'The clerisy' is an excellent term and this is a great analysis. I hope you're going to write a book about this. The NGOs in particular are very significant and get very little attention, but they seem to be effectively making the running, not to mention writing the language.

One thing I'd take issue with is your use of the terms 'progress' and 'reaction', as if they were uncomplicated; and as if it were clear that one side was good and one bad. It doesn't look that way to me: not only does an unquestioning pursuit of 'progress' look like the heart of the problem, but various forms of 'reaction' are a useful counterpoint to it. To me, the failure of 'progress' in almost every department is a bomb under the left as well as the bourgeois century.

I would still read that book though.

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Jun 13, 2021Liked by Angela Nagle

Excellent piece.

Many things I would like to comment upon, but instead of bloviating I'll try my best to make my main point concisely in re: "The three main clerical institutions are academia, the NGO sector and the media."

Speaking from a US perspective, I'd add the intelligence agencies, especially the CIA -- whose links to and manipulation of the other three institutions has been extensively documented. Marks and Marchetti explicitly analyzed the Agency's clerical/insular culture in their early exposé THE CIA AND THE CULT OF INTELLIGENCE (1974): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/342587.The_CIA_And_The_Cult_Of_Intelligence

Seen through the lens of your analysis here, it's not difficult to make some assumptions about why US military intelligence (DIA, the service intel branches, and to some extent NSA, which belongs to DOD) are frequently at loggerheads with CIA. The military -- through necessity -- is an innately populist institution; the majority of recruits are from the lower half of the socioeconomic strata. The CIA has always stressed its elite, credentialist Ivy League image (even though it struggled at many times in its history to recruit actual Ivy Leaguers).

Military intelligence people have a tough row to hoe. The command structure tends to divert weird/smart poor kids into intel rather than combat arms. They get to be part of the clerisy, but it's always made clear they won't make it to the top; kind of like Discalced Carmelites. (Chelsea Manning is a key example.)

Great article by Seymour Hersh, if you haven't seen it already: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v38/n01/seymour-m.-hersh/military-to-military US military and CIA literally backing opposite sides in Syria.

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"At their current enormous levels of power, the clerisy is too big to take on directly and anyone who tries will have the full force of all of the institutions against them."

This is an important point to make, as there are those that say "you need to speak up, regardless of the consequences, and make your voice heard! That will stop this insanity! I'm totally not sending you to be devoured by wolves! Yea!" I wrote about this recently (https://www.splicetoday.com/writing/surviving-cultural-turmoil):

"choose your fights wisely, preferably ones that will benefit you personally, socially or financially. Don’t be a fool, don’t become an unwitting asset in someone else’s activist portfolio. You do no favors by martyring yourself to provide a “noble example.”

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Hi Angela, another great post, as usual. Can you put links or citations in so I can look some of your sources up? I understand not wanting to clutter it up too much and make it too academic, but for example, I want to read more about what this man Edward Turner says about NGOs and Graduate students, and elite overproduction stuff more generally. :*

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Jun 14, 2021Liked by Angela Nagle

This is very good. I remember Tom Wolfe referring to them as a “clergy” back in the 80s. The crisis of legitimacy is at the heart of this discontent. The clergy has nothing in common w working class or everyday people.

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this has got me thinking. challenged some of my own perceptions. thanks Angela.

I am old middle class gay Australian used to think of myself as left, I hope I still am a bit. I have found the sermonizing tone of identitarian politics and the allocation of people into categories a bit oversimplified and bureaucratic. Neither do I like the corporate , pretty ruthless or the very right wing identity prone. so I'm a bit lost really.

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Jul 30, 2021Liked by Angela Nagle

Being an early 40s Irish person, I have the benefit of seeing the change in the clerisy class in real time over a period of only 25 years - mid-1980s to about 2010. In many cases, the same organisations were there: Concern, Trocaire, Amnesty International, but their ideologies and personnel changed at pace. A lot of the change was driven by "professionalisation" of charities, essentially replacing volunteerism with credentialism. Whereas before the charity was focused on practical assistance it is now about "raising awareness" and extracting taxpayer funding. I live in England, where the change took place more gradually over a longer period - and is still much less complete than in Ireland. I notice that an increasing number of Irish people are able to recognise that the NGO leaders of today are the bishops of a generation ago.

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Dear Angela, I just wanted to let you know that I have come back to this piece many times since its publication. PMC analysis through others combined with your First As Tragedy, Then As Farce article to changed everything for me. Thinking of the PMC as a clerisy, and of populism as an anti-clerisy movement, has been very illuminating.

Your contribution has been so formative to me that I am incorporating it into my underground course on the PMC that has been ongoing for the last couple of months. Your piece here is one of the two final week readings this week. I will be lecturing on this and the conclusion of Catherine Liu's Virtue Hoarders with the co-instructor of the course. In this course I represent a sort of post-left position whereas he represents a sort of PMC-critical class-based DSA position. Just thought you would find that interesting! Have a good day.

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