April 15th, 2007

Steven Brust

On Post-modernism

On the previous rock, raincrowlee asked an interesting question, and one I think deserves its own post:

While I agree with you basic theory that scientific research is being affected by political pressure, I don't understand one of your examples. You said that post-modernists are reactionary thinkers. I've never heard this before, and I was wondering what you meant by this. I thought reactionaries were on the far right of the political agenda, and I don't see how that connects with post-modernism

I most emphatically believe that the post-modernist movement supports the far right, however many (perhaps even most) post-modernists may utter leftist-sounding rhetoric.  Post-modernism rejects an objective reality, which is inherently reactionary--progress comes from constantly striving for a greater understanding of the objective world; to deny there is an objective world works against increasing our knowledge of it.  It is progressive to not only increase knowledge of the world, but to spread this knowledge as widely as possible; to wrap one's arguments in hermetic language is itself reactionary, supporting the position that there is a select "elite" who can understand these issues and cutting pretty much everyone else off from them.

Post-modernism quite openly rejects the Enlightenment; a period in which was formed the notion that, in fact, the world is knowable and can be improved--in particular, can be improved through science and technology.  Post-modernism rejects the notion of making society better.  In what sense is this not reactionary?

Above all, in post-modernism, one finds contempt and even fear of science and technology; yet it is exactly science and technology that have the potential to raise humanity above war, poverty, and misery.  Yes, post-modernism is reactionary.