Critical Theory And The Supposed Post-Truth Era: The Ideological Reaction

The tools that critical theory provides enable the undermining and subversion of established structures of power–political, cultural, discursive, technical, material, governmental, architectural, scientific, moral. They expose ideological pretensions and foundations, thus making it possible to see that all that is seemingly permanent and absolute may rest on evanescence. on historical contingency and accident and luck; they enable a corrosively suspicious response to any claims to political virtue. Critical theory is subversive; it should induce a kind of vertigo of possibility, one tinged with both fear and excitement; moreover, if the kind of critical position it points to is available for all dominant systems of cultural and political and intellectual formations, then it should also induce a fierce counter-reaction to its ‘revolutionary’ possibility, a co-opting of its ‘tools’ to be used against it. That is the least you would examine of any sophisticated ideology with a track record of survival; the ability to utilize the features of its opponents to undermine it.

The current brouhaha about how postmodernism made the Donald Trump presidency possible, by clearing the decks for fake news and alternative facts and truth-free daily briefings for the White House Press Corps and Pinocchio-inspired press spokespersons, by inspiring disrespect for ‘truth’ and ‘justification,’ is part of this counter-reaction. It is perfectly predictable; when those in power are subjected to the critique that their claims carry with them their pretensions to power, that they are invested with their own selfish material interests, that their philosophies are but their autobiographies, they will use those critical tools against the critique itself.

The suggestion that tools of critical analysis, the ones used to unmask pretensions of power, are the ones used to prop up an authoritarian regime that plays fast and loose with ‘facts’ and ‘truth’ and all of the other components of a realist, respectable, scientific, naturalistic epistemology is a reactionary one; and a predictable one too. It is of a piece with all those claims that point out problems with the form and content of protests; never the right time, never making its points in the right way, or speaking at the right volume. When directed at critical theory, this reaction says that your kind of protesting, its form, its methods, its techniques have resulted in the creation of a new and deadlier political and cultural monster; cease and desist with your critical analysis at once. It suggests that our tools are being used against us; we should lay them down at once; we should exert no other form of critical analysis to help us make political, cultural, or epistemic judgments. We should have known all along what was coming at the terminus of this ‘critique’: the claim that power in place should not be criticized, that critique has gone bad.

The perfect predictability of this ideological maneuver makes its deployment unsurprising; the personnel recruited for it–philosophers and journalists–are also the expected ones. Their easy acquiescence might be a little worrisome, of course, but all kinds of resistance breaks down when power comes calling.

2 comments on “Critical Theory And The Supposed Post-Truth Era: The Ideological Reaction

  1. standingoutsideyourwindow says:

    resentment conscience. apply these (((techniques))) to the religion of peace? you wont. you pick at those at the top.

  2. arun says:

    ‘The tools that critical theory provides enable the undermining and subversion of established structures of power’. My dear Samir, you come from India. You know very well that ‘critical theory’ is something only Rahul or his cousin, Varun, understood- that too very briefly while they were doing worthless courses at prestigious Colleges in the West.

    You are a nice guy. It may well be that your family hasn’t hurt or humiliated people of my caste but, instead, enabled us to rise materially. But then, it is our market power that rewarded your ‘progressive’ progenitors.

    There was a brief moment, from 68 to 74, when educated young people of my caste thought we could ‘subvert the structures of power’ by having sex with Upper Caste girls. It was a disaster for our esprit de corps. The truth is penniless Bhrahmin girls, more especially Doctors, make good wives as Dr. Ambedkar well knew.

    Obviously, the imperative that they had to be pimped out so as to maintain Revolutionary consciousness tended to fall by the way side.

    Perhaps you have no female ancestors who were raped. No doubt, you Chopras, thanks to critical theory, were never ethnically cleansed from anywhere.
    Yet some of your own marriage pol were such sorry and malnourished ladies who ‘undermined and subverted established structures of power.’

    Why pretend, Chopra Sahib-soon to be the author of a book on Bollywood War Movies- that you care about the one country, the one people, which does not automatically regard you as stupid and worthless?

    Why?

    Bengali Careerists have an alibi. They were actually doing some shite Math in the paddy fields when Whitey suddenly shone the Nobel Prize Search light upon them.

    What’s your alibi?

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