This morning I came across this article in Areo by Helen Pluckrose titled “No, Postmodernism is Not Dead (and Other Misconceptions)” (Feb. 7, 2018). I highly encourage others to read, including those of us who once identified as feminists and/or come from social science-related educational backgrounds.
In the article she states:
The emerging intersectional feminists were guided by Crenshaw and they adopted the postmodern ideas of cultural constructivism by discourse and drew further on the moral and epistemic relativism and notions of hierarchies of power and privilege via their incorporation of aspects of postcolonial and queer theory that the multi-faceted nature of intersectionality requires. They rejected the pure deconstructive approach because it was politically unproductive, and they sought to map social realities. They developed a strong focus on identity politics which the earlier postmodernists had not, following Crenshaw and those who expanded upon her work. This form of feminism dominates the academy and activism now.
This piece helps me in further clarifying an ongoing irritation I’ve had with people blaming Karl Marx and “cultural marxism” for all that is occurring in identity politics these days. What is happening now has evolved out of and away from what philosophers of old had to say, so it’s become a new beast in its own right, effectively divorced from liberal constraints that were integral to those historical social theories and ideas.
Hence why some of us also say what we’re witnessing today isn’t a liberal movement — it’s illiberal to the core. That’s the truth. Because it has become unshackled from its liberal underpinnings despite originally arising within the Political Left. It’s evolved way beyond and is barely recognizable when compared against true liberalism.
“It is very common now to encounter feminist, anti-racist, LGBT activists who espouse postmodern ideas but seem to have no idea of their genesis.”
That’s also very true.
As I’ve mentioned before many times, Social Sciences was my major (along with a minor in Criminal Justice) in college and yet I’m wholly unfamiliar with postmodern thought (outside of a little exposure to postmodern art). Never did I ever study Foucault or Derrida, though there was much talk about Karl Marx (probably why he winds up blamed for so much of this). Nor do I recall learning about Kimberlé Crenshaw, though the name definitely sounds familiar. When I get in later I will check one of my old textbooks to find out what may have been said about these persons.
Furthermore, I spent my late teens to mid 20s referring to myself as a feminist and reading feminist blogs and articles, and yet I gained no grasp on postmodernism. Heard the term but never dug deeply into what it was about, not realizing its relevance. In fact, it was Dr. Jordan Peterson’s use of the term within the last several months that has stoked my curiosity to finally learn more about it.
To be continued…