Peddling Stupidity
Foucault and the Ayatollah

On PoMo Contradiction

In responding to yesterday’s post on Carolyn Guertin, several commenters noted the contradictions that arise in various strands of PoMo theorising and its political connotations. These contradictions are often summarised as: “All cultures are equal in merit, but the West is uniquely oppressive, imperialist and corrupting. All values are subjective, but sexism, racism and imperialism are definitely evil and must be struggled against.” With these contradictions in mind, I thought I’d post a brief extract from an interview with Stephen Hicks, author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault:

“If all you want to do is destroy, it doesn't matter to you if the words you use contradict each other… I sometimes think of an analogy here to a stereotypically unscrupulous lawyer who will use any argument, even one that contradicts one he's already made, if he thinks it will be rhetorically useful in convincing a jury. If one is driven by anti-capitalism, then one knows that attacking technology harms capitalism and one knows that attacking unequal distribution harms capitalism. So who cares if those two arguments contradict each other? You're harming capitalism!”

As most of the major figures in politicised postmodernism have favoured various forms of collectivism, anti-capitalism and deranged authoritarianism, it’s easy to see how the argument above might apply. Relativistic arguments may be used against the enemy – to flatten hierarchies, for instance - but they’re less readily applied to the collectivist or reactionary politics that PoMo enthusiasts so often advance. (Thus, sceptics among us might suspect the relativism is actually a ruse to further an absolutist agenda.)

If one’s ‘work’ is based on being oppositional – or being seen to be oppositional - against capitalism, racism, sexism, imperialism (real or imagined), white male patriarchy, etc, then liberties can, and probably will, be taken. Attempts to fathom truth, or to be consistent, meaningful and accurate, can, and probably will, be dispensed with in order to advance The Great Cause. (Or The Great Oppositional Posture, depending on one’s scepticism.) And it’s worth noting that in Criticism and Social Change, the left-wing theorist, Frank Lentricchia, announced that the postmodern movement “seeks not to find the foundation and conditions of truth, but to exercise power for the purpose of social change.” Achieved, one might suppose, even at the cost of truth.


bird dog

Exactly right. And that is why you got nowhere with the lefties you tried to discuss the Mohammed cartoons with, in that archived post you put up recently. There is nothing more to say.

It's not about facts.

Ophelia Benson

Not true of all the lefties, I would point out (being a lefty myself). That's one reason I hate this kind of pirouetting: it tarnishes all lefties because a few of them can't think their way out of a paper bag.

David Thompson

“Not true of all lefties.”

Certainly not. While it’s true that almost all of PoMo’s key architects and cheerleaders (in art, advocacy and cultural theory, etc) are lefties, and often unhinged lefties, not all lefties are fans of PoMo. When I point out that postmodern political theorising is overwhelmingly leftwing in nature, this doesn’t imply that all leftwing politics is postmodern in nature.

Alan Sokal, perhaps PoMo’s most famous critic, based his criticism in part on what he regards as a betrayal of his own left-ish views. In the wake of the Social Text hoax, Sokal argued:

“For most of the past two centuries, the left has been identified with science and against obscurantism… Epistemic relativism betrays this worthy heritage and undermines the already fragile prospects for progressive social critique. Theorising about ‘the social construction of reality’ won't help us find an effective treatment for AIDS or devise strategies for preventing global warming. Nor can we combat false ideas in history, sociology, economics and politics if we reject the notions of truth and falsity…”


Talking about social engineering gone awry and our social engineers' babbling rhetoric, a recent article from Inside Higher Education (link provided below) provides a peek into California's Gramsci-an project and some of the rhetorical tricks used to propagate this scheme.

I call the scheme "Debt-for-Credentials-for-Votes.

I recently reconnected with friends in Northern Cal after 6-years away. When I left Cal in 2000, both were tied down with student loans and unhappily employed in the state's civil service agencies - one as a Family Therapist, the other as a middle-school teacher* in California's public school system. Six-years later, both were stuck: they're still in debt up to their eyeballs, unhappy with their state "jobs," and one is considering pursuing another state credential, funded by further debt, to get "better" pay, at yet another state agency.

What clinches it is this: Both will vote for the first politician who promises to unburden them from their state-mediated debt.

Worse than that, despite their beefs with the state-system, both enthusiastically parrot Democratic Party talking points, from "Bush is Hitler" to "Global Warming..." My friends have been marinading in the state's scheme for 8-years, and appropriately, the slogans most likely to distract them from the state's role their morasse are the slogans most likely to resonnate with this captive constituency.

This is a trap intentionally set. And what the Inside Higher Ed article avoids mentioning is that California's statists reveal their scheme every time they trade the student-debt card for their indebteds' votes.
* An applicant to "Gray Davis'" teachers certification program.


I suspect one can't abuse language with such impunity except in particularly affluent societies, where people such as Guertin seldom experience the physical implications of words. Speaking is never a matter of life and death. For them it's all as consequential as the "poetry" being read nights at the local cafe, and exactly as self-indulgent. Money flows into their wallet, food onto their table, gas into their car. Limits are luxuries, and so are their complaints, which they indulge at every opportunity.


Hi, Im from Melbourne.
It seems to me that any discussion of postmodernism has to begin with a working definition of what modernism is. Essentially it is the "culture" created in the image and likeness of the reductionist world dominant ideology of scientific materialism. An ideology which reduces everything, especially human beings, to one dimensional hard edged objects with no psychic depth or psychic relatedness to any and everything. What psyche?
Modernism began has an entirely necessary questioning of the tyrannies and abuses of the old powers and certainties. Unfortunately it has replaced the old tyrannies/certainties with a completely new set of iron clad "certainties".
Postmodernism is the inevitable outcome of the process of questioning everything which began with the rise of scientism. It seems to me that the best postmodern thinkers and artists etc are to one degree or another aware of the deadly limits of the new rigidly defined dreadful sanity of modernist "reality". And as such they have tried via various means to break out of the steel hard trap (Weber's deadly iron cage) of our normal everyday dreadful sanity. However it is impossible to think ones way out of the trap using because the left brained thinkety-think process is the generator of the deadly illusion(s) in the first place.
That having been said please check out these references which describe the baneful limitations of the world dominant ideology of scientism.
2. how big science eclipsed big religion as the official arbiter of what is True and Real
3. on the deadly myth of matter
4. on the origins & consequences of the science vs exoteric religion culture wars
5. on the dreadful politics & "culture" created in the image of scientism and exoteric religion
6. on politics and culture

Plus related references on Sacred Art---THE ESSENTIAL tool for breaking the hard edged SPELL/ILLUSION of consensus "reality"
8. Divine Image Art

11. Right Human Life Must Transcend the Materialist "Culture" of Death


Wow, the promised God-Man. Is here, of all places.


"Is here, of all places."

Well, the wine bar closed at 11.

Da Ananda Whatsisname (it changes frequently) has been floating around the margins of the New Age world for a long time and I'm surprised, but I guess not astonished, to see him making forays into the secular religion of art. Maybe that was a natural progression. His spiritual powers are at least unverifiable. His art, I'm sorry to say, is really very bad.

I think that apart from a certain productive line of Japanese monastics and Fra Beato Angelico, our best artists have been no more religious than they were carnal. Correlation doesn't equal causation, but you have to wonder.


Oh, Franklin, you don't listen to music, do you...? Messiaen is one of my favorites. Besides, I doubt Adida and his followers consider themselves religious. They're "spiritual".

David Thompson

I think I lost consciousness – or certainly interest – somewhere around “psychic depth”, “deadly illusions” and “tyrannies and abuses of the old powers.” And when people ramble on about “sacred art” I tend to wonder if it’s mushroom season.

Look, I’ve just put new carpet down. I don’t want any drunks or would-be mystics making a mess of the joint. Don’t make me flick the lights on and off.


I know about the rotund God-Man because a friend actually gave me an authorized biography of the fellow years ago, and it's still sitting in my collection, a fascinating artifact, frank in its adoration of the fellow, also in its detail--includes many photographs! and references to the gurus sex life! It's rather sweet in its creepy way.

David Thompson


So, basically, what you're saying is Hi From Melbourne came in with you. As a close personal friend. Looks like I'm going to need some kind of door policy, and bouncers. Or henchmen, at any rate.

Ophelia Benson

Wo, that was fun. Hi from Melbourne is way deep.


I never met the guy, nope, never seen him before, and I'm sticking with that. Anyway, I thought that the monkey was, well, I guess it's actually a henchmonkey. Maybe you need to have your site load a sound file when it opens, so the monkey actually says out loud what's in the speech balloons. A deep, throaty voice tinged with menace.... To discourage happy new-age types. I'm frightened just thinking about it!

David Thompson

Hm. As a deterrent, I was thinking more along the lines of fire, lava and jagged rocks. But I do like the idea of the henchmonkey. No, make that an army of henchmonkeys.

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