Postmodernism: not just for liberals

This article went viral: Don’t Major in Literature

The author, Max Diamond, although mostly correct, despite the pretense of intellectualism, offers a reductionist conclusion: that postmodernism and nihilism are leftist constructs and are always wrong. I don’t think it’s that simple.

Foucault, an exponent of the blank slate, denies the existence of an innate human morality. This is common among many existentialists, who believe that one must create their own identity and reality, in a society that tries to suppress identity with barriers, whether they be governmental, biological, or divine, which is related to moral relativism. But the central theme is power: those who wield it, vs those subjected to it.

But this is not just a ‘liberal problem’. As Brexit and the election of Trump shows, this sense of powerlessness and disaffection of the status quo affects both sides. So Foucault and the ‘centrality of power’ is applicable to ‘left’, as well the ‘right’, and is another example of how philosophy, unlike politics, does not lend itself binary, dichotomous reduction. You cannot try to reduce philosophies and philosophers to politics and politicians, without sounding dumb in the process. It’s just the ‘right’ expresses their dissatisfaction in a more civilized manner, engaging in debate instead of burning things down and threatening campus speakers (the ‘right’ tends to reject existentialism, preferring morals and ethics codified by God or law, and thus engaging in the destruction of property violates this; second, left-wing postmodernism considers rational dialogue, in and of itself, an exploitative construct, although this is only applicable to low-information, herd mentality leftists such as BLM and SJWs, who try to shutdown debate, not ‘smart/concern liberals’ who are open to debate [1]).

As for the more openly Marxist literature professors: they will obsequiously put their syllabi together with scraps of apparently still relevant Frankfurt School critical theory

But the Frankfurt School rejects ‘Enlightenment Values’, such as democracy and neoliberal economics, in agreement with some on the far-right. The Frankfurt School, although ostensibly Marxist, doesn’t always lend itself to a left-wing interpretation.

From Andrew Sullivan, The Reactionary Temptation:

Reactionism is not the same thing as conservatism. It’s far more potent a brew. Reactionary thought begins, usually, with acute despair at the present moment and a memory of a previous golden age. It then posits a moment in the past when everything went to hell and proposes to turn things back to what they once were. It is not simply a conservative preference for things as they are, with a few nudges back, but a passionate loathing of the status quo and a desire to return to the past in one emotionally cathartic revolt. If conservatives are pessimistic, reactionaries are apocalyptic. If conservatives value elites, reactionaries seethe with contempt for them. If conservatives believe in institutions, reactionaries want to blow them up.

For the far-left, progress is exploitative. For the far-right, it’s deracinating.

The author also mentions nihilism, twice, casually in passing as if the reader is supposed to infer what he means, but nihilism is a complicated subject that as of recent has been reduced to a buzzword that encapsulates “everything wrong with the world”. The author lumps Nietzsche with ‘putrid pathetic nihilism’, but when Nietzsche proclaimed God as dead, a common confusion is that he looked upon this favorably–he didn’t. He expressed concerns about nihilism. Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’–that achievement and success are main driving factors of humans–is applicable to the ‘right’, especially Objectivists, as another example of how philosophers and philosophies cannot be pigeonholed to either side of the political spectrum.

I disagree with the purely ‘blank slate’ interpretation of morality (I think it’s an admixture of environmental and biological factors). Whether it’s the ‘left’ or the ‘right’ who does it, blaming society and or external factors, is a way of shifting the burden from the individual. It’s tempting to want to blame someone else, and the ‘right’ in many instances has good justification to do so, but as a realist and rationalist, I don’t think it’s the most productive solution.

[1] For example, this passage from the post On turning left into darkness is an example of how the rationalist-left is open to debate:

So at the same time this post will charitably respond to some left-wing critiques of my project, in the same breath I am going to unapolagetically push further outward on my perspective that so horrifies many of you. I will no longer fight rearguard battles against fearful and disingenuous people on the left who would rather condemn something than admit they don’t have the time to read and process it; but neither am I here to cozy up with right-wing currents, as so many on the left assume of anyone who starts really speaking up and speaking out. I should like to become a worthy opponent of the smart wings of the new reaction, rather than merely pretend they are stupid; for I consider it a great embarrassment that the revolutionary left has yet to generate anything as genuinely interesting and creative as The Dark Enlightenment or Unqualified Reservations. If so-called left-acclerationism is our best response, then we’re in deep trouble (see below). Fortunately, I think we can do much, much better, but we won’t know until we try.

My hypothesis is such debate is mediated by shared narratives, a subset of ‘intellectualism culture’, between the rationalist-left and the rationalist-right.