Wednesday, February 24, 2021

more vindication

An article from the religion blog Word on Fire goes into more detail than I did about the postmodernist roots of the current wokeism.  This article, too, puts Nietzsche at the root of the problem, then it mentions Jacques Derrida but focuses primarily on Michel Foucault and his discourses on power.  Here's a link (courtesy of Instapundit):

"Wokeism" in France:  The Chickens Coming Home to Roost.

The author uses the proverbial karmic chickens as his metaphor; in my own piece, I used the Cylons of "Battlestar Galactica."  Same difference, really:  something insidious is created; it leaves home, grows and festers, then comes back home with a vengeance.*  Some excerpts from the above-linked article:

I will confess that one of the biggest laughs I’ve had in the last several months was occasioned by a recent article in The New York Times by Norimitsu Onishi. In this lengthy piece, the author tells us that the current political and cultural leadership in France, very much including President Emmanuel Macron, is alarmed at the rise of “American-style woke ideology,” which is effectively undermining French society and fomenting violence. Why, you are wondering, would this produce laughter? Well, what we call “woke” thinking in our American context was almost totally imported from French intellectuals who flourished in the second half of the twentieth century. One thinks of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, and perhaps especially of Michel Foucault. The thinking that was originally shared in Parisian coffeehouses eventually made its way into the university system of Europe and then, especially in the seventies and eighties of the last century, into the world of American higher education. Finally, in very recent years, much of this thinking has poured out onto the streets in the form of “wokeism.” In the measure that it is threatening French society—as indeed I think it is—the phrase “the chickens have come home to roost” springs rather readily to mind.

In order to make this plain, I should like to concentrate on the one French theorist that has had the greatest impact on the formation of the “woke” mentality—namely, Michel Foucault. When I commenced my doctoral studies in Paris in 1989, just five years after Foucault’s death, the philosopher’s owlish face looked out from every bookstore window in the city. It was simply impossible to avoid him. Foucault is perhaps best characterized as a twentieth-century disciple of the influential German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche. Famously declaring that God is dead, Nietzsche denied the objectivity of epistemic or moral truth and saw human life as a ruthless power struggle. Decrying Christianity as a “slave morality,” the pathetic attempt of the weak to shame the strong, Nietzsche called for the Übermensch (the over-man or the super-man) to assert his will to power. In a universe void of objective moral values, the Übermensch is to embody his own values and to declare his dominance.

Foucault thoroughly embraced Nietzsche’s atheism and hence denied any objective grounding to moral values. Instead, he interpreted these, whether espoused by Church or secular society, as the means by which powerful people maintained themselves in positions of power. Like Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, Foucault was, accordingly, a master of suspicion, an unmasker of what he took to be pretentious claims to truth. He unfolded his Nietzschean project in a series of massively influential books from the sixties and seventies: Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, The History of Sexuality, and Discipline and Punish. In all of these texts, he engaged in what he called an intellectual archeology, digging underneath the present consensus on matters such as the nature of madness, sexual morality, the legitimacy of incarceration, etc. in order to show that in previous ages, people entertained very different ideas in all of these arenas. The upshot of this move was to demonstrate that what appeared to be objective moral principles and high-sounding language were, in fact, the ever-shifting games played by the powerful.

Now the legion of Foucault’s disciples in the Western academy continued this archeological project after their master’s death, looking especially into issues of colonialism, gender, homosexuality, and race. And what they found in all these areas, unsurprisingly, was a Nietzschean power struggle between oppressors and oppressed. Once awakened to this reality (woke), they endeavored to foment confrontation between the powerless and the powerful, and here the influence of Marx cannot be overlooked; indeed, one of Foucault’s greatest mentors was the French Marxist Louis Althusser. Appeals to order, social norms, objective ethical values should be swept aside, for they are but a camouflage for the real social dynamics. Vive la revolution! I trust that much of this is sadly familiar to any American who endured the worst of 2020’s social upheaval.

I've repeatedly said that, despite postmodernism's protestations to the contrary, postmodernist thinking is allied with Marxism; the two strains of thought naturally go together, and the evidence of their alliance is easy enough to dig up: just look at any humanities department in any American university these days, and you'll find that the people quoting Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari, etc., are the same people offering Marxist critiques of modern capitalism.  The two philosophies—PoMo and Marxism—are united inside a single head and seem to coexist quite harmoniously.  That's the undeniable empirical truth.

If an organization like Black Lives Matter follows the Nietzschean path of "foment[ing] confrontation between the powerless and the powerful," then it should come as no surprise when the leaders of BLM proclaim themselves to be "trained Marxists."  PoMo and Marxist worldviews share a natural affinity.

If I had my dictatorial way, I'd take an axe to the very roots of all PoMo, which has become a cancer that has metastasized throughout American culture over the past half-century or so.  Alas, it may be too late to do anything about the problem.  Only a violent spasm of revolution or counter-revolution will burn out the sickness, and even then, much of it will survive and regrow.  The fight never ends.


*I can already hear my more nitpicky commenters asking, "Are chickens insidious, and do they grow and fester and come back home with a vengeance?"  Fools.  These are karmic chickens, so of course they're insidious, and of course they fester.

Or weren't you paying attention?

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