find interesting which is about nearly anything. Though my guiding question in life is how to be a good person.

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