I dunno, but it’s there, it hungers, it please when fed….

And so, I delighted upon stumbling onto this oldie-but-goodie, in which I found this quote from Katha Pollit:

the biggest misconstruction, of course, is that “the academic left,” a k a postmodernists and deconstructionists, is the left, even on campus. When I think of scholars who are doing important and valuable intellectual work on the left I think of Noam Chomsky and Adolph Reed, of historians like Linda Gordon and Eric Foner and Rickie Solinger and Natalie Zemon Davis; I think of scientists like Richard C. Lewontin, Stephen Jay Gould; feminists like Ann Snitow and Susan Bordo. None of these people — and the many others like them — dismiss reason, logic, evidence and other Enlightenment watchwords. All write clearly, some extremely well. All build carefully on previous scholarly work — the sociology and history of science, for example, goes back to the 1930s — to approach that “truth” that has somehow become the right’s possession. As if Charles Murray is a disinterested scholar!

How “the left” came to be identified as the pomo left would make an interesting Ph.D. thesis. I suspect it has something to do with the decline of actual left-wing movements outside academia, with the development in the 1980s of an academic celebrity system that meshes in funny, glitzy ways with the worlds of art and entertainment, with careerism — the need for graduate students, in today’s miserable job market, to defer to their advisers’ penchant for bad puns and multiple parentheses, as well as their stranger and less investigated notions. What results is a pseudo-politics, in which everything is claimed in the name of revolution and democracy and equality and anti-authoritarianism, and nothing is risked, nothing, except maybe a bit of harmless cross-dressing, is even expected to happen outside the classroom.

How else explain how pomo leftists can talk constantly about the need to democratize knowledge and write in a way that excludes all but the initiated few? Indeed, the comedy of the Sokal incident is that it suggests that even the postmodernists don’t really understand one another’s writing and make their way through the text by moving from one familiar name or notion to the next like a frog jumping across a murky pond by way of lily pads. Lacan…performativity…Judith Butler…scandal…(en)gendering (w)holeness…Lunch!

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