Wednesday, February 21, 2007
If you have a lot of time:
Read this excerpt from The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism
, by Richard Wolin.
Not only does it discuss the reactionary right's opposition to reason, but it also takes on the Post Modernists, who are similarly anti-Enlightenment. Here's one excerpt:
The Seduction of Unreason is an exercise in intellectual genealogy. It seeks to shed light on the uncanny affinities between the Counter-Enlightenment and postmodernism. As such, it may also be read as an archaeology of postmodern theory. During the 1970s and 1980s a panoply of texts by Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, and Lyotard were translated into English, provoking a far-reaching shift in American intellectual life. Many of these texts were inspired by Nietzsche's anticivilizational animus: the conviction that our highest ideals of beauty, morality, and truth were intrinsically nihilistic. Such views found favor among a generation of academics disillusioned by the political failures of the 1960s. Understandably, in despondent times Nietzsche's iconoclastic recommendation that one should "philosophize with a hammer"--that if something is falling, one should give it a final push--found a ready echo. Yet, too often, those who rushed to mount the Nietzschean bandwagon downplayed or ignored the illiberal implications of his positions. Moreover, in retrospect, it seems clear that this same generation, many of whose representatives were comfortably ensconced in university careers, had merely exchanged radical politics for textual politics: unmasking "binary oppositions" replaced an ethos of active political engagement. In the last analysis it seems that the seductions of "theory" helped redirect formerly robust political energies along the lines of acceptable academic career tracks. As commentators have often pointed out, during the 1980s, while Republicans were commandeering the nation's political apparatus, partisans of "theory" were storming the ramparts of the Modern Language Association and the local English Department.
This blogger has always considered Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, and Lyotard to be fraudulent sons-of-bitches (see Alan Sokal's Fashionable Nonsense
for an evisceration of said "thinkers"). So it's nice to see them being exposed for the anti-liberal people they really are.
But there's more. How about this on fascism:
In a much-cited essay Isaiah Berlin contended that one could trace the origins of fascism to Counter-Enlightenment ideologues like Joseph de Maistre and Johann Georg Hamann. Indeed, a certain plausibility marks Berlin's claim. For one of fascism's avowed goals was to put an end to the Enlightenment-derived nineteenth-century worldview: the predominance of science, reason, democracy, socialism, individualism, and the like. As Goebbels pithily observed a few months after Hitler's rise to power, "The year 1789 is hereby erased from history."
What U.S. political party is anti-science, anti-reason, and against social insurance
And what does that make it?
UPDATE: Can't resist showing this cartoon that appeared in the Wilson Quarterly many years ago.
Oh man, I can't believe you posted that cartoon! The first (and last) time I saw that was about 15 years ago. My high school english teacher showed it to me, as it was one of her favorites. Being 15, and having never been before introduced to post modernism, I was completely baffled. I have, since then, become familiar with some the basic tenants of it, and now I find that cartoon rather amusing.
Thanks for that.
When trying to read Neitzsche or Foucault, I adopt a "pick the meat from the bones" approach.