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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

Pluckrose and Lindsey: Postmodernism, Language and Power

If a person does not understand the postmodern worldview they will misunderstand the young and rising left wing generation because they will not understand the philosophy that undergirds their movement. These are not your 1990s liberals! Postmodernism actually began as a movement rooted in literary critique in the latter half of the 20th century. Postmodernism is grounded largely in the idea that social reality is largely determined by language, which is a very interesting concept and true in many respects. Because the Postmodernist see the world as a power struggle they seek to change society by altering and confusing language itself. When this is understood you will start to see why the rising generation of woke leftists use a lot of new words or old words in new ways in order to conflate, confuse or alter the nature of discourse itself. Thus they craft new shiny boxes to sell radical illiberal ideas to the more liberally minded. Liberal scholars Hellen Pluckrose and James Lindsey explore this in their recent book "Cynical Theories".


“Because of their focus on power dynamics, these thinkers argued that the powerful have, both intentionally and inadvertently, organized society to benefit them and perpetuate their power. They have done so by legitimating certain ways of talking about things as true, which then spread throughout society, creating societal rules that are viewed as common sense and perpetuated on all levels. Power is thus constantly reinforced through discourses legitimized or mandated within society, including expectations of civility and reasoned discourse, appeals to objective evidence, and even rules of grammar and syntax. As a result, the postmodernist view is difficult to fully appreciate from the outside because it looks very much like a conspiracy theory. In fact, the conspiracies it alludes to are subtle and, in a way, not conspiracies at all, since there are no coordinated actors pulling the strings; instead, we’re all participants. Theory, then, is a conspiracy theory with no conspirators in particular.

In postmodern Theory, power is not exercised straightforwardly and visibly from above, as in the Marxist framework, but permeates all levels of society and is enforced by everyone, through routine interactions, expectations, social conditioning, and culturally constructed discourses that express a particular understanding of the world. This controls which hierarchies are preserved—through, say, due process of law or the legitimizing mechanism of scientific publishing—and the systems within which people are positioned or coded. In each of these examples, note that it is the social system and its inherent power dynamics that are seen as the causes of oppression, not necessarily willful individual agents. Thus, a society, social system, or institution can be seen as in some way oppressive without any individual involved with it needing to be shown to hold even a single oppressive view.

The postmodernists do not necessarily see the system of oppression as the result of a consciously coordinated, patriarchal, white supremacist, heteronormative conspiracy. Instead, they regard it as the inevitable result of self-perpetuating systems that privilege some groups over others, which constitute an unconscious, uncoordinated conspiracy inherent to systems involving power. They believe, however, that those systems are patriarchal, white supremacist, and heteronormative, and therefore necessarily grant unfair access to straight, white Western men and work to maintain that status quo by excluding the perspectives of women and of racial and sexual minorities. Put more simply, one central belief in postmodern political thought is that powerful forces in society essentially order society into categories and hierarchies that are organized to serve their own interests. They effect this by dictating how society and its features can be spoken about and what can be accepted as true. For example, a demand that someone provide evidence and reasoning for their claims will be seen through a postmodernist Theoretical lens as a request to participate within a system of discourses and knowledge production that was built by powerful people who valued these approaches and designed them to exclude alternative means of communicating and producing “knowledge.” In other words, Theory views science as having been organized in a way that serves the interests of the powerful people who established it—white Western men—while setting up barriers against the participation of others. Thus, the cynicism at the heart of Theory is evident.

Because they focused on self-perpetuating systems of power, few of the original postmodern Theorists advocated any specific political actions, preferring instead to engage in playful disruption or nihilistic despair. Indeed, meaningful change was largely regarded as impossible under the original postmodernism, due to the inherent meaninglessness of everything and the culturally relative nature of morality. Nevertheless, throughout postmodern Theory runs the overtly left-wing idea that oppressive power structures constrain humanity and are to be deplored. This results in an ethical imperative to deconstruct, challenge, problematize (find and exaggerate the problems within), and resist all ways of thinking that support oppressive structures of power, the categories relevant to power structures, and the language that perpetuates them.”

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