Why the Left Will Lose to the Extreme Left

Helen Pluckrose  once wrote an article entitled, HOW FRENCH “INTELLECTUALS” RUINED THE WEST: POSTMODERNISM AND ITS IMPACT, EXPLAINED.  Pluckrose is “a researcher in the humanities who focuses on late medieval/early modern religious writing for and about women.   She is critical of postmodernism and cultural constructivism which she sees as currently dominating the humanities.”

She notes, “We on the Left should be very afraid of what “our side” has produced.”

Indeed.

Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself. That may sound like a bold or even hyperbolic claim, but the reality is that the cluster of ideas and values at the root of postmodernism have broken the bounds of academia and gained great cultural power in western society.

Yes, postmodernism has entrenched itself throughout academia – the humanities, the social sciences, and even the administration.  The last hold out are the natural sciences, but as we have seen from the March for Science, it is making significant inroads even there.  And this is not merely an academic concern.  For if the universities become a source of postmodern indoctrination, remember it is the university which produces the public opinion makers – journalists, filmmakers, political activists, teachers, lawyers, judges, etc.

So what does this portend?

It has been a matter of contention whether postmodernism is a reaction against modernity. The modern era is the period of history which saw Renaissance Humanism, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution and the development of liberal values and human rights; the period when Western societies gradually came to value reason and science over faith and superstition as routes to knowledge, and developed a concept of the person as an individual member of the human race deserving of rights and freedoms rather than as part of various collectives subject to rigid hierarchical roles in society.

Postmodernism seeks to dismantle all of this, one nut and bolt at a time.

Pluckrose does a good job explaining postmodernism and outlines how it can dismantle the sciences:

Despite this, science as a methodology is not going anywhere. It cannot be “adapted” to include epistemic relativity and “alternative ways of knowing.” It can, however, lose public confidence and thereby, state funding, and this is a threat not to be underestimated. Also, at a time in which world rulers doubt climate change, parents believe false claims that vaccines cause autism and people turn to homeopaths and naturopaths for solutions to serious medical conditions, it is dangerous to the degree of an existential threat to further damage people’s confidence in the empirical sciences.

Oh, but there is more to it than that.  If you think how the March for Science is merging the scientific community with the hyper-politicized postmodern movement, as I have explained before, public confidence and funding is likely to suffer.  What’s more, once postmodernists begin acquiring more and more power to distribute state funding (because only racists, homophobes, sexists, and transphobes would dare deny them such participation), identity politics will begin to determine what science does and does not do.

Things are even worse for the rest of academia:

The social sciences and humanities, however, are in danger of changing out of all recognition. Some disciplines within the social sciences already have. Cultural anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and gender studies, for example, have succumbed almost entirely not only to moral relativity but epistemic relativity. English (literature) too, in my experience, is teaching a thoroughly postmodern orthodoxy. Philosophy, as we have seen, is divided. So is history.

So how do we stop this intellectual death spiral?  Pluckhouse writes:

In order to regain credibility, the Left needs to recover a strong, coherent and reasonable liberalism. To do this, we need to out-discourse the postmodern-Left. We need to meet their oppositions, divisions and hierarchies with universal principles of freedom, equality and justice. There must be a consistency of liberal principles in opposition to all attempts to evaluate or limit people by race, gender or sexuality. We must address concerns about immigration, globalism and authoritarian identity politics currently empowering the far- Right rather than calling people who express them “racist,” “sexist” or “homophobic” and accusing them of wanting to commit verbal violence. We can do this whilst continuing to oppose authoritarian factions of the Right who genuinely are racist, sexist and homophobic, but can now hide behind a façade of reasonable opposition to the postmodern-Left.

Our current crisis is not one of Left versus Right but of consistency, reason, humility and universal liberalism versus inconsistency, irrationalism, zealous certainty and tribal authoritarianism. The future of freedom, equality and justice looks equally bleak whether the postmodern Left or the post-truth Right wins this current war. Those of us who value liberal democracy and the fruits of the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution and modernity itself must provide a better option.

I appreciate the efforts, but I’m afraid that’s not going to work.  You can’t out-discourse a movement that does not recognize the value of discourse.  They will respond to your efforts at discourse with various forms of censorship.

Look, postmodernism is simply the natural outcome of an atheistic worldview.  When you deny the existence of God, you also end up denying many things about humanity. And that is what is playing out here. It’s a package deal. The Left was able to champion the universal principles of freedom, equality and justice, along with consistency, reason, humility.  But those are values and principles borrowed from the Judeo-Christian worldview.  Those are things Christians have long learned about in their churches – realities nested in the Larger Reality of God.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Left was able to dispense with God and retain such universal principles only because of the inertia of the Judeo-Christan culture it found itself in.  But that inertia is dissipating. It was never sustainable.  So the Left is standing there insisting on universal principles in a reality that is nothing more than matter and energy. It speaks of  freedom, equality and justice, but the universe doesn’t care about such things.  With nothing to back up those claims, the postmodern Left simply takes the next logical step and insists those universal principles themselves are as delusional as God.  Without the Judeo-Christian cultural inertia, the Left naturally transforms into the postmodern Left.

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7 Responses to Why the Left Will Lose to the Extreme Left

  1. I expect that the postmodernists, if left to run unchecked, will eventually be steamrollered by Islam.

  2. I would say that postmodernism is more than simply the natural outcome of an atheistic worldview, but that it’s also the natural outcome of a modern worldview, making it a kind of reductio ad absurdum of modernity. In my opinion, the fundamental difference between modernity and pre-modernity is that (to paraphrase CS Lewis), for the pre-modern sage, the universe was taken as a given, and the main goal of learning was to conform human desires to the universe via a process of reason, wisdom, and self-discipline; for the modern intellectual, on the other hand, human desires are taken as a given, and the main goal of learning is to conform the universe to human desires using science and technological manipulation. A good encapsulation of the modern view is David Hume’s statement that “reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions”, i.e., reason can’t tell us what we should or shouldn’t want to do, only whether or not a given course of action will efficiently fulfil our non-rational desires.

    Postmodernism, I contend, is simply this modern attitude taken to its (il)logical extreme. Say I desire to believe X, but science says not-X — well then, so much the worse for science. We’re taking my desires as a given, remember, meaning that you aren’t allowed to say that they’re wrong or nonsensical or irrational. You’ve just got to accept them, and to accept any changes that might be necessary for me to believe X. Ditto with things like human rights, or abstract principles like justice or reciprocity — if the only way to fulfil my desire is by trampling on these things, then trample on them I must. The alternative would be to say that my desire is wrong or irrational, and this has already been ruled out by the principles of modernity. In fact, the only thing that could legitimately stop me from carrying out my desire is a contrary desire of equal or greater importance, which is why so much of contemporary postmodernist discourse consists of arguing over which people’s desires should take precedence over others’.

    The best example of this is, of course, gender theory. If I desire to be a woman, then everyone else must allow me to be a woman, and if biology, cultural norms, society’s conception of what it means to be human, etc., disagree, then they must all be changed to whatever extent is necessary for me to live and be counted as a woman.

  3. Ilíon says:

    Postmodernism, I contend, is simply this modern attitude taken to its (il)logical extreme.

    I would say, “Postmodernism … is simply this modern attitude taken to its logical-yet-irrational extreme”, or “… irrationally logical extreme”.

  4. I agree entirely with the suggestion that human beings in the West have now reached the stage whereby we think we can make things true simply by wanting it hard enough or screaming loud enough at the people we think are withholding it from us.

    We truly do worship ourselves as if we were God.

    I’m not sure what can rescue a person from that kind of madness, other than the shock of reality coming to bite them in painful life experiences.

  5. Ian Bibby says:

    What Helen fails to understand is that post-modernism is just modernist secularism taken to its logical conclusion, which is absolute moral AND epistemic relativity.

    Materialist reductionism carries the same implications for the idea of universal truth and universal laws of logic as it does for the idea of universal laws of morality.

    There is no way for Helen to defend the concepts of objective truth and reason from the atheistic premises that she shares with the post-modernists, hence she has no way of fighting back against them. Those premises can only be defended from theistic, teleological premises, premises that she dismisses as “superstition.”

    Helen HERSELF is infected with post-modernism. Look at the first thing she chooses to highlight as the consequence of society embracing post-modernism: that “world rulers doubt climate change” – the most politics-driven “science” of the past several decades until just recently. For years now, global warming alarmists have been hiding and “losing” data, using lawsuits rather than evidence to silence skeptics, churning out garbage polls by journalists using dishonest methodology to prove “consensus” for rhetorical firepower, using globetrotting 16-year-olds as “experts” for propaganda purposes, and more.

    The blatantly propagandistic tactics the “climate change” lobby has been using for decades is Exhibit A in the creeping war on objectivity in the natural sciences that has got us to this point, and Helen is fully on board with it, but only notices the post-modernism when it starts slaughtering HER political sacred cows as well.

    Like you said, the secular liberals have no chance of winning against the Left.

  6. Ilíon says:

    Why the Left Will Lose to the Extreme Left

    … is because “He who says ‘A’, must also say ‘B’

    That is: if ‘Proposition A’ logically entails ‘Proposition B’, and if one affirms ‘A’, then one has also, at minimum, implicitly, affirmed ‘B’. And the implicit affirmation must eventually be explicit.

  7. Dhay says:

    From Helen Pluckrose’s Areo article:

    “Postmodernist thought sees the culture as containing a number of perpetually competing stories, whose effectiveness depends … upon their appeal to the communities in which they circulate.”

    https://areomagazine.com/2017/03/27/how-french-intellectuals-ruined-the-west-postmodernism-and-its-impact-explained/

    Why do particular stories appeal to particular communities? Jerry Coyne, reviewing Pluckrose’s and James Lindsay’s new book, “Critical Cynical Theories” expresses it as:

    …the second [the “postmodern political principle” — Dhay] is the basis for all “Social Justice” activism.

    Their schema involves four “themes” of postmodernism: the blurring of boundaries, the power of language, cultural relativism, and the loss of the individual and the universal. The last principle involves a vision of society as a mixture of identity groups competing for power: a zero-sum jockeying to oppress others, with cis white males currently on top.
    [My emphasis — Dhay.]

    https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2020/07/31/social-justice-then-and-now/

    Seen like that, Social Justice and Wokeness are not primarily about social justice, fairness, co-operation, commonweal, freedom from oppression, etc, but about imposing dominance and oppressions on others in a dog-eat-dog world red in tooth and claw (so to speak) where the strongest or most ruthless thrive.

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