Political correctness has recently gained a bad reputation.
There are two reasons for this.
On the one hand (right) there are those who see themselves muzzled by good minds or “the media”, meaning elites from the liberal cosmopolitan milieu. Someone like me.
However, with the prefix “one will still be allowed to say”, one can continue to say everything that one should not say, because above all these elites want to be one, tolerant. In this way, a parallel society was created. Under the protection of the Internet, they have programmed their own code of political correctness – and said good-bye to the German guiding culture due to a narrow nationalism.
From the left, however, we are subjected to tighter and tighter language controls. The language regime no longer simply regulates the political space, but rather each and every interpersonal articulation.
This, in turn, fuels the feeling of getting a muzzle prescribed. People who speak like their parents are denounced as chauvinist, racist, nationalist or sexist.
What can philosophy contribute to this?
As I see it, political philosophy attributes two normative functions to political correctness:
First of all, it shows respect for the other person, whom one should not offend or humiliate in public utterances – and to whom we owe reasons for our opinion in public affairs.
Secondly, the function of political correctness is to place each other in a common semantical landscape. Basically, every society has and needs to have its peculiar variety of political correctness. By sharing a sense of taboos, idiomatic values or entire narratives of justice, the Other becomes one of us.
Political correctness is thus an expression of mutual respect and social inclusion and identity; in practice, however, it is increasingly experienced as a gesture of domination and distinction.
How did this happen?
In classical-liberal theory, political correctness is limited to the realm of the political. Anyone who has or claims power must follow the rules of the game of political correctness.
However, this division into private and public spaces cannot be maintained. Feminists pointed out at an early stage that discrimination starts with personal behaviour and attitudes. And rightly so. In the way in which the other is constructed linguistically, the question of how we look at each other and how we relate to each other is decided.
That is why emancipatory struggles begin with the everyday disregard manifested in politically incorrect speech. The act of correction is an act of self- empowerment of the disregarded, but it creates a totalitarian power itself, because it invades the private sphere, which can and will be abused.
What should one do?
Back to the liberal containment of political correctness? This path is blocked because it is just true that discrimination begins with the microsemantic appropriation of others.
Instead, should we ignore all those who feel harassed by the regiment of political correctness because they are holding on to the wrong? No, because this is a way of dominating those who find it more difficult to restructure their linguistic self-conception than our more flexibilized class.
Now, if we take a comprehensive perspective on justice, the Problem seems not that complicated.
The regiment of political correctness must be extended to all spaces in which meaning is formed, namely to the family, to the classroom, but also to social media.
But whenever persons feel excluded in the name of political correctness, courage is needed for political incorrectness. In order to cultivate this, a shelter is needed against inquisitorial assaults – such as the celebration of the incorrect in art, the unmasking of the overcorrect in humor, and also the critical freedom to question the respective rule of political correctness in university teaching.