In a speech to a right-wing US think tank, the Tory cabinet minister said woke ideas were a “dangerous form of decadence” at a time when “our attention should be focused on external foes”.
Decrying that woke ideology was now “everywhere”, Mr Dowden said a west confident in its values would not be “obsessing over pronouns or indeed seeking to decolonise mathematics”.
Mr Dowden told the Heritage Foundation in Washington: “Rogue states are seeking to challenge the international order. And at the precise point when our resolve ought to be strongest, a pernicious new ideology is sweeping our societies.”
He added: “It goes by many names. In Britain, its adherents sometimes describe themselves as ‘social justice warriors’. They claim to be woke, awakened to the so-called truths of our societies. But wherever they are found, they pursue a common policy inimical to freedom.”
The senior minister, appointed Tory chair by Boris Johnson last year, claimed that the dangerous ideology had swept through universities, schools, government bodies, and corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.
“I tell you, it is a dangerous form of decadence. Just when our attention should be focused on external foes, we seem to have entered this period of extreme introspection and self-criticism,” he told his US audience.
Attacking the “new group think”, Mr Dowden added: “Neither of us can afford the luxury of indulging in this painful woke psychodrama.
“Too many people have already fallen for the dismal argument that standing up for freedom is reactionary or that somehow it’s kind or virtuous to submit to these self-righteous dogmas. Well, it plainly is not.”
Senior Labour MP Chris Byrant said Mr Dowden’s speech was both “vacuous” and “dangerous”, adding: “It implies we should all just tug the forelock to authoritarian views of the world.”
Former Brexit minister Lord Frost said last month that Mr Johnson should clear out the “woke crowd” and “neo-socialists” at No 10 if he wants to cling on to power.
The Tory peer, who quit government at the end of last year, said he agreed “the neo-socialists, green fanatics and pro-woke crowd” should be “exiting immediately”.
Mr Johnson’s policy chief Munira Mirza – said to be central to the government’s attempt to create a diving line over woke culture – quit earlier this month over the prime minister’s Jimmy Savile smear attack.
In her resignation letter, Ms Mirza said it was “desperately sad” the prime minister had let himself down with a “scurrilous” and false accusation that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had failed to prosecute Savile.