Monday, 14 August 2017

Bonus Quote of the Day: On how yesterday’s postmodern philosophy delivered today’s identity politics


"By the 1950s … the failure of Marxism to develop according to the logic of its traditional theory was reaching a crisis. The merging of these two developments yielded the surging to prominence of non-rational and irrationalist Left socialisms. The symptoms were many. One was manifest in the splintering of the monolithic Marxist movement into many sub-movements emphasising the socialism of sex, race, and ethnic identity.
"The international proletariat is a highly abstract concept. The universality of all human interests is a very sweeping generalization. Both abstraction and generalization require a strong confidence in the power of reason, and by the 1950s that confidence in reason had evaporated.
"The loss of confidence in reason implied, as a matter of practical politics, that the intellectuals now had even less confidence in the average person’s capacity for abstract reasoning. It is hard enough for a trained intellectual to conceive, as classical Marxism requires, of all of humankind as ultimately members of a universal class sharing the same universal interests. But—the more epistemologically-modest theorists of the 1950s begin to ask—can we really expect the masses to abstract to the view that we are all brothers and sisters under the skin? Can the masses conceive of themselves as a harmonious international class? The intellectual capacity of the masses is much more limited, so appealing to and mobilising the masses requires speaking to them about what matters to them and on a level that they can grasp. What the masses can understand and what they do get fired up about are their sexual, racial, ethnic, and religious identities. Both epistemological modesty and effective communication strategy, then, dictated a move from universalism to [so-called] multiculturalism. In effect, by the late 1950s and early 1960s, significant portions of the Left came to agree with the collectivist Right on yet another issue: Forget internationalism, universalism, and cosmopolitanism; focus on smaller groups formed on the basis of ethnic, racial, or other identities...

“'Our sense of solidarity is strongest [explained philosopher Richard Rorty] when those with whom solidarity is expressed are ‘one of us,’ where ‘us’ means something small and more local than the human race.’"

~ Stephen Hicks, from pages 158-159 of his book Explaining Postmodernism

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