Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Many have been critical of the post-modern movement in the academy and the culture of political correctness and social justice that has followed. Though it has become quite apparent to me that many do not understand why people like myself, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Heather McDonald, Douglas Murray, Colman Hughes, and Denis Prager find these movements so troubling. As an academic and recent grad student of whose primary discipline is philosophy, I have spent much of my time on these topics debating the illegitimacies of their philosophical tenets; scrutinizing aspects like the heavy reliance on relativism, social determinism, essentialism, improper use of the scientific method, weak ethical formulation, and the lack of capability to make universalizable statements in the post-modern paradigm. But it has struck me that while large swaths of the population are beginning to show fierce objection to all things post-modern and politically correct, I thought it might be worth conveying how and why a sociological theory like postmodernism has perturbed so many people and has now affected the civil state of America. The Foucauldian gaze has trickled down the academic pipeline, and folks are now asking what has happened to our country.
While I don’t intend to be a disappointment, the answer isn’t a revelation towards racism. Or its complimentary explain-all companion sexism. If we were to boil down the trepidation expressed by volumes of the American people, it can be voiced in one surprisingly simple idea of which many feel is an insult to American civics and the Constitution. That is, the foundational objection folks maintain against postmodernism, social justice, and political correctness is that unlike the claims that are made in our Constitution, which conceptualizes the citizen from the bottom-up - incorporating critical features like the presumption of innocence as a foundational element of our inalienable rights - the politically correct movement insists that we are all guilty of some ancestral injustice and can only presume our innocence by incorporation with the sentiments of the movement itself.
Unlike the Constitution, which details the individual citizen from the bottom up, first as a human being with inborn and inalienable rights, the politically correct movement turns this very important schema upside down, using a top-down mentality in which to judge their fellow citizens. In such a case, people are ever growingly defined first by such things as presumable political position, whether they are democrats or republicans, liberals or conservatives, before they are ever regarded as individuals. Even in the case of making an individualistic distinction, one's race and gender will be, per this view, categorically more important than who they are themselves. Earlier remarks I have made on this topic, in accordance to the positions of those individuals I cited above, relate to questioning whether this top-down way of thinking actually gives more facility to precisely the sorts of things the Constitution and the politically correct try to protect us from?
The whole idea of having an intermediary body of language that articulates how we ought to view each other is precisely to avoid addressing people by way of partial judgment. Though these judgments, such as demographic signifiers like race and gender, are now regarded as the aspects most characteristic of our humanity. What started as a considerably insightful social theory (at least some would say), that was praised in the academy for uncovering the dominance of heteronormativity and eurocentrism, has instead turned into a social etiquette in which individuals address one another through a lens of criminality. What has been lost is not just our presumption of innocence, aspects of our inalienable rights, or the willingness to appropriate nuance, but the advent of indiscriminate interaction with the individuals that make up our society… which is what might actually facilitate the coming together.