Re: the arrogance of postmodern mumbo jumbo

Thomas L. Billings (
Mon, 16 Sep 1996 11:50:43 -0800

In article <>, wrote:

> Bryant wrote:
> >
> > Stephen Barnard <> wrote:
> > >
> > >>In May, 1996 Alan Sokal, a physicist at NYU, published a paper in
> > >>_Social_Text_, a leading journal of cultural studies. The title of this
> > >>paper was "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative
> > >>Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity."
> >
> > I've wondered if the collapse of socialism played a role in the
> > development of nihilistic postmodern deconstructionism in the academic
> > left. Is the timing of this school's emergence right for that explanation?
> >
> > Bryant
> I don't really think so, Bryant. Postmodernism predates the collapse of
> socialism. My own take on its popularity in academia is that it
> provides a virtually inexhaustible source of publishable (though largely
> unread) papers. That's the absurd thing about academia these days:
> Everyone is writing papers and no one is reading them.
> Another irresistable feature of the postmodern view of science is that
> every math-disabled humanities professor who can't even balance his
> checkbook can be skeptical and comtemptuous of the most abstruse
> technical subjects, because, after all, they are just arbitrary social
> constructs.
> Steve Barnard

I believe that we should also note that Postmodernism has been a wonderful
hook for building political power within various academic hierarchies.
The excuse, that social science, history, etc., was previously used for
political purposes, and was affected by the political currents of various
times, is seen as justifying this, somehow. To me this has always seemed
like using a leaky roof to justify blowing the roof off the house.

In this activity, they have borrowed/continued the old stalinist attitude
that "everything is political". Not surprising, given Foucault's previous
political attitudes. Since the rise of this group dates from the time
when academic socialism began to reach it's peak of political clout in
general society, I look upon it as a derivative of the tactical theories
of socialist poltics, rather than as substantive in itself.


Tom Billings

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