Why Get 'Sokaled'? (was Re: it's the Science vs. Ideology show)

Charles Brown CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Tue Nov 2 08:41:12 PST 1999

My impression is that Foucault and post-modernists, post-structuralists, deconstructions, et al. , have worthwhile purposes in their projects , especially in the academic contexts in which many of these projects are initiated. With respect to Marxism they have sought to critique its shortcomings with respect to especially women's and lesbian/gay liberation, and build a fuller and united all-around human liberation movement. The criticism of Marxism also allows them to avoid some of the deeply entrenched and widespread redbaiting and anti-Marxism of bourgeois academe which is as old as Marxism itself. I suspect this "left" anti-Marxism is both non-sectarian and opportunist.

The real test of the posties' project(s) is , of course, practice, both in and out of the academy. Critique of the power relations impacting both natural and social sciences is not new. Classical Marxism provides an unexhausted method for this. For example, Newton focussed on mechanics because the bourgeoisie were moving toward the machines of the industrial revolution. Clearly the Newtonian episteme is shaped by capitalist power. The postie critiques of this type of thing seem to lose track of the valid Marxist analysis of epistemology rooted in class power relations and return to a pre- and post Marxist, Kantian and Nietschzean route for this, again perhaps in part to avoid redbaiting. However, theoretically this approach does not face up to the Marxist critique of Kantian dualism and Nietschzean irrationalism, and thus it feels like a fake newness. Sometimes I want to say "who do you think you are kidding ? I have a more radical critique of epistemology than you do ".

Yet , if postism accomplishes some revival of practical-critical activity, we can talk.

I have not seen or heard of a lot of significant postie practice outside of the academy. I did see an NYT articles saying that the current President of Venezuela called himself a postmodern politician. His initial actions in office do not seem to be neo-liberalism. This is the most promising form of postie practice ( if it is really that) I have heard of.


>>> Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu> 11/02/99 10:58AM >>>
>> Charles: What means "absolute integrity"? Is this a mathematical concept
>freakin' hope not. whatever you do, please don't mention it to sokal,

One question that I have about the Sokal Affair concerns why postmodernists did not, and generally do not, limit the applicability of their arguments to _how people most commonly come to understand the social relations_. While still not quite true, postmodernism and sophisticated pragmatism should sound quite convincing to non-Marxists if their observations were limited to the above (though political implications of their philosophical premises do not tend towards emancipatory ends, since they deconstruct emancipatory ends themselves). If their critical enterprise were more modest, they wouldn't have gotten 'Sokaled,' at least.


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