Obviously, I had by now known and accepted the premise that English Studies was a battlefield of “textual politics,” and that the players made no bones about their agendas. Previously, critics in the field, like the old New Critics with their plodding close reading of texts, had pretended to be neutral, but their neutrality was merely a thin scrim for cultural domination. Dead white men had ruled the English canon long enough. But this was only the most flagrant of offenses. Other suspects were singled out for prosecution – including an exclusive focus on the text itself (New Criticism), assuming the centrality or superiority of European culture (Eurocentrism), implicitly endorsing heterosexuality as a norm (heteronormativity), believing that humanity is exceptional and that individual humans have unitary selves (humanism), believing in an essence of human nature and/or in the essence of essential types of humans such as racial groups and women and men (essentialism), the belief that neutral knowledge is discoverable by scientific means (positivism), the belief that words might faithfully represent an external reality (logocentrism), and the privileging of the masculine in the construction of meaning (phallogocentrism) – among others. Every one of these notions or beliefs has been treated as a villain, a laughing stock, or both.Read More
Despite its loosely aggregated elements, social justice is arguably the hegemonic paradigm for teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences today. Yet, some scholars have been subjecting the “social justice university” to trenchant criticism, and Heterodox Academy, an organization of professors advocating “viewpoint diversity,” was recently established to combat the overweening influence of social justice ideology in the academy. Meanwhile, a Sokal Hoax redux recently exposed social-justice-inflected fields for political tendentiousness and absurdity, as the lampooners made a mockery of acceptable research in what they pejoratively termed “grievance studies.”
In this talk, I review critiques of social justice then point to several emergent paradigms gaining attention outside of the academy. in New English Review February 2019 February 2019.Read More
In an earlier essay, I offered a brief sketch of the genealogy of social justice mechanisms and beliefs. To date, however, I have yet to examine the philosophical premises of the creed, or formally to offer a theoretical framework or set of frameworks for critiquing and refuting it. This essay represents a first effort at doing both.
First, I will briefly trace a Soviet and a few postmodernist contributions to social justice ideology. Then, I will turn my attention to two major thinkers: Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche – in order to find ways that the two thinkers may be adduced to provide resources for understanding and critically assessing the social justice ideology.Read More