Trump — a postmodern feminist

29 May, 2020 at 13:41 | Posted in Politics & Society | 1 Comment

postI think it is worth pointing out that parts of the academic community for a long time have been playing along with undermining the essential underpinnings of liberal democracy and that it is not as innocent regarding the rise of Trumpism as it now pretends to be … [One] type of criticism of Trump is about his ethnophobia and lightly hidden racism. A clear expression of this came when Trump dismissed a ruling by a federal judge regarding one of his companies because the judge concerned was of Mexican origin. Because of this, Trump argued that the judge in question should not handle his case because he would not be able to make an impartial ruling … This line of reasoning implies that we are all stuck in our ethnic or other such identities also when we exercise a public task and therefore are incapable of making an impartial assessment a of case involving a person with a different identity. This line of reasoning, known as “identity theory”, has had a huge impact in large parts of the humanities and social sciences and is usually seen as a leftist, radical approach. One example from this theory comes from one of the most cited scholars using this approach, the feminist philosopher Iris Marion Young. One of her central arguments is that the principle of impartiality is a fiction and that persons with different identities (such as gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation) cannot make impartial assessments of a case involving a person with another identity. Again, we can say that Trump’s dismissal of the judge because of his ethnicity has clear support within a significant and strong research approach in academia.

[Another] common criticism of Trump and his aides is their tendency to ignore established facts and their lack of truthfulness … It is obvious that, according to Trump, there is nothing that can be seen as a fact. Instead, everything is a matter of interpretation and perspective. However, this approach has also had a strong impact in large parts of academic research, mainly within the humanities, but also within parts of social sciences. Under the heading “postmodernism”, this approach has as its starting point that there can be no true or scientifically established facts due to impartial investigation … According to postmodernist theory, there is no real difference between the knowledge produced by scientific methods and perceptions coming from our ideological orientations or personal experiences. Thus, when Trump and his supporters claim that they base their positions on “alternative facts”, this has a clear connection to the postmodernist approach in academia.

Relativism, dismissal of the idea of truthfulness, identity hysteria and cynical economistic thinking have together become a witches’ brew that has, it seems, poisoned the intellectual climate in our type of societies and made it possible for the message that comes from Trump and his likes to win a broad audience. The academic world’s criticism against Trump is justified, but some honest self-criticism would be in order too.

Bo Rothstein

[h/t Jan Wiklund]

1 Comment

  1. Postmodernism may be guilty of all kinds of things, and postmodern academics are not necessarily right about: a) b) or c) But to hold these producers of discourses accountable for the rise of Trump is a little too convenient (and overstates their influence).

    It would seem to me that it was the discipline of economics which failed to hold policy-makers to account during the long years before the Great Recession. The vast majority of economists were neither postmodernists nor able to understand the full implications of the end of the neo-liberal consensus. Since that consensus was shattered by the banking crisis, these economists failed to prevent a message of austerity from excusing further policy errors. A few sensible folk have argued for a return to Keynesian thinking, but applications of Keynesian thought have largely been temporary responses to downturns. It was the anger and chaos triggered by bad economics which allowed the nationalist posturing of Trump to prosper. And he is allowed to do what he does because people around the globe are scared to face up to the reality of the environmental crisis.


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