Commentary

Woke capitalism is a smokescreen

| Dec 19, 2021

A billboard in London recently featured a bizarre advertisement for the multinational bank HSBC. It depicted an androgynous person applying mascara and a bold message: “Gender’s just too fluid for borders.”

HSBC would seem to have no business interest in gender theory, except that the bank, too, rejects borders. The bank lobbied aggressively against Brexit in 2016 and has protested the result ever since. The free flow of capital brooks no constraints.

The same goes for much of corporate behavior today. On this side of the pond, major corporations have aligned themselves publicly with progressive political and social causes, from LGBTQ+ pride and abortion rights to racial justice and climate change. American business long served as the archetypal bourgeois institution: meritocratic, buttoned-up, and reliably Republican.

But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has since given up its old partisan loyalties, and woke corporate titans preach a new golden rule. As Apple Chief Executive Time Cook has said: “You don’t have to choose between doing well and doing good.” The pursuit of profit now follows the march for social justice.

Observers have struggled to make sense of these developments. But conservatives are justified in feeling betrayed just as progressives are right to be leery of their new corporate allies. Woke corporate activism, as the HSBC example attests, is primarily an attempt to launder self-interest through liberal ideology and to renege on actual obligations.

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Wells King is the research director at American Compass.

@wellscking