The Corner

Education

The Damage That Academic Theorizing Has Done

Almost a quarter century ago, Alan Sokal famously poked fun at academic theorists with his brilliant spoof: an article contending that gravity was merely a social construct. It was written in trendy jargon and the editors were taken in. When Sokal later admitted his scheme, the academics denounced him, of course.

The trouble is that silly theorizing has bad effects in the real world. That’s the point of a new book by two of the “guilty” parties in the recent hoax papers scandal, Cynical Theories by James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose. Sumantra Maitra reviews it today for the Martin Center.

He summarizes the book’s core argument:

Our institutions of higher education are under attack from the virus of post-modernism, along with its various sub-fields of post-colonialism, queer theory, gender studies, intersectional feminism, and so forth. They are all revolutionary theories and subversive in nature. They share some common themes, such as a blurring of boundaries, an excessive focus on the power of languages and words, ahistorical cultural relativism, and a penchant for collectivism at the cost of both the individual and the universal.

In short, the theorists have launched “a war against normal.” The post-modernists, queer theorists, multiculturalists, and so on wish to destroy the foundations of our civilization. They have unleashed “plagues of the mind,” as my friend Bruce Thornton says.

Lindsay and Pluckrose provide abundant evidence to support their thesis. Sadly, they don’t have much of a plan for a counterattack. But just their diagnosis makes the book, Maitra concludes, “essential reading for anyone looking to reform or preserve the classical Western academy.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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