It’s critical the West recovers its self-belief

Dec 17, 2020 by

by John Anderson, The Australian:

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay for my video podcast about their new book.

Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Peter Boghossian became famous in the 2017-18 grievance studies ­affair when they manufactured deliberately absurd academic articles and had several accepted by peer-reviewed critical theory journals. The hoax revealed what many academics had known for years — that too many postmodern and critical theory journals are exercises in obscurantist activism as opposed to serious scholarship.

But the new book by Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity — And Why This Harms Everybody, is no mere academic matter. The book’s subject gets to the heart of two of the problems facing the West today: loss of faith in our culture and its institutions, and hostile social divisions along generational, gender and racial fault-lines.

The story of Western civilisation is essentially an unfolding dialogue between classical culture and Christianity, issuing in modern science, democracy, individual rights, rule of law and economic prosperity.

Certainly, the West has engaged in horrific practices such as slavery, but the abolition of slavery throughout the West was justified along Christian-Enlightenment grounds. In other words, historically the solution to the West’s injustices always comes out of the Western tradition itself. Anti-slavers, anti-colonialists, suffragettes and anti-segregationists did not demand an end to Western ideals; they demanded that the West live up to its own Christian-Enlightenment ideals of human dignity, equality and freedom.

Paradoxically, though, the West has more recently produced ideologies that would undermine its own achievements, namely postmodernism and critical theory.

Read here

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