The Voice: Our Elites Despise the West: Doug Stokes, “Against Decolonization” By Peter West
Professor Doug Stokes is author of the book, Against Decolonization: Campus Culture Wars and The Decline of the West, forthcoming in November 2023. The book takes a detailed look at the idea of decolonisation, that began with Critical Race Theory on universities, but has spread to now influence public policy. The idea is that the West in the past colonised land masses, and this displaced the native people, committed genocide, and said natives have since been subject to racism. The decolonisation movement is more than just opposing colonisation, but sees this process as intrinsic to the West, and to white European people, and thus sees the need for Western civilisation to be deconstructed.
To see the decolonisation dogma in a local case, look no further than the Voice, where the foundation document behind it, the Uluru Statement, runs the line that Australia was invaded by the British, genocide committed and that the Australian state that was established is illegitimate. Guess where the Voice, if successful, will take us?
“I highly recommend Peter Whittle’s podcast “The New Culture Forum”. In a recent interview Whittle engaged professor Doug Stokes in a multifaceted discussion about his new book "Against Decolonization: Campus Culture Wars & The Decline of the West." Stokes is a seasoned Professor of International Relations at the University of Exeter and prominent academic critic of modern decolonisation ideology now prevalent across universities, media, and public institutions.
Historically, decolonisation refers to the dissolution of once vast European empires and the granting of independence to colonies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. This political process unfolded over decades as the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese dismantled the last vestiges of direct imperial rule after World War Two ended their global supremacy. However, in current discourse decolonisation has taken on an entirely different meaning. According to Stokes, contemporary decolonisation ideology serves more as a philosophical critique of Western civilisation itself.
This modern strain of decolonisation draws substantially from postmodern and poststructuralist thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Edward Said. Building on Marxist concepts, it rejects Enlightenment notions of objective truth, universal science, and an external reality beyond human perception. Instead, postmodernism contends all knowledge and morality are socially constructed, contingent on one's culture or position in society. No immutable facts exist beyond competing power dynamics.
From this viewpoint, Western knowledge systems act as forms of ideological control that actively marginalise non-Western peoples by framing them as inferior or exotic ‘others’. The proposed solution is to dismantle or “decolonise” the supposed Eurocentrism underpinning the institutions, scholarship, and culture of Western nations. Knowledge must be decentralised away from white male perspectives toward “diverse ways of knowing.”
Stokes contends relativist decolonisation theory originated among activist academic circles but was recently thrust into mainstream prominence by synergistic world events. The Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump fuelled a catastrophisation of the West within progressive factions. For them, these democratic decisions represented steps toward fascism, plunging civilisation into crisis. In this climate, decolonisation acquired a sense of moral righteousness and historical purpose, providing technocratic managerial elites – or the “professional managerial class” – a means of asserting their vision to address supposed vulnerable minority groups.
Stokes argues this privileged class, educated at elite universities, wields outsized influence from unelected positions within media outlets, government bureaucracies, philanthropic charities and academia itself. After the 2020 George Floyd protests, terms like “white privilege” skyrocketed 2,500% across just four years in mainstream media across the UK and US. Such selective and simplistic reporting reflects growing decolonisation narratives that reflexively attribute imperialism, racism and guilt to Western institutions and their origins. Likewise, once esteemed bodies like the British Museum, National Trust and Church of England hastened to signal their decolonisation efforts as well. For Stokes, these trends suggest a culture of performative conformity rather than genuine rebellion from below.
Despite decolonisation ideology’s meteoric rise to dominate academia, media institutions and public culture, Stokes contends its sweeping generalisations about the West hold little factual justification. As someone raised working-class in the highly diverse and integrated neighbourhoods of East London, Stokes sees modern decolonisation as an unjust elite class war against ordinary Britons of all backgrounds. In reality, extensive survey data shows the British public expresses high progressive levels of multicultural tolerance.
Likewise, UK government studies substantiate this further. Ethnic minorities dramatically outperform white Britons across educational attainment, university acceptance and household income metrics. But decolonisation promoters gloss over such nuance. Instead, prominent media pundits, cultural leaders and now self-interested corporate brands readily amplify decolonisation narratives that reflexively attribute imperialism, racism and guilt to the majority demographic.
For Stokes, such leading generalisations lack empirical grounding and wrongly malign the open-mindedness of most citizens. Woke decolonisation ideology embodies a form of discursive class warfare whereby elite institutional actors finger-wag downward at the unwoke masses, ascribing imaginary sins without evidence. The targets are stripped of moral agency, left voiceless and demoralised as history’s alleged villains.
As a university professor, Stokes faces regular professional and personal backlash for openly challenging the decolonisation orthodoxy prevalent among academic colleagues in the social sciences and humanities. Stokes continues to speak out in defence of ideological pluralism and share controversial perspectives with students, taking inspiration from the battlefield courage of working-class WWI-era soldiers. He aims to uphold constructive standards at Exeter even when his unpopular opinions around decolonisation prompt accusations of thought crimes from less magnanimous peers.
Most alarmingly for Stokes, decolonisation ideology and its cultural relativism severely corrode confidence in the West’s historical achievements and values. This internal erosion of self-belief only serves the long-term interests of geopolitical rivals like Russia and China. Both authoritarian regimes actively promote demoralising narratives of Western racism, imperialism, and societal decay through state-run media channels and influence campaigns overseas.
Stokes argues that repeatedly framing the West as endemically oppressive directly aligns with the long-term strategies of potential adversaries who wish to see Western democracies negate themselves through internal dysfunction. No multicultural society can survive without unifying myths of nationhood or willingness to defend common values.
While not all decolonisation advocacy may be consciously geopolitically motivated, Stokes contends the broader postmodern movement nonetheless objectively weakens Western liberal democracy at a time when it faces mounting authoritarian challenges around the world. Demoralisation inhibits any collective defence of the West's hard-won freedoms. In this sense, decolonisation ideology corrosively saps Western self-confidence and solidarity, hobbling responses to antidemocratic threats abroad. It achieves through internal cultural attack what the Soviet Empire failed to achieve.
Professor Doug Stokes presents a forceful and comprehensive heterodox critique of modern decolonisation ideology in this podcast. He contends the West’s obsessive self-critique breeds only paralysis and self-doubt at the very historical moment Western democracies must project confidence to counter ascendant authoritarian systems like China.