Why the “Social Construct” Argument against Racial Nationalism Fails


Dr. D. E. Michael

The “social construct” argument against racial nationalism can be reduced to the following:

“1. Racial nationalists value race.

2. Race is only a social construct.

3. Anyone who values something that is only a social construct is ridiculous.


4. Racial nationalists are ridiculous.”

This argument has been repeated, in various forms, many times. We find it in numerous articles in the press (for example here and here). Its often unspoken corollary seems to be that because racial nationalists are ridiculous, we can be dehumanized, deprived of our rights and livelihoods, denied representation, abused, beaten up, and generally oppressed with impunity. What we have to say is of no value.

The traditional nationalist counter to this position is simply to dispute premise 2, that race is “only a social construct”. This is perhaps the most common line of counterattack and it has been pursued in some fairly eloquent academic articles. Anti-racial nationalists tend to respond by taking each example of a difference between races and systematically proclaiming it to be “irrelevant”. This sometimes requires rather breath taking intellectual acrobatics on their part, as, for example, when they attempt to minimize the importance of racial differences in criminality.

Argument about biology

The problem with this is that counterattacks by racial nationalists on premise 2 tend to reduce the argument to one of biology. To pull off such a counterattack, the racial nationalist needs to be well educated not only in biology but also in the standard anti-racial-nationalist defences. Whether an attack on premise 2 will work in any given real-life situation thus usually depends on whether or not the racial nationalist has a better grasp of biology than his opponent.

However, even a superior knowledge of the subject is no guarantee that a counterattack on premise 2 will cause the anti-racial nationalist to abandon his position. Anti-racists are trained to be very sceptical of anything that we say. It often seems that they are being taught to assume that we lie about everything. Usually, they simply will not trust any facts that we use to substantiate our position.

To cause our opponents genuine cognitive dissonance, and hence to start to persuade them to modify their position, it is often more productive to attack their arguments at a conceptual level, rather than simply telling them that their facts are wrong. For this reason, I suggest that a far more psychologically effective line of attack on the “social construct” argument is to attack premise 3: the idea that anyone who values something that is only a social construct is ridiculous.

So, when confronting an anti-racist who argues that “race is only a social construct, so racism is ridiculous” we could take a very different line from the usual one. Instead of responding, “no, race is not only a social construct” – and heading off into the world of biological and behavioural differences – we could instead respond thus: “Even if race were only a social construct, it does not follow that valuing our race would be ‘ridiculous’. Some of the most valued concepts in modern mainstream politics appear to be social constructs: democracy, equality, freedom, rights . . . are these not social constructs? Isn’t the elite’s conception of the ‘racist’ itself – this stereotype of a slobbering, mentally retarded beast that seeks only  to offend and do evil – a social construct?”

Whether a concept is valuable (worthy of valuing) does not appear to depend on whether or not it is a “social construct”. Some social constructs – for example, the family, or money – seem to be almost universally accepted as valuable. Others, such as the “left-right spectrum” in political discourse are arguably outdated and less useful. Others, such as the principles of alchemy and necromancy, went out years ago (except, perhaps, in some of the more exotic suburbs of London).

Following the herd

We could elaborate our argument by taking some of the mainstream values purportedly cherished by our opponents and showing how they appear to be little more than words in search of meanings. One of the books that most influenced my own political thought was Jens Christophersen’s The Meaning of Democracy as Used in European Ideologies from the French to the Russian Revolution: An Historical Study in Political Language (Humanities Press, New York, 1966). This illustrates numerous very different interpretations of the word “democracy” and one comes away from it marvelling that, although so many people seem to think that democracy is good, and some feel that it is worth fighting and dying for, nobody really knows or cares what it is or why it is good. These people are clearly just following the herd. The same can be said for “equality”. We are faced with equality of opportunity, equality of outcome, equality before the law, equality in the eyes of God, economic equality, political equality, social equality, natural equality, and even the Marxist conception of equality as “the abolition of classes”. With regard to freedom (or liberty, which might or might not be the same thing), we have positive freedom, negative freedom, basic freedoms, the four freedoms, the five freedoms, and doubtless others too. And natural rights? Jeremy Bentham – not an evil fascist but a libertarian! – became so frustrated with this concept that, in his 1796 essay “Anarchical Fallacies” he famously referred to this concept as “nonsense upon stilts”. And so we could continue.

The technique of applying our opponents’ criticisms about the concept of race to their own most cherished concepts can be used more broadly. Thus, for example, when they claim that the notion of race is “vague” we can respond by pointing out that the concepts of “justice” and “goodness” are very vague and by asking them whether this means that we should no longer value “justice” or “goodness” or, further, deprive anyone who does value such things of all political rights on the grounds that they are ridiculous . . . We might add that although races might be a little fuzzy around the edges, particularly where interbreeding has occurred, it is usually no more difficult to distinguish a black man from a white man than it is to distinguish good from evil or justice from injustice. As always with concepts in politics, the difficulties arise with borderline cases.

The “social construct” argument against racial nationalism wins many converts to the anti-nationalist cause. This is because they do not think about it too carefully. It goes largely unchallenged in the media and in our universities and is thus accepted as an item of faith. However, there are still many lively and enquiring minds in our universities. Such minds could be unsettled by competently presented attacks on weak arguments such as “race is only a social construct so racists are stupid.” We need to get out there and put the right counterarguments in front of the right eyes.

Originally published at Patriotic Alternative.