Category Archives: Postmodernism

Ignorance supports one side in the class struggle – rationality the other

“Ignorance has become a virtue” is a theses argued by Tom Nichols in a timely book, reviewed in New York Times the other day. The author has of course plenty of recent illustrations with which to back up his supposition. But hasn’t this race into darkness been in the works long before Trump?

After the failed attempts of revolution in the 1960s, progressives had difficulties in dealing with their disappointment. Some of them (also “leftists” in their own mind) made an about-face and ended up in the arms of Saussure, Nietzsche, Heidegger and other solid reactionaries (and, occasionally, Nazis). They effectively declared the end of all factual knowledge, roughly claiming that reality existed only in language and nowhere else.

It all started in France but spread like a flu to the “soft” departments of western academia, such as literary studies, social sciences and the like. Their scholars, who had lived in the shadow of natural sciences, now got a weapon against the intrusive scientists with their annoying claims to know anything about the reality (that the “soft” scholars had no clue about themselves). These delicate minds called their teaching by different names, often beginning with “post”, but may for simplicity all be named “postmodernists”.

Michel Foucault, a kingpin among them, asserted that every narrative was as true as anyone else, only too late realizing that such theses can be aimed at itself, making it arbitrarily true or false. This is the level of postmodern thinking, only becoming increasingly absurd when the proud new thinkers ventured into science (hilariously undressed by Sokal and Bricmont).

The emperor’s new clothes come certainly to mind here. Postmodernists don’t seem to realize how naked they are. Noam Chomsky has famously said about them (paraphrasing): of the lashings of postmodern verbiage there is, I only understand a small part, and that is either truisms or false.

When large parts of the academic world have grown accustomed to believing in nonsense, it could not be surprising to find the political apparatus going down the same path. Is there even a class analysis to make here?

Postmodernism and neoliberalism are roughly contemporaries. The forceful counterattack by Capital, starting late 1970s, swept through the western world and stunned the progressives. Those “leftists” who retreated into the postmodern nonsense world became in effect fifth columnist. They distracted popular opposition by combatting the most important instrument for people’s struggle: rationality.

If I were a multi-billionaire, strictly caring about my own money, I would certainly encourage and support every stupid prophet who deceives people into all kinds of gibberish that takes their eyes off me and my absurd wealth. Postmodernism has served that duty quite well, as far as it reaches.

Now the political world itself has been endowed with a master deceiver who certainly will do as much he has time for to lure and betray his electorate. Ignorance has not just become a virtue; it has been made a main principle by a ruling class that has everything to gain from public stupidity and everything to fear from rational class analysis.

EU information war against Russia – a lying contest?

“EU readies action plan to counter Russian media ‘disinformation’” says Thursday, referring to leaked documents. My “anti-disinformation” paper Dagens Nyheter obviously intercepted the leak and started the counter-attack already on Wednesday. They didn’t assign their sharpest pen for the task so the different lines of thought in his article were not necessarily consistent with one another.

The brave thinker had incidentally found one brilliant crux in the apparent success for Russian propagandists, who namely have discovered the weak spot in western societies: our inclination for the postmodern fantasy that there are no facts, just different narratives. That the absolute truth belongs with western media is obviously an axiom and was not even mentioned. Instead a number of Russian false narratives were lined up. Some examples:

It’s a lie that Russia didn’t plan the occupation of Crimea. It’s a lie that Russian regular troops haven’t been commanded to fight in Ukraine. It’s a lie that the Kiev government ordered the shoot-down of the Malaysian passenger plane. And the scribbler is apparently cocksure that he owns the truth, though he has not a shred of evidence to support it with. He doesn’t even suggest that there is any need whatsoever to supply evidence, or even reasonable arguments.

And this is the center of the real postmodern fog we move around in:

– We “are convinced at heart” that Putin has evil intentions.
– We “know” that Russia is waging a war of aggression on Ukraine.
– We “are certain” that Putin and Russian media are lying about probably all crucial events.
– It took the Swedish foreign minister two hours to definitely “establish” that MH17 was shot down by pro-Russian rebels assisted by Russians.
– Although a steadily increasing number of factors point at the Ukrainian Air Force as the perpetrator, it’s still “self evident” that the Russians are to blame.
– It’s “of course” Putin that lies behind the killings of Nemtsov and the other journalists who met the same fate.
– And if it isn’t Putin personally it’s his “spirit”, and therefor “his name will forever be tied to these murders” as another journalist in the same paper put it.

With their almost pathological capacity of self-justification our journalists cannot even dream of having to prove anything of what they claim. And conversely it’s presupposed that everything that “the enemy” says is a lie, sometimes even when proof is evident.

But the main strategy of monitoring the “truth” in western media is to avoid, repress or silence everything that speaks in favor of “the enemy”, but the more meticulously sort out and magnify every little enemy aberration to be found.

“We are the truth!” is our media credo (with divine inspiration); don’t have us provide any proof of what we claim!

The author I’ve mentioned had the guts to call on – everybody else supposedly – to “pursue the truth” as a means to counter the Russian “Information war”!!

At this point I just had to go for a walk in the sunshine.

Why did Sweden succumb to neoliberalism?

Noam kindly answered my mail, asking if I could provide him with references to written material, preferably in English, about the dire developments in Sweden the past years. (The only authors I could think of are themselves neoliberal believers who don’t even see the problems.) If any reader of these lines have information of that sort, please post a message!

A few words to Noam in reply:

Although I’m following media and the debate as close as I can, it’s my impression that there is no substantial scholarly work on controversial issues in the social and political fields in this country. Here we are lagging miles behind the US, as I conclude from your lectures. We are a compromising consensus people always trying to avoid controversies in well-washed circles. Thus I have no references to any reliable work on the current and serious problems in Sweden. The debate goes on in the ordinary media, thus mainly in Swedish.

One episode two years ago illustrates this provincial condition quite well. A research institute called SNS published a study in which they concluded the absence of proof that privatization of welfare services had made them better or less costly. The main reason was simply that no substantial research to evaluate the privatizations had been performed by anyone. This seemingly uncontroversial conclusion nevertheless caused uproar in business circles, and thus also in media. The CEO of SNS got cold feet and muzzled the main author of the report, which was a little too much even for right wing papers, and the reverse pressure eventually forced the CEO to resign.

SNS’ history is interesting in itself. It was created as a joint venture between labor and capital shortly after the last war, when business leaders still were somewhat defensive after the Russian (and labor) victory. Serious discussions in Sweden even opened for the possibility of a command economy. As one way of approaching the unions some more progressive business leaders suggested the creation of SNS, through which the two parties could share findings reached by impartial research. (But who’s the real boss was revealed by the scandal.)

One other important obstacle to productive scholarship in these areas is the dominant postmodern deconstruction of reason the last decades, from which the formerly rational Sweden hasn’t been spared. An illustrative example highlighted the issue some years ago. The government was about to appoint a new principal of a medium-sized university and presented a postmodernist professor, Moira von Wright, for the job. A number of science professors reacted publicly in protest, calling von Wright “an enemy of science”, based on statements of hers such as: “Gender-aware and gender sensitive physics requires a relational approach to physics and that a lot of the traditional scientific knowledge content of physics be removed”. She was of course appointed and remains at the job.

Sweden is a small country, still showing a lot of characteristics from the backward farmers’ society which is just a couple of generations away. In moments of self-awareness we call our country a duck-pond, referring to the restricted and sometimes claustrophobic debate environment we have to endure.

That’s why it is so liberating to listen to you on the Internet. It may be that information is filtered in the US, but it’s there anyway, and you bring it to us. Here everything is stirred down in media porridge and no one bothers. It’s in fact no great wonder that a neoliberal (and postmodern) breakdown of the magnitude we have experienced the past decade can take place without much ado.