Posts in cultural politicss
From Chapter 5: The Seduction of Theory: Excerpt from Springtime for Snowflakes: "Social Justice" and Its Postmodern Parentage

Had my dad understood it, my graduate school enrollment in “Literary and Cultural Theory” would have struck him as tantamount to madness, like self-commitment to an insane asylum. After the Ginsberg apprenticeship, which definitively ended any remaining prospects I had for medical school, he wouldn’t have had tears left to cry…..
So, twelve years after the Ginsberg apprenticeship and after work- ing in broadcast advertising for nine years, by my early thirties, I finally decided to become a literature professor. Read more…

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Libertarianism(s) versus Postmodernism and "Social Justice" Ideology

A peculiar phrase recently introduced into the political lexicon by media cognoscenti describes a new corporate philosophy: “woke capitalism. Coined by Ross Douthat of the New York Times, woke capitalism refers to a burgeoning wave of companies that apparently have become advocates of social justice. Some major corporations now intervene in social and political issues and controversies, partaking in a new corporate activism. The newly “woke” corporations support activist groups and social movements, while adding their voices to political debates. Woke capitalism has endorsed Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo Movement, contemporary feminism, LGBTQ rights, and immigration activism, among other leftist causes.
This Ludwig von Mises Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Yousif Almoayyed, was delivered at the Mises Institute on March 22, 2019. The video of the talk can be found here.

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Libertarianism(s) versus Postmodernism and "Social Justice" Ideology (Video)

A peculiar phrase recently introduced into the political lexicon by media cognoscenti describes a new corporate philosophy: “woke capitalism. Coined by Ross Douthat of the New York Times, woke capitalism refers to a burgeoning wave of companies that apparently have become advocates of social justice. Some major corporations now intervene in social and political issues and controversies, partaking in a new corporate activism. The newly “woke” corporations support activist groups and social movements, while adding their voices to political debates. Woke capitalism has endorsed Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo Movement, contemporary feminism, LGBTQ rights, and immigration activism, among other leftist causes.

The Ludwig von Mises Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Yousif Almoayyed. Recorded at the Mises Institute on March 22, 2019. Includes an introduction by Joseph T. Salerno.

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First as Tragedy, Then as Farce: How Marx Predicted the Fate of Marxism

A few months ago, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Marx’s famous statement, the title of this essay and a rejoinder to Hegel’s supposed remark—“that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice”—had been appropriated by the contemporary Slovenian Marxist and psychoanalytic theorist Slavoj Žižek, for the title of one of his books. I was disappointed because I had considered using the title myself. I was surprised because, not having read Žižek’s entire oeuvre, I hadn’t known of his appropriation. Further, quite apart from my own intended (and past casual) use, I was astonished to see how unselfconscious and lacking in intentional irony Žižek had been in naming a book about capitalism First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (2009).

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“Social Justice” and Its Postmodern Parentage

At the moment postmodern theory lay dying in the academy, it bore a child, namely, “social justice.” Social justice gestated within the university as postmodern theory ruled the roost. It was nursed during the Occupy movement and the Obama era. The financial crisis left its hapless followers in search of empowerment. It took root on the internet on social media. But because its parent had taught it that the object world is not real, or else that the world at large was beyond one’s purview, the child of postmodern theory could only change itself, as well as, so it imagined, those who bore signs of its oppressors. In Academic Questions. 31.2. (10 April 2018): 130-139.

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(Part of The New Thought Police – Social Justice Warriors) (Video).

As a growing body of scholars and public intellectuals suggest, nothing less than a moral revolution is underway in liberal society, broadly construed. The old rules of speech and behavior are giving way to a new package of moral and political imperatives. As illustrated regularly on college campuses and beyond, the advocates of this new moral creed aim to enforce adherence to their beliefs with the ferocity of religious zealots. The political and quasi-religious creed is known as “social justice,” and the rationale for its enforcement is to protect and promote the members of marginalized identity groups. Far from being limited to a few student activists and keyboard warriors, the social justice creed has been adopted by a majority of North American university administrations and codified in university policies. And social justice has also traveled far afield of academia, exerting a growing influence on social media, mass media, corporate America, and other elements of the broader culture….Vox News. 14 June 2017.

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Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, Bias Reporting: The New Micro-techniques of Surveillance and Control

A singular orthodoxy has infiltrated the discursive parameters of U.S. and other universities and colleges. This orthodoxy now constitutes the ethical vocabulary of academia. Adopted from feminism, anti-racism, and LGBTQ theory and practice, the language, doctrines, and mechanisms of this orthodoxy now dominate academia's policies, procedures and handbooks. The terminology has become the vernacular among the swelling ranks of administrators, especially the relatively new cohort of chief diversity officers, directors of diversity, associate provosts of diversity, assistant provosts of diversity, diversity consultants, and so on and so on. I refer not merely to the orthodoxy of "diversity," but in particular to "diversity" initiatives as they are currently administered, using a particular set of policies, procedures, and mechanisms: trigger warnings, safe spaces, bias reporting, and the like.

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On the Origins and Character of “Social Justice”

One of the great ironies of Western political history involves the term “social justice.” Although a core idea within liberalism and socialism for at least 175 years, the background and origin of “social justice” was a cultural and political conservatism. The irony of the “cultural appropriation” of social justice by liberalism and socialism has recently redoubled. Suggestive of a seemingly undeniably intangible good—that is, of just, fair, well-ordered, and harmonious social relations—social justice is now implicated in fierce and sometimes violent antagonisms. Social justice crystallizes in two words some of the most contentious issues roiling North American politics today. Contemporary social justice bears little resemblance to the original social justice or even more recent movements that have gone by the same name.

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Introduction: Global Secularisms in a Post-Secular Age

One of the great ironies of Western political history involves the term “social justice.” Although a core idea within liberalism and socialism for at least 175 years, the background and origin of “social justice” was a cultural and political conservatism. The irony of the “cultural appropriation” of social justice by liberalism and socialism has recently redoubled. Suggestive of a seemingly undeniably intangible good—that is, of just, fair, well-ordered, and harmonious social relations—social justice is now implicated in fierce and sometimes violent antagonisms. Social justice crystallizes in two words some of the most contentious issues roiling North American politics today. Contemporary social justice bears little resemblance to the original social justice or even more recent movements that have gone by the same name. [n Michael Rectenwald, Rochelle Almeida and George Levine, eds. Global Secularisms in a Post- Secular Age. Boston: De Gruyter (2015): 1-24.

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The Construction and Deconstruction of Science in Middlemarch

The fictionalizing of science happens to be a meta-theme in Middlemarch, and one which, I will argue, Eliot sets out consciously and masterfully to interrogate. In the process, I hope to show that Eliot's use of science is far from naive or merely syncretic. To the contrary, I will venture to argue that in Middlemarch Eliot actually anticipates a greater discursive shift in scientific theory of which Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (l962) is the watermark in the philosophy of science, and which Michel Foucault marks and notes in his various archaeologies of knowledge. In Victorian Web. 1 December 2008.

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Science in the Popularis Aura: Opening Statement delivered in defense of the dissertation: “The Publics of Science: Periodicals and the Making of British Science, 1820-1860”

As Thomas Carlyle quipped in 1829 in “Signs of the Times,” in the nineteenth century, “every little sect among us, Unitarians, Utilitarians, Anabaptists, Phrenologists, must have its Periodical, its monthly or quarterly Magazine;-- hanging out, like its windmill, into the popularis aura, to grind meal for the society.” In my dissertation, “The Publics of Science: Periodicals and the Making of British Science, 1820-1860,” I have endeavored to study the “machinery” for the production and dissemination of science in culture—to examine how various sects or publics provided scientific “meal for the society.” Examining several periodicals from early to mid-nineteenth-century Britain, my dissertation is an account of emerging sites for the production, dissemination, negotiation, and appropriation of knowledge amongst various participants—authors, publishers, editors, reviewers, critics, readers and others—as they vied for (and against) cultural authority on the basis of beliefs claimed as “scientific.”  

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An Apprentice’s Appreciation: Learning and Growing as a Poet, With Allen Ginsberg for a Guide: A Eulogy for Allen Ginsberg

In the fall of l979, I received a missive from Allen Ginsberg, scribbled in typical Ginsbergese, rife with ampersands and dashes, his response to a 19-year-old's small batch of poems. It was as if I awoke to a dream to which I'd suddenly become accustomed, a feeling that came to characterize most of my experience of him. in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 20 April 1997.

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