Why does this happen? How can smart people take up positions that defy any reasonable logic?
Not only was it an illusion, but it was a harmful one, because beneath the guise of objectivity there lay a hidden agenda, namely, an interest in domination. Treating people as objects of study, rather than as subjects, was not politically neutral, because it generated a type of knowledge that just happened to be precisely of the sort that one would need in order to manipulate and control them.
Rather than striving for an elusive value neutrality, it would instead adopt a commitment to improving the human condition, then make these commitments explicit, as part of the inquiry, so that the entire exercise would be methodologically transparent.
What have I learned in the interim? Mainly to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it! Two years ago I was asked to serve on a jury for a book prize, to select the best work published by a Canadian university press in the social sciences. Shortly thereafter, a big box of books arrived on my doorstep, from a wide range of disciplines.
In other words, only four of them had as their primary objective the desire to establish and present to the reader facts about the world. The others, by contrast, had as their primary objective the desire to advance a normative agenda — typically, to combat some form of oppression.
Most of these books were also profoundly cringe-inducing. They were, to put it mildly, bad. Forced to read a dozen of them, however, I began to notice certain patterns in the badness.
The biggest problem with the books I read is that they almost invariably failed on the second half of this. It was obvious that the authors — with the exception of a few law professors — had no idea at all how to make a normative argument. Indeed, they seem incredibly averse even to stating clearly what sort of normative standards they were employing.
A genuinely critical theory, Habermas argued, has no need for this subterfuge, it should introduce its normative principles explicitly, and provide a rational defence of them.
There is no group of people out there who actually describe themselves as a neoliberals. Because of this, there are no constraints on what it can refer to, and there is no one to answer any of the criticisms that are made of it.
After all, if they wanted to engage with people outside that chamber, they would have to address one or more of the ideologies that are actually, and self-consciously, held by people outside that chamber. In this respect, people who criticize neoliberalism are the cowardly lions of academia. The fact that there are no self-identified neoliberals in the world does, however, have one desired consequence.
As a result, no one ever feels obliged to say what is so bad about it. Beyond that, it can mean pretty much anything. No one ever explains their reasoning.
It seems to be determined just by gut response — whether the person sees means-testing as way of denying benefits to some, or as a way of making the program more progressive and thus reducing inequality.
In any case, the mere fact that applying for the benefit involves filling out a form is likely to lead the critical studies practitioner to denounce it for being committed to the re production of docile bodies, in order to advance the normalizing agenda of the neocolonial state, or something like that.
It was obvious from the discussion that the author also regarded neoconservativism as a terribly bad thing, and in some way different from neoliberalism, but it was absolutely unclear how they were thought to differ.
Reading through these books, I discovered a whole new set of cryptonormative terms that I had perhaps been vaguely aware of, but had not realized how important they were. Anything that stigmatizes anyone else is bad. In any case, it seems to me fairly obvious why these books are written in the way they are.
The authors feel a passionate moral commitment to the improvement of society — this is what animates their entire project, compels them to write a book — but they have no idea how to defend these commitments intellectually, and they have also read a great deal of once-fashionable theory that is essentially skeptical about the foundations of these moral commitments i.
As a result, they are basically moral noncognitivists, and perhaps even skeptics. So they turn to using rhetoric and techniques of social control, such as audience limitation, as a way of securing agreement on their normative agenda.
This is — perhaps needless to say — not how critical theory was supposed to be done. Let me give a specific example of this. During the early colonization of Canada, there was a period of roughly years in which the only Europeans to enter the territory west of the great lakes were men voyageurs, fur traders, etc.
Hundreds of them settled throughout the river and lake systems that afforded access to the interior of the continent, married Indian women, and had mixed-race children.
It is often used like the term mulatto, to refer to someone of mixed ancestry in this case, European and Indian.
Yet in the politically and constitutionally relevant sense, it refers to a national minority ethnic group — namely, the specific population, located in and around the Red River valley, that was involuntarily incorporated into the Canadian federation.
While some will no doubt find this controversial, it important to note that it is a perfectly reasonable position to want to defend. So how does Andersen go about defending this perfectly reasonable claim?
There are some obvious argumentation strategies that he could have employed. Unfortunately, Andersen does not do either of these things.Scarlett Johansson won a defamation suit against a French writer for creating a promiscuous character who happened to look like the movie star.
First that people basically act in narrow, short-range ways out of self-interest. Second people act out of self-interest but have broader, long term goals in mind and need to avoid being short sighted.
The inescapable conclusion is that subjectivity, relativity and irrationalism are advocated [by Richard Rorty] not in order to let in all opinions, but precisely so as to exclude the opinions of people who believe in old authorities and objective truths.
[Content warning: Politics, religion, social justice, spoilers for “The Secret of Father Brown”. This isn’t especially original to me and I don’t claim anything more than to be explaining and rewording things I have heard from a bunch of other people.
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Lessor version: people act for the sake of their own best interests--this is what ultimately motivates people. If people seem to act in the interests of others, it is only because they think it's in their own best interest to do so.