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I think this is an important QuoraAnswer I gave on PostModernism.

My repost to a lot of the nonsense spouted today.

Quora Answer : Why are so many French academics behind the postmodernist/ Neo-Marxism movement?

Feb 1, 2018

Neo Marxism and Post-modernism don't mean the same thing. Though both could be found in France at around the same time, and they influenced each other so if you aren't looking too closely they may seem to blur together.

What's important is that these are the philosophies that flourished in Paris in the 25 years or so after the second world war.

The experience of French intellectuals from that war included :

  • close acquaintance and experience of real, right-wing fascism and anti-Semitism.
  • the occupation of Paris, one of the capitals of European culture, philosophy and the pinnacles of intellectual civilization, by Germans, another supposedly civilized culture, that had become horrifically base
  • war, destruction, death, annihilation on an unprecedented scale.

And these Parisian thinkers weren't just close to this stuff in an abstract sense. They had lived through it all.

So here were the concerns that intellectuals in Paris needed to answer :

  • how could European "civilization" with all its purported rationality, wealth and sophistication have collapsed into such utter barbarity?
  • how could so many people lack the courage or ability to take a moral stand, to assert what they as individuals knew was right, but instead let themselves be sucked into the madness of fascism and war? (Remember, as always, the real problem of the Nazis is not "how come the Nazis were so evil?" The real problem of the Nazis is "how come the rest of the Germans let them get away with it?")

Today, writing on Quora from the comfort of America in the 21st century, people sneer at post-modernists as though they were obviously idiots who attacked the foundations of Western civilization and rationality either out of some kind of childish, sophomoric desire to show off; or because they were secret Communist operatives trying to subvert Western civilization and soften it up for Stalin to take over.

This is, to put it politely, balderdash.

The post-modernists attacked the foundations of Western civilization and rationality because they had just had a front-row seat to watch how Western civilization and rationality had royally fucked up!

Because 50+ million people dead, industrial genocide, gas-chambers, and half of Europe reduced to rubble in less than 10 years, is not a good advert for the Enlightenment.

That is why Paris was full of people who were rejecting the Enlightenment and the liberal values it spawned. They believed that those values of Western civilization and rationality paved the road to the holocaust.

Now today, there's a line that says, it's not the enlightenment or liberal order that's responsible. It was those perversions of Communism and Fascism.

That assertion seriously underestimates how much Communism and Fascism have their intellectual roots in, and claimed continuity with, the rest of the modern Enlightenment project. Today it's easy to imagine that Communism and Fascism were very obviously completely distinct and disconnected from "normal" people who had the same kind of values as we do, and lived "normal" lives with reasonable aspirations.

But of course that's not the way it was.

To the Germans in the 1930s, fascism wasn't about psychopathic nutters who wanted to kill Jews. It was about the excitement of modernity, technology, affordable motor-cars, aeroplanes, and re-organizing their society along the same successful lines as the modern factories. Germans were finally becoming rich and productive and self-confident again, after the bad days following the first world war. Throwing off the enervating weakness and confusions of unsatisfactory democracy, and reasserting their rights against neighbours who had been taking advantage of them for years after their humiliating defeat.

Communists had a similar story to tell, with added equality. Communism and Fascism promised all the good stuff that any rational, self-interested, civilized heir to the Enlightenment would find totally logical and desirable.

So, yeah, if you were a French intellectual who had just watched how European pretensions and certainties had collapsed into an all out bloodbath, you would start looking for a philosophy that explained humanity differently and aspired to different values too.

Related :

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Could someone explain the essence of postmodernism?

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to If pre-modernism is associated as the age of romanticism and if modernism is associated with the age of enlightenment, what age is post-moderism associated with?

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Who came up with the idea/conspiracy of Cultural Marxism?

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Is 'cultural Marxism real? Or is it right wing paranoia/propaganda?

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Are you anti-humanist? Why or why not?

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to When people look at the situation of the world, how can they deny that cultural Marxism exists?

Quora Answer : What were the historical and cultural influences for the rise of Postmodernism?

Apr 9, 2020

The main one is the second world war.

Europe burned itself to the ground. Taking much of the world with it. 50 million people were killed. It spawned horrors such as the holocaust and the atom bomb, from within Western, white, Christian and "Enlightenment" cultures.

While fascism has a deeply irrational element. Many of its ideas claimed to be part of the Enlightenment tradition. Eugenics and institutional racism claimed to be scientific. Fascism paid lip-service to capitalism and business organization.

It's not surprising that after the war, many thinkers in Europe became sceptical of Enlightenment humanism and the claims of "Western rationality". If societies that claimed it as their heritage could fall into cultural insanity and fight two horrific world wars within half a century, was it really such a great mind-set?

See Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Why are so many French academics behind the postmodernist/ Neo-Marxism movement? and Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Are you anti-humanist? Why or why not? for a more in-depth discussion.

Quora Answer : What are liberals/progressives/Marxists thoughts on the works of former KBI head Yuri Bezmenov? Are they willing to give credence to the idea that today's political leanings in college campuses were the result of ideological subversion/espionage?

Feb 1, 2019

I don't think anyone is surprised that the Soviets ran a propaganda campaign and tried to stir up dissent and strife in the West. Of course that's true.

Russia's still at it today. Just appealing to different groups under different ideologies.

I have no doubt that in another 30 years we'll see confessional videos of "I was the guy who fed paranoid stories about "CulturalMarxism" to gullible conservatives to stir up discord in early 21st century America" too.

But the problem with the wider claim, that somehow it's this propaganda effort that's behind the political theory and consciousness in college campuses, is that we already have a perfectly good, well documented story of where those ideas came from.

The myth that all this was dreamed up in KGB HQ is designed to appeal only to those who don't actually know anything about the ideas. For whom it's all a bunch of wacky, mysterious claims that seem to have no logic behind them except to negate what you think of as good.

But for anyone who actually bothers to study this stuff, you can just see where the ideas come from. How each writer in the canon picks up on what earlier thinkers said, and then criticises or adapts it to their own experience and inclination.

Marxism isn't cooked up in Stalinist Russia. It comes from an exiled German pamphleteer and political economist writing in London in the mid 19th century. (Drawing on Hegel, Adam Smith and David Ricardo)

You can then trace each argument and development in the writings of other 19th century anarchists and socialists. In the writings of Lenin and Trotsky. You can see the birth of sociology in Durkheim and Weber, the birth of psychoanalysis in Freud. You can follow the threads from Nietzsche to Heidegger to Sartre to Deleuze and Guattari. Or from Freud to Lacan to Irigaray to that discourse about penises that has you fuming.

Looking for an alternative conspiracy theory about why the academy is like this, is like looking for "the secret truth" about how the number 38 bus gets from Clapton Pond to Piccadilly Circus. You don't need a conspiracy theory. You can just look at the timetable or get on the bus and ride the route.

Similarly, if you want to know where the ideas in contemporary academia come from, people in academia will be delighted to point you at the reading lists and the bibliographies and you can just follow them all the way back. Trace that "post-modern" relativism that you hate so much all the way to the Sophists in classical Athens if you like.

Related :

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Why are so many French academics behind the postmodernist/ Neo-Marxism movement?