This post is a collection of quotes from the book - Woke, Inc. by Vivek Ramaswamy. Woke, Inc. begins as a critique of stakeholder capitalism and ends with an exploration of what it means to be an American in 2021—a journey that begins with cynicism and ends with hope.

Woke, Inc. Quotes

Basically, being woke means obsessing about race, gender, and sexual orientation. Maybe climate change too. That’s the best definition I can give. Today more and more people are becoming woke, even though generations of civil rights leaders have taught us not to focus on race or gender. And now capitalism is trying to stay woke too.

When corporations tell us what social values we’re supposed to adopt, they take America as a whole and divide us into tribes. That makes it easier for them to make a buck, but it also coaxes us into adopting new identities based on skin-deep characteristics and flimsy social causes that supplant our deeper shared identity as Americans. Corporations win. Woke activists win. Celebrities win. Even the Chinese Communist Party finds a way to win. But the losers of this game are the American people, our hollowed-out institutions, and American democracy itself. The subversion of America by this new form of capitalism isn’t just a bug; as they say in Silicon Valley, it’s a feature.

Woke culture posits a new theory of who you are as a person, one that reduces you to the characteristics you inherit at birth and denies your status as a free agent in the world. And it deploys powerful corporations to propagate this new theory with the full force of modern capitalism behind it.

America was founded on the idea that we make our most important value judgments through our democratic process, where each citizen’s voice is weighted equally, rather than by a small group of elites in private. Debates about our social values belong in the civic sphere, not in the corner offices of corporate America.

The heart of our democracy isn’t just about casting a ballot in November. Rather, it’s about preserving democratic norms in everyday life, including free speech and open debate. When companies make political proclamations, employees who personally disagree with the company’s position face a stark choice: speak up freely and risk your career, or keep your job while keeping your head down. That isn’t how America is supposed to work, yet that is a reality for many Americans today.

There are far more CEOs who are eager to grab money and power in the name of justice than there are CEOs who are agnostic to money and power and care only about justice.

As a society we should allow and even embrace the corporate pursuit of financial self-interest above all. The only thing we should ask in return is this: keep it naked, instead of dressing it up as altruism.

The great danger of capitalism rests in its inherently expansive quality. Capitalism has an uncanny ability to organize our society’s commercial affairs better than we could’ve ever imagined, but it has an equally uncanny ability to extend far beyond commercial life. Like light, it will reach as far as it possibly can unless we purposefully contain its scope. Even though it is an economic system, it has the power to reorder social systems too.

Capitalism hurts all of us when it undermines democracy through the influence of lobbyists or corporate-social fiats. It hurts all of us when it co-opts sincerely held values like faith or feminism to quietly make money.

America was built on the idea of separating powers between different institutional spheres to protect people. Our Constitution ordains a separation of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches; between federal and state government; between church and state. As Americans, we now need to separate the powers of capitalism from the workings of democracy. To keep them alive, we need to keep them apart.

Antitrust law was designed to protect consumers from companies who abuse their market power to beget more market power. That was a distinctly nineteenth-century problem. But that’s not the main problem with Silicon Valley’s behavior today. The issue today centers on companies abusing their market power to beget greater social, cultural, and political power. The main victim isn’t the consumer in the market; it’s the citizen in our democracy.

While Americans are supposed to enjoy due process and the presumption of innocence in everyday life, they enjoy no such luxury in their online lives. Today’s technology tyrants deploy a censor-first mentality and operate under the principle that certain people are probably guilty, that they are probably violating the ever-changing “terms and conditions.”

“Diversity” has become a term of art, a symbol, one so powerful that the symbol is now more important than the thing it was supposed to represent. Wokeness sacrifices true diversity, diversity of thought, so that skin-deep symbols of diversity like race and gender can thrive.

America’s Founding Fathers were skeptical of the concentration of power in government hands, but if they were alive and among us today, they would be equally concerned about the power of companies like Google, Facebook, and Goldman Sachs to regulate our speech and conduct as well.

Under the woke worldview, being born white, straight, male, or—worse—all three is an original sin that one must spend their life atoning for.

Today many employees, perhaps many of you, face the choice between being able to keep their job to put food on the table or being able to speak their mind freely. It’s a Hobson’s choice. That’s not our country, but a distortion of it. In America we don’t force you to choose between the American Dream and free speech. You get to enjoy both at once.

Wokeness doomed itself when it became so mainstream that companies realized they could make money off it.

Corporations used to try to convince you that buying their stuff would make you cool; now they tell you buying it will make you good. The difference is subtle but important. What’s cool is entirely subjective, but what’s good is not. There’s no real risk to letting the slick PR people define what’s cool, but there’s a lot of risk to letting them define what’s good.

How did we come to this farcical point where your politics chooses your sandwiches and your sandwich makers must choose their politics? I’m tempted to say that nothing is sacred anymore, but America’s problem is actually the opposite: nothing is allowed to be ordinary anymore. Partisanship now infects everything and attaches sanctity to even the most mundane consumer decisions.

When we use boycotts and buying sprees to determine political issues, we cheapen democracy. It doesn’t just give the rich yet another advantage over the poor. It also makes those with buying power worse off, too, in subtle ways they don’t recognize. It drags everyone down by making money, rather than open deliberation, the first tool of democracy. The image of citizens debating the issues of the day in the town square begins to sound like a laughable idealization, a naive fantasy, rather than the very foundation of democracy. When we use money to starve barbers we hear are racist, we’re simply using raw power, the closest thing to physical violence we can legally get away with.

The woke diagnosis of America’s problems is that they can be attributed to lingering racism and sexism. My diagnosis is that we lack a shared national identity. We think of ourselves as black or white, male or female, Republican or Democrat; we don’t think of ourselves as Americans.

That’s what woke capitalism is all about: companies performatively one-upping each other to show that they’re the good guys, and consumers falling for their tricks because they’re simply hungry for a cause.

This is what woke essentialism is all about: it posits that your genetically inherited attributes are the true essence of who you are. I reject that narrative, and I think every American should too. I’m not just a man. I’m a proud father, a loyal husband, and a grateful son. I’m not just a person of color. I’m a Hindu, a child of immigrants, an American citizen, and a proud native of Ohio. I’m not just a former CEO, but a scientist and an entrepreneur. I’m the author of my own destiny, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, but always unlimited by what someone else thinks I should be. I’m not defined by any single one of those things. Rather, I am all of those things at once and a great deal more. Each of those identities is part of my personal mosaic—the mosaic that together comprises who I am as an American. That’s what true American pluralism is all about.

Historically, most countries were defined on the basis of a single attribute—a single ethnicity, a single language, a single religion, a single monarch. Not America. We were the first and greatest country defined exclusively on the basis of a set of ideas, enshrined under a single Constitution. America wasn’t just a place. It was a vision of what a place could be. America was about democracy. Capitalism. Reason, science, and enlightenment. Faith and purpose. Freedom. Individualism.

In the end, America isn’t a place at all. It’s an idea. We call it the American Dream for a reason. It’s not a destination that we reach; it’s a vision we aspire to, one that we’ll always fall short of but keep pursuing anyway. That’s part of what it means to have a dream. But over the last decade, something scary happened: we woke up. And once you wake up from a dream, you forget what it was all about. That’s the real danger of wokeness.