Grant McCracken: The New Honor Code vs. Radical Wokeism

The anthropologist and brand consultant explains why we need fewer blanket accusations of racism and more mutual respect and compassion.


An increasing number of corporations, universities, and other organizations hold anti-racism seminars in which participants are expected to acknowledge their own racism at the start of the meetings or to write "letters of apology to marginalized people whom they may have harmed."

Anthropologist and brand consultant Grant McCracken, who has taught at places such as Harvard Business School and worked with people such as Kanye West, says such imperatives are doubly bad. First, they don't acknowledge the changed nature of institutions over the past half-century toward inclusion and equality and second, they leave participants feeling defamed and diminished. There's never a good reason to say you are a racist, he writes, unless, of course, you are one.

McCracken's work will be familiar to Reason readers, both as a contributor to our pages and as an influence on the magazine's broad conception of culture as a dynamic, participatory process through which we all figure out who we are and what we want to become. His 1998 book Plenitude, in which he documents what he calls the "quickening speciation of social types," remains the essential starting point for understanding the relentlessly heterogenous world in which we live.

His new book is called The New Honor Code: A Simple Plan for Raising Our Standards and Restoring Our Good Names. It explores the seeming disappearance of honorable behavior from much of our personal, professional, and public lives. Sports heroes such as Lance Armstrong not only cheat to win but lie about it while accusing others of cheating. Medical professionals such as Larry Nassar abuse their position as the USA Gymnastics team doctor to assault hundreds of young, defenseless patients. Politicians ranging from Nancy Pelosi to Donald Trump to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Ted Cruz regularly defame and lie about their opponents without evidence or fear of reprisal.

What America needs, says McCracken, is a rebirth of honor that demands we insist on basic standards of behavior, especially from those in positions of power, and that we also treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated: with respect and compassion. The New Honor Code is a rich text, drawing from McCracken's academic research into Elizabethan England, his abiding curiosity about popular culture, and his work in corporate America. Few other thinkers can distill lessons for the future from figures as diverse as 16th-century English diplomat Thomas Elyot, Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and Canadian musician and Elon Musk partner Grimes.

NEXT: Don't Wait For (Any More) Disasters To Adopt Libertarian Values

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  1. "An increasing number of corporations, universities, and other organizations hold anti-racism seminars in which participants are expected to acknowledge their own racism at the start of the meetings or to write "letters of apology to marginalized people whom they may have harmed.""

    I remember watching passively as I saw an enslaved person get whipped into submission on the orders of a cruel master. I didn't even try to reach through the TV screen to stop it!

    1. It's just college students, it'll all go away once they graduate. People change their views, you know.

      1. I've got to disagree, Paul.

        What we're looking at today in the culture-at-large is where the politically correct university radicals were in the late 1990's. Society is always about twenty to twenty-five years behind the university. For example, what was avant-garde on campuses in 1970 was mainstream by 1995.

        This means things are going to get a lot crazier before they get better, and intersectionality will become the norm and create a lot of ruin.
        The only thing that will change this is some major black swan event with a bigger impact than Covid.

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        2. I think you need to retune your sarcasmeter.

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      2. Did you miss the "corporations ... and other institutions" part of the quote above? No, it's not just college students. The disease has metastasized.

      3. Your sarcasm detectors, guys: You should check them.

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          1. The one on the back of the Constitution just says "not effective during administrations".

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      4. Stossell just made a video about that; He believed the same thing only to find out - they never did change their insane views after college because college just implanted those insane views.

        1. Never is a long time.

          It can happen. Case in point, me. I graduated with a fairly orthodox leftist outlook, but thank Reagan (literally), my views changed. That, and getting a job and seeing how much was being taken out of my paycheck to support things that I philosophically disapprove of.

          Now look at me, hardcore libertarian.

          It does happen, just not often.

          1. People used to reject leftism when they left the controlled environment of the university and entered free society. Reality itself contradicted everything left wingers asserted which proved leftism wrong even to leftists. This is how the saying "if you're not a liberal when you're young you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative when you're older you have no brain" evolved. In response to this leftists decided they need to convert all of society into a controlled environment so life experience will no longer discredit them.

            It seems like it's working which means the very mechanism which worked for you will no longer be operative to work on other people.

            1. ^THIS. + all the Gov-Guns used the cloud and disparage basic laws of responsibility, market signals, and etc.. etc.. etc..

    2. The only way to solve the problem is a vicious civil war.

      No more progressives.

      1. Authentic elections might actually get rid of a good number of them. Trump would still be president today if authentic elections where still a thing and the Senate would still have a GOP majority.

        1. The Senate would still be Republican if Trump wasn’t such a selfishness little baby. Say what you want about the presidential election but there’s no excuse for him to have fucked up the runoffs so badly.

          So yeah, fuck Trump. The progressives’ best friend.

          1. I like the idea that this so many voters looked at this vain, morally-sketchy man and said "yes, we prefer even him to the Democrats."

            Politically, he showed the popularity of some good issues, even if he often let his ego get in the way of handling those issues.

            Is it too late in the day for another person to win on these issues - with Trump's advantages and none of his liabilities? Or is it just Democrats from here on out?

            1. No, but it's going to take blood, sweat, toil and tears. And our fortunes and sacred honor.

          2. Lol, youre both correct.

          3. Nothing changed that would have made the same steal that happened in the general election, not happen in the runoffs.
            In Georgia, the steal happened in the general election, even for the Senate seats. Then again in the runoff.

          4. So after he lost and was discredited, he still had power enough to .....

            Damn it I'm tired of proving idiots like you wrong.

            You're an idiot.

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    4. “letters of apology to marginalized people whom they may have harmed.”

      Dear marginalized person, I'm sorry that you've been taught that I'm a racist.

      1. Why are you sorry for that? Did you do the teaching?

        1. No. I’m sorry that someone who doesn’t know me at all decides I’m racist based solely on the color of my skin, and then teaches them that.

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  2. Today in libertarian news and commentary.

    Drop the woke nonsense, Innocent
    The smoothie giant has publicly unfollowed a feminist because of her ‘wrongthink’ on gender issues.

    I think I might be allergic to Innocent Smoothies. Not to the mushed-up fruit in the drinks but rather to the sickly branding. Most spiked readers would probably think I’m a bit of an eco-git: I assiduously recycle, hand-wring about my consumption, and I am genuinely alarmed by what seems to be a full-scale assault on our planet’s resources. And yet, reading the cutesy blurb on the back of Innocent Smoothies makes me want to don a steak dress à la Lady Gaga and drive a Hummer across nature reserves on a mission to punch dolphins. They’re just so disgustingly pious.

    Innocent’s latest stunt in its quest to prove that it lives up to its name is particularly ridiculous. It has announced on Twitter that it is ‘unfollowing’ veteran feminist campaigner Maggie Nelson. This was at the behest of a non-entity transgender activist with 10 followers. Innocent then released a statement to clarify its action:

    ‘The other day we unfollowed a Twitter account because content on their feed about trans people wasn’t in line with our values of inclusivity and respect.’

    If you can't "publicly and noisily" unfollow someone, why bother? Isn't that the purpose of Twitter? You follow people so you can unfollow them.

    1. That reminds me...I need to take out a Reason subscription so I can cancel it.

      1. I want Reason to hold a convention in Vegas. That would be entertaining. Everyone getting to meet great writers like Shikha, Boehm, and Sullum, plus our fellow commenters.

      1. Quebec is in total curfew lockdown, and it's extending it with zero scientific evidence that it's had any effect on COVID rates.

        1. Now that Alberta's oil is blockaded, Quebec is going to quickly find out that they can't afford to do shit, let alone maintain a curfew..

      2. BBC's article about this contains a picture of a Proud Boys protest. It shows Black and White and POC men and women. The article labels them "...all-male and anti-immigrant..."

        Kind'a ironic.


    2. Thanks for the link to Spiked, dude, it is rich with good information.



      Brandybuck and Jeffy and their butt-buddies in the Reason comments are exposed as 50 centers. One of them literally wrote ‘No matter who wins the election, we should come together as a country. which is straight out of a propaganda piece ‘Tips for writing a great op-ed’.

      Now that Hihn is dead, SQRLFKER and Tony may be the only legitimate crazies in these comments.

      1. In that vein, I'm sure you saw this Tweet from James Woods: https://twitter.com/RealJamesWoods/status/1325513362545897472

        And just like that the rioting and looting has ceased overnight. And now the half of the country that pummeled America like a battered wife is telling her to put on sunglasses, hide her black eye, be a good girl, and "come together as one."
        Her answer? "Go fuck yourself."

        These people want us to be serfs. There is no coming together with that.

        1. Rioting and looting are still actively going on in the Pacific Northwest.

          1. Agreed, so not only are they evil, but incompetent.

            Still a decent line from Woods.

          2. Funny the media isn't treating them as heroes anymore. What could have caused the change?

      2. 50 cents is far too much for baby jeffrey.

      3. You know, or should know, Chuckles the Snarkly Superiorly Smug- Pig, that your Magic Underwear will NOT protect You from the ultimate consequences of "what comes around, goes around", AKA karma, AKA "as you sow, so will you reap"... Right, smug one? If you REALLY believe in Your Magic Underwear, may I humbly suggest that You TEST OUT Your Magic Underwear FIRST? BEFORE you believe the voices and vices in Your Head, and jump off of a 50-story building, trusting in Your Magic Underwear to enable You to fly... First, try jumping off of a single concrete block! Do NOT trust the voices in Your Head, who tell you that You MUST take a HUGE "leap of Faith", right off of the batty bat-shit crazy bat!

        1. Well that was too nutty for me.

          1. Everything here is fundamentally verbal masturbation. Sqrlsy's insanity is just its logical conclusion.

            It's like the Timecube guy. In a way you have to respect the commitment.

            1. Timecube was *way* more comprehensible than Squirrel.

      4. The old villains, like the Kochs and Murdoch, First of His Name, were seemingly concerned with self-enrichment. Essentially self-absorbed, they pursued politics to get what they wanted (more money), hurting other people in the process. By contrast, ‘philanthropists’ like Omidyar and Murdoch II are set on changing your life for ‘the greater good’. They have convinced themselves that, since they are on a holy mission, everything they do and all the money they expend in pursuit of those goals is somehow justified. The ruthless businessmen of yesteryear are being replaced by priests of higher morals who just happen to be phenomenally rich. The oldies pursued their interests selfishly – the newbies are convinced that their interests are your interests. And they are spending a great deal of money trying to convince the rest of the world of that, too.

        No one is as dangerous as someone who is convinced that they know what is best for everyone, for they will commit the most shocking evils with a clean conscience.

        1. It's the modern update of Calvinist predestination: God has rewarded them with wealth, so they must be righteous. And because they are righteous, all that they do has God's blessing.

          1. The difference is the modern Calvinists never apologize for their witch-hunts:


      5. Now that Hihn is dead, I hope the Rev and SQRLSY are soon to follow. Tony is occasionally entertaining at least.

        1. Hey!

          1. Alternate Rev.

    3. nature reserves

      A nature preserve is where you would try to preserve the natural state and actually exists. A reserve is where you store surpluses for later consumption.

      Full credit for a John-level typo.

  3. The purpose of 'wokeism' (and anti-racism, etc) isn't justice or equality but to appropriate the wealth of the rich. And the rich go along with it to appease the masses. But they will discover the appetite is insatiable. E.g. they are leaving CA and NY to escape the socialists, but the socialists will follow them to TX and FL. Then what?

    The only solution is libertarianism - to abolish government and reduce charity and instead for the rich to voluntarily fund retirement colonies for people who are qualified. Who's qualified? You can bicker about the standards, but the point is they exist. (And the gate is narrow and the path is straight and yada yada.)

    1. Shut up about the old folks camps.

      1. Paradise is for everyone. (Except you of course.)

  4. "What America needs, says McCracken, is a rebirth of honor" killings.

    Eh, it could happen.

    1. Fatty Arbuckle alleged committed an "on her" killing.

      Too soon?

  5. That is an awful light looking racial demonstration crowd.

  6. "Honor" is a cop out, just like religion.

    The lack of honor is not the problem. The intrusion of government into every aspect of people's lives is the problem which, in turn, led to people figuring out rather quickly that instead of working hard to improve their lives as free people with self-determination, through merit and a work ethic, they could simply vote to take things away from and inflict pain on other people.

    Far too many Americans, and I would wager the overwhelming majority, instinctively look to government to solve everything they perceive to be a problem without realizing that government INVARIABLY creates far more problems than it ever managed to solve. Government places people in positions of antagonism that would never have developed otherwise.

    The problem is government. The problem is always government. The problem will always be government.

    1. The problem is always government.

      But if you think examining your own standard of honor, and whether or not you meet it daily, is a waste of time, then you are also the problem.

      1. I don't know what the fuck "standard of honor" means. Why? Because nobody bothers to define it, because it can mean anything you want it to mean -- which actually means that it is a completely fucking meaningless metric to build your life around.

        The standard of honor in the Middle East mandates killing your daughters and wives, under certain circumstances, or tossing faggots from rooftops.

        Either define it, or forget about it.

        1. But that's why the left has worked so hard to redefine what words mean.
          As an example; wanting equal treatment us now redefined to mean racist.
          See how that works?
          Now, do "honor".

        2. That's the point - your standard of honor is based upon what you believe honor is and being introspective daily about whether you met or failed to me your own standard is the only way you will ever be able to act consistently within your own definition of standard of honor.

    2. We don't need to bring back honor so much as we need to bring back dignity.

      Hope for the future: thanks to the pandemic, unsupervised and unstructured play should be on the rise. But since the kids are all playing as alone as possible, who knows if it will have as much benefit as it could.

    3. Fixing government is simple, prohibit it from initiating force. I suggest a 28th amendment, "Government shall not initiate force."

    4. While "the problem is always government", we can't forget that the narrative-creators, the media, always appeal to a government fix for any problem they encounter or invent.
      By this method, they gain power, because they use these appeals to control government.
      The most rapacious power-seekers are the "journalists", who go into the profession "to change the world" not to simply relay, to the public, that which has happened.

  7. Why should we be compassionate to people who instantly fling their poo at those they consider less woke than themselves.

  8. What America needs, says McCracken, is a rebirth of honor that demands we insist on basic standards of behavior, especially from those in positions of power, and that we also treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated:

    Check out Jordan Peterson over here.


    1. Canceled.

      Dude lost it and went on a drug binge when his wife finally succumbed to cancer. What would he know about honor?

      1. /sarc, in case it wasn't clear.

  9. Everyone who tries to find a compromise with the left may as well throw coins in a well. The left is all about control, and no one in power, or who seeks power, has any interest in sharing that control.

    Look at gun control. Every compromise begins with the left instituting "common sense" gun control no compromises with non-gun control, and ends with starting the next cycle. Zeno had something to say about that; it will never end.

    Or think of the idiots who think there is compromise on abortion. One side calls it fetus murder, the other calls it mother slavery. What possible compromise could there be?

    1. A "compromise" for the Individual ability to NOT be DICTATED?

    2. Same thing with smoking bans. I've seen it time and time again, strike compromise legislation regarding smoking bans with Democrats and, BOOM, right away they come back wanting more restrictions and the ink isn't even dry on the original legislation. They are totalitarians. Every last damn one of them, as are most of their voters.

      1. Smoking hasn't been banned. It has always been legal to smoke, grow and sell tobacco, and legal marijuana is spreading rather than decreasing. You need to be less shrill or reconsider your idea of totalitarianism.

        1. 90% tax, Banned by Gov-Gods from campuses, downtown, all venues..... etc, etc, etc... BUT if you dig a hole in the middle of the desert; pay a 90% tax then well actually it's not "Banned"...

          Gimmie a break. You're cuddling the tyrant again.

          1. Smoking tobacco is not banned. People every day cure it, roast it and smoke it without legal consequences. It is taxed. So is gasoline. Gasoline is not banned, either. My advice: save your whinging for things that are actually banned: nerve gas, LSD, etc.

            1. Maybe not "banned", but certainly, increasingly marginalized, at the point of a gun.
              Increasing locations have had a ban placed on them.
              Just because it hasn't gotten there, yet, doesn't mean the totalitarians have stopped their efforts.

    3. "What possible compromise could there be?"

      It comes down to how much money and resources is society willing to spend to ensure that abortion is rare and exceptional. Those most offended by it are presumably the most willing to pay, and they will have to hammer out a deal with those least willing to pay.

  10. Dear Democrats ------ I'd like to treat others as I myself would like to be treated. If you STOP trying to DICTATE my life; I'll stop calling you Nazi's, Tyrannical Authoritarians, Anti-American and the filth of society!!!!!! STOP telling me what Price-Tag I'm worth. STOP telling me how much I owe the [WE] mob just because you have a Gov-Gun Gang show up and threaten or kill me if I refuse to fund your "The Green-Sky is Falling" delusions.

    Just F-OFF!!! That's all...... Keep your Power-Mad dreams in YOUR own Urban-Nazi h*llholes. You have ZERO reason to be DICTATING and PLANNING the entire NATION... DICTATE YOUR OWN of like-minded. How bloody hard can that BE??!?!!??!!!

    1. "Just F-OFF!!! That’s all……"

      Self indulgent tantrums are probably only going to make things worse.

      1. No... Cuddling the Tyrant is what grows tyranny.

        1. You get the tyranny you deserve. But by all means cuddle the tyrant if it makes you feel better.

          1. You get the tyranny you deserve.

            That says more about you than it does anyone else....

  11. Grant McCracken: The New Honor Code vs. Radical Wokeism

    God bless the University of Chicago, and all who draw enlightenment from her.

    1. Yeah but that shitpile graduated Scalzi and he's a fucking douche.

      1. I thought Redshirts was a lot of fun, but anything else I've read of his was pretty formulaic and pedestrian.


  12. It is official, I giveth not the rectum of a rodent.

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  14. What is needed is an extra-large dose of SELF-KNOWLEDGE - as individuals and as humans. Aphorisms recently considered "trite," "banal," "cliched," or "over-used" now seem especially wise: Know Thyself. . . . . . Treat others as you wish to be treated. . . . . . . Don't judge a book by its cover. . . . . . . We don't know what we don't know. . . . . . . .

    1. If I could pronounce a curse on society, it would be simply "Everyone is inescapably self-aware."

  15. For a couple of centuries now people in the West have been becoming more sensitive. Sensitive to the suffering of others (even if these others are animals) and sensitive to suffering of themselves. I don't see how 'pistols at dawn' or anything else the new honor code has to offer is going to change much.

    1. You're an idiot.

  16. This concept is freightening. This is exactly what we are going through with the cancel culture. China are doing it with a social credit program. This is a terrible idea!

  17. A nation, that elected a black man to be its president, TWICE, cannot logically be called racist.
    And qualifiers like systematically, systemically, institutionally make the claim all the more ridiculous.
    That event knocked the feet out of the racialist's movement, and now we are seeing the effort to revive their debunked ideology, aided and abetted by the totalitarians, who see it as their path to more power.

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