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Booker’s postmodernism – a dead end morally and spiritually

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JUSTIFYING the decision to prioritise authors of colour when shortlisting works for the Booker Prize, one of the judges, Margaret Busby, argues: ‘Each of us makes judgments through the prism of who we are and what we have learnt or internalised.’

Thus Busby unwittingly reveals what is so destructive, irrational and dangerous about the cultural-Left’s embrace of postmodern theory and politically correct ideology and groupthink.

Whereas judging a literary work once involved evaluating whether it was well-crafted and well-written, and whether it had something significant to say about human nature and the world in which we live, works are now judged through a politically correct prism involving gender, ethnicity, race and class.

For the Woke warriors such as Busby who dominate universities, the media and the publishing and entertainment industries, establishing a criterion based on rationality and reason no longer applies; such concepts are simply social constructs reinforcing European supremacism, capitalism, misogyny and whiteness.

To suggest otherwise by arguing that not everything is subjective and that it’s possible more closely to approximate the truth of things is to marginalise and disempower those victim groups defined as the Other including LGBTIQ+ people, non-Europeans and non-whites.

When detailing the origins of postmodern theory, Roger Scruton in Culture Counts refers to Foucault’s concept of power and discourse.  According to postmodernism there is nothing inherently beneficial or worthwhile about knowledge and truth as all relationships are based on power.

Scruton writes: ‘Truth, Foucault tells us, is not an absolute, which can be understood and assessed in some trans-historical way, as though through the eye of God. Truth is the child of discourse and as discourse changes, so too does the truth contained in it.’

A liberal education based on the established disciplines of knowledge and a commitment to what T S Eliot describes as ‘the pursuit of truth, and in so far as men are capable of it, the attainment of wisdom’ is only one discourse. A discourse imposed by dead white European males (DWEMs) to ensure their continued hegemony, and that must be resisted.

Similarly the word of God has no lasting, absolute or transcendent meaning as the Bible is only one text among many that has to be deconstructed and analysed in terms of power relationships. Worse still according to post-colonial theory, Christianity goes hand in hand with imperialism in exploiting and subjugating the peoples of the third world. 

The new sociology of education movement prevalent in our universities reinforces the belief that there is no truth and it’s impossible to be objective and impartial.  Drawing on Antonio Gramsci’s concept of cultural hegemony and Louis Althusser’s concept of ideological state apparatus, knowledge is condemned as a vehicle to reproduce capitalist domination and control.

The flaws and contradictions in postmodern theory are manifest. If all discourse is relative and subjective, and it’s impossible to be objective, on what basis is it possible to evaluate which discourse is closer to the truth compared to others? The only alternatives to consensus are silence, epistemological suicide or violence.

In Culture Counts, under the heading ‘Absolutist Relativism’ Scruton reveals how postmodern theory while seemingly championing independence and freedom of expression and thought also silences any contradictory voices.

He writes: ‘The inescapable conclusion is that subjectivity, relativity, and irrationalism are advocated not in order to let in all opinion, but precisely so as to exclude the opinions of people who believe in old authorities and objective truths.’

Those who question and fail to conform to what the cultural-Left defines as politically correct are subject to being no-platformed, attacked and vilified on social media and in danger of not being promoted or losing their jobs.

Similar to other totalitarian and authoritarian ideologies, postmodern theory is also guilty of misrepresenting and distorting what it seeks to replace. For example Western civilisation, instead of being monocultural is various, having drawn on a wide and diverse range of other cultures and histories.

The concept of a liberal education associated with Western culture is one that is far from static and trapped in the past. Matthew Arnold in his description of culture centring on ‘the best which has been thought and said’ also argues that education must involve ‘turning a fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits’.

Postmodern theory represents a dead end morally and spiritually.  Betraying its neo-Marxist roots, it embraces a radical secular view of human nature and the world in which we live. By denying Christianity, it enforces a sterile and empty ideology devoid of hope and inspiration.

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Dr Kevin Donnelly
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of A Politically Correct Dictionary and Guide (available at kevindonnelly.com.au)

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