Post-modernism v the Po-moid cluster

Interesting essay in Aero Magazine by John Nerst entitled ‘Post-modernism v the Po-moid cluster‘. Nerst distinguishes between post-modernism proper, which he thinks of as quite a respectable philosophical/sociological tradition, and the ‘po-moid cluster’, which is often labelled ‘post-modernism’ or ‘neo-Marxist postmodernism’, but which isn’t.

In my experience, the list of what is being referred to under the name “post-modernism” looks something like this:

  • Activist scholarship that’s more concerned with advocacy than knowledge.

  • The idea that it’s okay to be as political and biased as you want because everything is political anyway.

  • Public debate is a war of ideas and non-rational means are acceptable. Indeed, insisting on rational rules and objective standards is nothing but an attempt to gain the upper hand.

  • The attitude that science, rationality, and logic hold no special status as means of inquiry, often backed up by describing them as male, white, and western, in contradiction to their professed universality.

  • Identity politics as defined here: i.e. the idea that oppressed groups are owed agreement with their views due to past and present injustices, backed by the notion that effective communication and rational discussion across identity lines are impossible.

  • Favoring subjectivity and intuition over objectivity and evidence.

  • Favoring ideas over the physical when thinking about what constitutes reality.

  • Everything is about power. For example, scientific facts are the outcome of social processes and reflects the biases of the winners, not actual truth.

  • The structure of society is not a given and arguments justifying the status quo are simply the ruling groups’ attempts to justify their privileges.

  • Things are “socially constructed,” which can mean many things, but usually implies that the categorization/conceptualization of people, events, or contexts creates corresponding behaviors, rather than those behaviors being innate.

  • Cultural and ideological forces, not material limitations or human nature, cause social problems.

  • There is no “human nature” worth considering.

  • Individual wants are mediated by culture to such an extent that they can be viewed as untrustworthy.

  • A focus on relationships as more fundamental than entities.

  • An unwillingness to pass judgment on cultural practices, often inconsistently applied only to cultures considered oppressed.

  • Rigid labeling, especially of people, is illegitimate. It’s desirable to disrupt and destabilize categories, boundaries and roles.

  • Subjective interpretations of experiences and communication are always correct. Intent does not determine meaning.

  • People’s own view of themselves is more important than their objective characteristics.

  • The political and social implications of ideas are more important and interesting than their accuracy or parsimony.

  • Image and appearances are more important than substance.

  • It’s valid to criticize scientific ideas ideologically, even if you have no particular scientific objections to offer.

  • No culture is better than any other. This often includes the hypocritical exception of western civilization, which is bad.


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