Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Debunking Postmodernism and the Regressive Left 101

The philosophy of Postmodernism and its outgrowth called the Regressive Left have been an absolute disaster for the modern political left.

The ideas of Postmodernism and the Regressive Left are false, fraudulent, irrational and are contributing to the political defeat of the left in nation after nation, and, even worse than this, are a threat to Western civilisation itself.

Postmodernism and the Regressive Left have to be utterly defeated as the pre-condition for any new and sane left-wing political movement.

That being so, I have collected my posts debunking Postmodernism and the Regressive Left in the links below, with a critical bibliography against Postmodernism as well.

The resources below are divided into these sections:
(1) Debunking Postmodernism and the Regressive Left

(2) Debunking Foucault’s Philosophy

(3) Bibliography of Critiques of Postmodernism.
But first some history.

Postmodernism is an outgrowth of French Poststructuralism, an intellectual movement in France from the late 1960s and 1970s. This was a reaction against French Marxist Structuralism.

The early and big-name Poststructuralists actually began as Marxist Structuralists, such as Jacques Lacan (1901–1981), Roland Barthes (1915–1980), and Michel Foucault (1920–1984). If there was a seminal moment in the origin of the Poststructuralist movement, some people date it to a 1966 conference at Johns Hopkins University in which the French intellectuals Derrida, Barthes, and Lacan came to America and announced that they had turned against Structuralism.

Derrida gave a lecture at this conference later published as “Structure, Sign and Play in the Human Sciences” (Derrida 1978 [1967]) which marked his break with Structuralism and the general turn towards Poststructuralism. Roland Barthes’ later essay “The Death of the Author” (Barthes 1967) was another influential text of the early movement. In “The Death of the Author” Barthes essentially proclaimed that critics should divorce their study of a text from its author, and that a text is not a product of its author with a definite and fixed meaning intended by the author.

When their revolution of 1968 failed and they became disillusioned with Marxism, the French radical left turned to Poststructuralism, this new type of philosophical and cultural radicalism.

From France, Poststructuralism spread to the Anglophone world, and developed into the left-wing academic movement called Postmodernism.

Some of the most pernicious ideas that Postmodernism has given rise to are the following:
(1) the view that there is no such thing as objective truth;

(2) cultural relativism and the view that there is no such thing as objective morality;

(3) the view that modern science is not objectively true and just one “narrative” amongst many “narratives,” and

(4) the view that no text can have a fixed meaning intended by its author.
The major thinkers of Poststructuralism and Postmodernism, in a loose family tree, are listed in the diagram below (which needs to be opened in its own window):

Within French poststructuralism, there were at least two important strands, as follows:
(1) the strand derived from the work of Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), and

(2) the one associated with the work of Michel Foucault (1926–1984).
Jacques Derrida took Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” fantasies to even greater heights of mind-numbing insanity. Derrida invented the French word “différance” (a word that conveys the ideas of “difference” and “deferral”) to convey the idea that no word can even have a clear, definitive meaning at all: true and fixed meaning is supposed to be “deferred,” indeterminate, and unattainable (even though empirical evidence suggests that most of our language has a clear and fixed meaning, which we grasp well every day of our lives).

Derrida also liked to rant about what he called “logocentrism,” the idea that in Western civilisation speech is “privileged” over writing. (The fact that people who were literate were historically a small, privileged and even powerful minority in most Western societies did not seem to daunt or present Derrida with any problems. Nor did the fact that the ability to read the written word and even written works themselves like scriptures have conferred enormous power on priests, monks and clerics in Western civilisation.)

Derrida’s famous method of Deconstruction is just the culmination of Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” idea. Since no text can have any fixed meaning, we can invent any meaning we like, and “deconstruct” any text by inventing a meaning contrary to what the text says. We can engage in utterly illogical, unfounded and fantastical attempts to show how any sentence actually implies or means the opposite, or nothing at all.

The end result of all this is the view that no real external reality structures, fixes or even circumscribes our words and language, and that no objective truth, knowledge or reality exists.

The second major strand of Postmodernism is the thought of Michel Foucault (15 October 1926–25 June 1984). Foucault was a French philosopher and a major member of the original French Poststructuralist movement.

Foucault was a radical leftist and a Marxist early in his career, and, even though he later repudiated Marxism, a certain type of Marxist class analysis is evident in his work. In his mature views, Foucault was a left libertarian or anarchist who distrusted all institutions, and who was in some respects a trailblazing advocate of identity politics and minority cultures. Foucault was also a representative of neo-Nietzschean thought in the late 20th century, albeit in rather original ways. Nietzschean irrationalism was a central element of Foucault’s thought, as was his denial of objective truth.

The Postmodernist strand associated with Michel Foucault essentially boils down to the idea that “truth” is whatever those in power determine it to be, and reality a construct of power, so every instance of power is oppression.

I regard Foucault’s work and Postmodernism in general as deeply flawed and a terrible blight on the intellectual life of the left. The central element of Postmodernism is the rejection of objective empirical truth – a self-defeating and absurd idea that lies at the heart of all irrationalism.

In our time, the rotten ideas of Postmodernism have morphed into the Regressive Left.

The term “Regressive Left” was supposedly coined in 2012 by Maajid Nawaz to describe leftists who make shameful apologetics for Islamist religious bigotry and fanaticism, as Nawaz explains in the video below:

However, Regressive Leftism is a natural outgrowth of Postmodernism, a point which many people fail to understand.

Regressive Leftism has the following important characteristics:
(1) intolerance of free speech and free expression;

(2) strong influences from Postmodernism (even though many Regressive Leftists probably do not consciously self-identify as Postmodernists) and its related ideas such as cultural relativism, truth relativism, moral relativism, the idea that all cultures are equal etc.;

(3) probably some vulgar Marxist economics (though not necessarily);

(4) hatred of science, and bashing of “white male science” and even astonishingly vicious anti-white racial hatred;

(5) anti-Enlightenment thinking and bizarrely irrational hostility to Western civilisation, including views on foreign policy influenced by Noam Chomsky;

(6) extreme social constructivism and the “blank slate” view of human beings, and extreme identity politics;

(7) incredible abuse of the word “racism,” and applying it to trivial things that are not inherently racist, such as wearing sombreros or “culturally insensitive” Halloween costumes.

(8) following from (7), identifying culture with race, and militant hostility to people who criticise immoral or illiberal religious or cultural ideas of non-white people, and above all in apologetics for Islamic fundamentalism and Islamism.

(9) support for open borders or huge levels of mass immigration into the Western world.

(10) the ideas of Third Wave Feminism.
As I have pointed out before, the conventional definition of the “Regressive Left” is mainly confined to (7) and (8), but the fact is that “Regressive Leftists” often also subscribe to (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (9) and (10) or a selective combination thereof.

Although Noam Chomsky has certainly influenced the Regressive Left as in (5), it is important to note that he rejects many aspects of their thinking, as shown here.

If the left is going to develop any rational, intellectually honest and effective political program for the 21st century, both Postmodernism and Regressive Leftism need to be utterly rejected and defeated.

The posts below, which debunk various aspects of Postmodernism and Regressive Leftism, as well as the bibliography, are divided into these sections:
(1) Debunking Postmodernism and the Regressive Left

(2) Debunking Foucault’s Philosophy

(3) Bibliography of Critiques of Postmodernism.
See below:
(1) Debunking Postmodernism and the Regressive Left
“The Left needs to abandon Postmodernism,” February 5, 2015.

“Chomsky on Žižek and Lacan,” February 6, 2015.

“Nonsense and Postmodernist Writing,” February 7, 2015.

“Postmodernism: Its Family Tree and Origins,” February 8, 2015.

“Postmodernism and Third World Progressive Movements,” February 9, 2015.

“A Postmodernist Critique of Science,” February 10, 2015.

“John Searle’s Argument for Objective Truth,” February 14, 2015.

“Lectures on Russian Formalism and Semiotics and Structuralism,” February 19, 2015.

“Yanis Varoufakis on Postmodernism and Economic Methodology,” February 16, 2015.

“Alan Musgrave on the Success of Sciences as an Argument for Realism,” February 20, 2015.

“John Searle on Realism,” March 7, 2015.

“A Challenge to Truth Relativists,” March 20, 2015.

“Quantum Weirdness and Nonsense,” October 4, 2015.

“The Poststructuralists as Frustrated Marxists-Communists,” October 20, 2015.

“The Consequences of Postmodernist Truth Relativism,” October 25, 2015.

“Self-Refuting Nonsense,” November 1, 2015.

“All Cultures and Cultural Ideas are not Equal,” November 21, 2015.

“Keith Windschuttle on the Postmodernist Perversion of History,” November 22, 2015.

“Chomsky on Dead White Male Science,” November 28, 2015.

“How Not to Criticise Noam Chomsky,” December 14, 2015.

“Rushdie on Extreme Multiculturalism,” December 17, 2015.

“When the Word ‘Racist’ Loses all Meaning,” December 23, 2015.

“Some Critiques of Edward Said’s Orientalism,” January 4, 2016.

“‘Cultural Appropriation’: The Latest Nonsense from the Regressive Left,” January 9, 2016.

“Extreme Multiculturalism versus Liberal Nationalism,” January 14, 2016.

“The Regressive Left’s Obsession with Race,” January 17, 2016.

“Peter Hitchens on Marxism and Open Borders,” January 17, 2016.

“Nonsense about Science,” January 20, 2016.

“The Gender Wage Gap is a Myth,” January 24, 2016.

“Chomsky on Freedom of Speech,” January 23, 2016.

“Chomsky versus the Regressive Left,” March 11, 2016.

“What is the Regressive Left?,” April 22, 2016.

“The Paradox of Feminism,” June 6, 2016.

“Hating Whitey,” June 10, 2016.

“Chomsky versus Feminism,” June 11, 2016.

“Chomsky: Many Postmodernist Ideas ‘Pure Nonsense,’” August 14, 2016.

“Truth Relativism is a Disease of the Mind,” August 18, 2016.

“Anarchopac on the Old Left,” September 2, 2016.

“Some Reading on What went Wrong with the Modern Left (Updated),” August 29, 2016.

“The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise,” September 5, 2016.

“Behold Third Wave Feminism,” September 8, 2016.

“The Cult of Extreme Gender Equality,” September 13, 2016.

“Monogamous Marriage is the Basis of Gender Equality,” September 16, 2016.

“Women in their 20s Now Out-Earn Men,” September 20, 2016.

“Christopher Hitchens versus a Feminist,” October 3, 2016.

(2) Debunking Foucault’s Philosophy
“A Documentary on Michel Foucault,” February 12, 2015.

“John Searle’s Argument for Objective Truth,” February 14, 2015.

“Foucault’s View of Truth,” February 18, 2015.

“Foucault’s Obscurantism: He Admitted it Himself,” March 4, 2015.

“The Utter Bankruptcy of Foucault’s Denial of Objective Truth as determined by Reality,” March 5, 2015.

“Foucault’s The Order of Things: A Summary and Critique,” March 6, 2015.

“Foucault’s ‘What is an Author?’: A Critique,” March 7, 2015.

“Foucault’s The Archaeology of Knowledge: A Quick Summary, March 10, 2015.

“A Challenge to Truth Relativists,” March 20, 2015.

“Foucault’s Truth Relativism,” March 25, 2015.

“Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: A Summary and Critique,” April 14, 2015.

“José Guilherme Merquior’s Verdict on Foucault’s Thought,” April 16, 2015.

“Foucault versus Chomsky: The 1971 Debate,” April 18, 2015.

“Foucault on the History of Madness: A Critique,” April 19, 2015.

(3) Bibliography of Critiques of Postmodernism

General Critiques
Bawer, Bruce. 2012. The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind. Broadside Books, New York.

Dennett, Daniel. 1998. “Postmodernism and Truth,” Butterflies and Wheels

Detmer, David. 2003. Challenging Postmodernism: Philosophy and the Politics of Truth. Humanity Books, Amherst, N.Y.

Devaney, M. J. 1997. ‘Since at least Plato …’ and Other Postmodernist Myths. St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Ellis, John M. 1989. Against Deconstruction. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.

Gross, Paul R. and Norman Levitt. 1994. Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Johnson, Gregory R. 1992. “Without Sense or Reference. J.G. Merquior’s From Prague to Park: A Critique of Structuralist and Post-Structuralist Thought,” Reason Papers 17: 153–160.

Koertge, Noretta. 1998. A House built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science. Oxford University Press, New York.

McKinley, B. 2000. “Postmodernism certainly is not science, but could it be religion?,” CSAS Bulletin 36.1: 16–18.

Merquior, Jose Guilherme. 1986. From Prague to Paris: A Critique of Structuralist and Post-Structuralist Thought. Verso, London.

Merquior, José Guilherme. 1991. Foucault (2nd edn.). Fontana, London.

Norris, Christopher. 1993. The Truth about Postmodernism. Blackwell, Oxford.
This defends deconstruction, but condemns Postmodernism.

Sokal, Alan and Jean Bricmont. 1998. Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. Picador, New York.

Conservative Critiques
Norris, Christopher. 1990. What’s Wrong with Postmodernism. Harvester Wheatsheaf, England.

Norris, Christopher. 1993. The Truth about Postmodernism. Blackwell, Oxford.

Scruton, R. 1993. Upon Nothing. University College of Swansea, Swansea.

Scruton, Roger. 1994. “Upon Nothing,” Philosophical Investigations 17.3: 481–506.

Scruton, Roger. 2015. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. Bloomsbury, London.

Windschuttle, Keith. 1994. The Killing of History: How a Discipline is being murdered by Literary Critics and Social Theorists. Macleay Press, Sydney.

Windschuttle, K. 1998. “Foucault as Historian,” in Robert Nola (ed.). Foucault. F. Cass, London and Portland, Or. 5–35.

Marxian criticisms
Callinicos, Alex. 1990. Against Postmodernism: A Marxist Critique. St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Eagleton, Terry. 1996. The Illusions of Postmodernism. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, Mass.

Libertarian Critiques
Hicks, Stephen R. C. 2004. Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Scholargy, New Berlin, Milwaukee.
Barthes, Roland. 1967. “Death of the Author,” Aspen 5/6.

Barthes, Roland. 1977. “Death of the Author,” Image Music Text (trans. Stephen Heath). Fontana, London. 142–148.

Derrida, Jacques. 1978 [1967]. “Structure, Sign and Play in the Human Sciences,” in Writing and Difference (trans. Alan Bass). University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 278–294.

I’m on Twitter:
Lord Keynes @Lord_Keynes2


  1. You wrote: "Some of the most pernicious ideas that Postmodernism has given rise to are the following:"

    But that is a grossly anachronistic statement. Postmodernism may SUPPORT or ADOPT those ideas, but most of them long predate late 20th century postmodernism.

    "(1) the view that there is no such thing as objective truth;"

    Berkeley and Hume were subjectivists.

    "(2) cultural relativism and the view that there is no such thing as objective morality;"

    Herodotus, Kant and Boas were cultural relativists.

    "(3) the view that modern science is not objectively true and just one “narrative” amongst many “narratives,” and"

    It is a simple fact that science is one narrative amongst many: ask any creationist. And it is a simple fact that science is not true, otherwise it would not change.

    "(4) the view that no text can have a fixed meaning intended by its author."

    This is an example of ambiguity due to the fact that meaning is always "meaning to somebody". Anything else is a reification of meaning. While an author might intend a fixed meaning to all other people, the number of needed preconditions and restraints in culture, language, education, and physical capabilities makes universally identical meaning for other people impossible. Not to mention the assumption that the author can have an intended fixed meaning at any one instant, let alone over time, let alone unintended meanings, let alone the ability to state an intended meaning with perfect, unambiguous clarity for all people, now and in the future.

    1. (1) “But that is a grossly anachronistic statement. Postmodernism may SUPPORT or ADOPT those ideas, but most of them long predate late 20th century postmodernism.”

      Since I did not state nor mean to imply that nobody before Poststructuralists denied the existence of objective empirical truth, this is just a straw man, owing either to your malicious distortion of what I write, or your own misreading of it.

      (2) “Herodotus, Kant and Boas were cultural relativists.”

      And once again I did not state nor mean to imply that nobody before Poststructuralists were cultural relativism.

      If cultural relativism is true, is Nazi culture equal to all other cultures? Do tell.

      (3) “ It is a simple fact that science is one narrative amongst many: ask any creationist.”

      Another pathetic misunderstanding or deliberate malicious distortion of what I meant. When I said that Postmodernists think that science is “just a narrative,” I meant they think it is not objective true. When a creationist denies evolution, he is denies its objective truth (or false) and saying that a fundamentalist reading of the Bible is the alleged objective truth.

      “And it is a simple fact that science is not true, otherwise it would not change.”

      Bullsh*t. You confuse (1) certain instances where science has been wrong and fallible with (2) the total non-existence of objective empirical truth.

      There are a huge set of scientific propositions that have *never* been falsified and there is no rational reason to think they will be (even though the truth value as an empirical truth is not apodictic but probabilistic), e.g.,

      (1) the scientific proposition that the human heart pumps blood around the body
      (2) the scientific proposition that the planets of our solar system orbit around the sun
      (3) the scientific proposition that the moon orbit around the sun
      (4) the scientific proposition that human hair is made of keratinised proteins
      (5) the scientific proposition that malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by parasitic protozoans of the Plasmodium type.
      E.g., let us see you refute the scientific proposition that the human heart pumps blood around the body.

    2. Those things you list as alleged Truths that "have never been debunked" are indeed propositions that have held up over a ling period of time. However, Scientists also used to tell us that the Sun revolved around the Earth.

      More things Scientists used to assert that were later overturned:


      Also, Science shows incredible hubris at times with the insistence of many that the Unborn are not persons and that the Material Universe is the ultimate reality, with no Creator in the back of it's workings. Those are both philosophical propositions, despite the insistence that "Atheism is only a lack of belief in God." The back flips they do to try and insist that "nothing follows from a lack of belief" is mind-numbingly ridiculous.


      Dean Esmay, former managing editor at A Voice for Men has a good rollicking blog defending theism against atheism and poking holes in Science's claim of objectivity:





    3. LK
      It is usually better to assume foolishness, not malice. But with Hubert it's safer to assume both.

  2. Excellent post. I think you over state the importance of even foolish ideas in driving the regressive (that is, mainstream) left. People don't reason their way into being like this, it's emotional. I really recommend Shelby Steele's White Guilt.
    But I strongly agree that unless the left sheds this it cannot play a constructive role.

  3. Thanks LK, my reading list just doubled >:^(

  4. Your characterisation of Derrida is fair. I think you've gotten that accurate.

    But I need to see evidence that Foucault "denied objective truth". He certainly called into question objective truth in the humanities and social sciences (something also argued by Gunnar Myrdal, by the way). But I have never seen a statement by him denying, say, the laws of physics or basic chemistry.

    If I am correct then you have totally misrepresented his views and you should simply stop. If you want to criticise his contention that there is no objective truth in the social sciences and humanities I think that might be interesting. But it is an entirely different question.

    1. (1) If there is explicit evidence that Foucault accepted the existence of real objective empirical truth in, say, the natural sciences grounded in objective reality, then why is there no evidence of him saying this in his writings?

      Why is it that hordes of Postmodernist interpreters of Foucault say that Foucault rejected all claims of objective empirical truth based on empirical evidence and a reality independent of us?

      Why is it an academic expert on Foucault like C. G. Prado says explicitly that -- for Foucault -- not even the natural sciences could have their propositions or theories made true by reality, and that Foucault thought that all truth statements are merely linguistic and produced by power (Prado, C. G. 2010. “Foucault, Davidson, and Interpretation,” in Timothy O’Leary and Christopher Falzon (eds.), Foucault and Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, UK and Malden, MA. 99–117, at p. 103).

      (2) Why does Foucault say explicitly:

      “The important thing here, I believe, is that truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power: contrary to a myth whose history and functions would repay further study, truth isn’t the reward of free spirits, the child of protracted solitude, nor the privilege of those who have succeeded in liberating themselves. Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced **only** by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth, its ‘general politics’ of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true.” (Foucault, Michel. 1984. “Truth and Power,” in Paul Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader (interview with Alessandro Fontana and Pasquale Pasquino). Pantheon, New York. 51–75, at pp. 72–73).

    2. (1) I really don't care what his interpreters say. They say different thinks. Rabinow and Dreyfus, for example, say that he should have put more effort into delineating between the natural and the social sciences and the truth claims produced in each. Unfortunately soon after they engaged him on this point, he died.

      (2) This is entirely consistent with his view of knowledge which is similar to, say, Thomas Kuhn and was derived from his teacher Gaston Bachelard (a Cartesian! in contrast to what many suppose about Foucault). The view here is that scientific theories are historically determined in some sense. For example, Einstein's relativity theory is impossible until after certain other ideas have been discovered; most obviously, Newtonian mechanics but also, say, Maxwell's equations.

      The idea here is a historiographical and epistemological ones. It is that the ideas that you or I can have are CONSTRAINED by the idea-system that we live in. So Aristotle could never have arrived at Einstein's theory; nor could Newton as he lacked Maxwell's equations among other things.

      Foucault's novelty was that he applied these ideas -- which I think many accept in the history of science -- to the social sciences. When he did he realised that the social sciences did not actually have very strong epistemological foundations and it was rather easy to say that they did not produce objective truth. From here it is only one step to say that they are merely the result of power relations. But this does not logically carry over into the natural sciences and anyone who says that it does simply does not understand the argument.

      Personally, I think there are some things in the humanities that are not simply power relations. I think that there are somewhat objective criteria for certain aspects of these disciplines. But they are few and far between. And for the most part Foucault was correct.

    3. The only exception I can find: Gary Gutting ("Introduction," in Gary Gutting (ed.), Continental Philosophy of Science, 205, p. 11) claims that Foucault never queried the "objective validity of mathematics and the natural science".

      Well, so what? That he never *explicitly* said so doesn't prove that he privately questioned their objective truth or his statements seem to strongly imply that
      all truth in every discipline is only made by power.

      This is exactly like those who want to claim Michał Kalecki didn't reject the LTV just because he (apparently) never explicitly said that he rejected it in his writings.

    4. (1) Your answer in (2) simply lazily ignores his explicit statement:

      "Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced **only** by virtue of multiple forms of constraint."
      If truth is *only* produced "by virtue of multiple forms of constraint", then logically must apply to the natural sciences.

      If he didn't mean to say this, then he was a sloppy and incoherent writer and thinker, and you're flailing about trying to desperately harmonise his inchoate and gibberish-works.

      (2) the claim that certain subjects in the humanities obviously involve subjective value judgements (say, like art history), and often not hard objective empirical truths is well known to anybody with a brain. It was known to people long before Foucault was even born.

      This is simply another outrageous aspect of French Poststructuralism: whatever little they said that is true is either trivially true or obviously true and was known to people long before them. It is known to analytic philosophers, known by 19th century people, some of it probably known by the ancient Greeks.

    5. (1) Yes. Truth is produced ONLY by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. General relativity is produced ONLY by our structures of knowledge being CONSTRAINED by previously known Newtonian and Maxwellian principles amongst other things. And so on. This is a fairly mainstream view in the history of science.

      (2) That is your opinion. I think that Foucault had much of interest to say. Perhaps relevantly, you have prejudged him and I have studied his writings in depth. Which of our opinions on the matter is more valuable? Only readers can decide on that. Personally I have gotten much out of his work and can only recommend it. Especially, to those interested in economics, his late-1970s lectures on neoliberalism published in The Birth of Biopolitics.

      As a more general comment, this tendency among certain people to just demonise authors and claim that they are stupid or wrong or had nothing to say is juvenile. I don't much like the analytic philosophical tradition, for example. But I've read many texts and think that they are valuable and interesting. This tendency to label one box 'bad' and another 'good' and toss authors in each is really quite childish. Criticise specific ideas. Not authors. But to do that you have to engage -- and you must NOT engage in bad faith.

    6. “Truth is produced ONLY by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. General relativity is produced ONLY by our structures of knowledge being CONSTRAINED by previously known Newtonian and Maxwellian principles amongst other things.”

      You are just trying here to interpret the Foucault quotation in a particular way, and ignoring the full claims of Foucault’s theories about truth: namely, Foucault’s view of truth is not simply that our prior assumptions limit our new truth statements and need to be consistent with them.

      Well, duh, *basic logical consistency requires* that. Analytic philosophers like Willard Van Orman Quine have noted this too, and this is entirely consistent with there being real objective truths in the natural sciences, social sciences, and everyday life that are made true by strong empirical evidence and experience so that they do indeed actually correspond to some actual state of affairs in the real world.

      But Foucault’s theory is much more than such a claim, and seems to deny truth is determined by correspondence to reality.

      Specifically, Foucault’s theory is fundamentally that our truths are made *only* by power, powerful institutions, and social, and political systems of power, and *not* by empirical evidence, experience and induction, through which we often do obtain reliable knowledge of the real world.


      “‘Truth’ is to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation, and operation of statements.

      ‘Truth’ is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extends it. A ‘regime’ of truth. ….

      The problem is not changing people’s consciousnesses—or what’s in their heads—but the political, economic, institutional regime of the production of truth.

      It’s not a matter of emancipating truth from every system of power (which would be a chimera, for truth is already power), but of detaching the power of truth from the forms of hegemony, social, economic, and cultural, within which it operates at the present time.”

      Foucault, Michel. 1984. The Foucault Reader (ed. Paul Rabinow). Pantheon, New York. pp. 74–75.
      This outrageous nonsense that “truth” is just made by sinister “evil” power, and all power is illegitimate (with the implication that nothing in our modern society can be defended) is now a widespread and grotesquely stupid idea on the left, doing incalculable harm and very similar in its own crazed way to right-wing conspiracy theory thinking.

    7. Power is not 'evil' for Foucault. He is a Nietzschean. In Nietzsche power is neither good nor evil - it is 'beyond good and evil'.

      Anyway, think what you want. I don't think you're serious about this stuff. I think you're playing the Continental vs. Analytic game. That's a bore to me.

      Signing off.

  5. I've said it before and I'll say it again re the the charge that I'm a Cultural Relativist:

    My view doesn't have me sending armies overseas killing in the names of Capitalism and Democracy and defending an Apartheid State that practices Male Genital Mutilation.

    Think I'll just keep on keepin' on.

  6. 1 I doubt the Illusionist knows much GR.
    2 his claim 1 is a crock. GR does not follow from constraints on Newtonian principles, whatever those are. It requires rejecting certain aspects of Newton for one thing. His comment is too vague and meaningless to be a mainstream view of anything.

  7. 7 points.
    1.The fact that someone denies the very idea of objective (empirically grounded) truth does in no way entail that there are no objective (empirically grounded) truths in what he wrote.
    Hence the interest of Foucault's work is a matter for genuine historians (which he never cared to become...) to decide.
    2. The revolutionnary disillusionment explanation of PoMoism is not as obvious as you think. People like Foucault (stemming from an upper middle class family) did not like the PCF (even if he felt he had to carry the card for some time)and built no tie to the working class (as for example did Orwell in his own time). He even considered working for the right wing government and in the 70's introduced many ordoliberal and neoliberal thinkers. It then comes as no surprise that you find disciples of his within the neoliberal "left" and even working for buisiness interest (like François Ewald).
    3. I do not see what binds Bourdieu to post-modernism. Quite the opposite.
    a) His goal was allways to make genuine social science (based on both fieldwork and data analysis)
    b) His ground for rejecting so called "structuralism" was precisely that it was no genuine scientific research program, with no empirical findings and much playing with big words.
    c) He also criticised Latour and the "strong programme" in the sociology of science and did promote better informed history / sociology of science like the one of Yves Gingras or Terry Shin.
    d)He argued that post-modernism was simply the new clothes of scholasticism and even scholastic illusion : people living in overprotected areas like campuses are only too prone to think that the whole world is about texts and symbols, and that you can "construct" or "deconstruct" whatever floats your boat etc.
    e) as far as philosophy is concerned, Bourdieu allways praised and to some extent defended very classic, rationalist philosophy. He was a deep admirer of Jules Vuillemin and helped Jacques Bouveresse getting elected at the College de France, both being pionneers of analytic philosophy in France. He had most works of Ernst Cassirer (hardly a reference for PoMo...) translated in French.
    4. What links exactly the despise of imperialism with PoMo-ism ? Did not people like Orwell, Russell, or Chomsky (as you stated yourself) with plain "common decency" reasons for opposing it ?
    And BTW I thought you were yourself opposing it (wars in the middle east, support to right-wing coups in latin america, bonds with theocratic oil regime etc.)
    5. How exactly is a bunch of academic lunatics a threat to civilisation ?
    6. At my great surprise I totally agree with Ken B : arguments and theories are obviously not a driving force.

  8. 7. Here are some possible readings both to substantiate some of my points and further the debate.

    Against truth relativism :

    Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism, Oxford University Press, 2006, 152p

    An informed critic of Latour and latourites :


    A left critic of Foucault :


    (You will not agree with everything, but I think the part where Zamora explains how much Foucault misunderstood the wellfare state will be of interest to you.)

  9. The irony is that Foucault's view of power can be used to undermine iddntity politics. Most identity politics academics claim to be influenced by Foucault because they draw on his notion of power being decentralised, but in practise their views on how power functions are actually closer to Marx in that they function broadly from an oppressor/victim dynamic. Foucault's understanding of power was more sensitive to context and it is fluid rather than static.

    It is important to understand why Foucault was resistant to the idea of objective truth. It is very easily abused. Unfortunately he was wrong in assuming that relativism wasn't equally problematic, especially in regards to morality.

  10. The conflation of authority with authoritarianism is definitely one of the worst ideas that came out of the left in the 60's. Its impact can he seen everywhere from education to parenting.

    Nobody ever achieved anything of worth in life without proper discipline.

  11. Bourdieu wrote a long PostScript in his book Distinction --it's so entertaining it's the best way to read 'distinction' starting with the P.S.-- where he completely trashes Derrida for being a pompous postmodernist. I have to completely agree with the third point of germi ladOctober 6, 2016 at 12:48 AM