How not to criticize postmodern theories.

A personal review of the book “Cynical Theories” by Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay

Currently, social theories are under attack, both from within the academy as well as in broader public debates. At least, some strands of social theory are: theories that do not aim to discover ‘universal truths,’ but rather trace the social mechanisms and structures that guide the search for and claims to said truths. We could label those theoretical positions constructivist, poststructuralist, anti-essentialist, or, as in the book “Cynical Theories” by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, postmodern. What different kinds of academic and broader intellectual critiques have in common is that they see a causal link between these kinds of social theories and the arrival of the post-truth era which we supposedly live in (e.g. McIntyre 2018; Fuller 2018; Koschorke 2018). Debates revolve around what is frequently – and often pejoratively – referred to as ‘political correctness,’ ‘alternative truths,’ ‘identity politics,’ and ‘social justice.’ To fix what is wrong with society today, these critics often suggest, we need to reject anti-essentialist thinking. Mehr lesen