Keith Ward, former Regius Professor of Divinity and head of the theology department at Oxford University, wrote a highly acclaimed five-volume series on comparative religions. But atheism and agnosticism fit many of the diverse definitions of religion present in religious scholarship. Everyone has a belief system, whether or not the word religion is applied And everyone whether Christian, Hindu, atheist, or agnostic, etc. Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church:
Not only was it an illusion, but it was a harmful one, because beneath the guise of objectivity there lay a hidden agenda, namely, an interest in domination.
Treating people as objects of study, rather than as subjects, was not politically neutral, because it generated a type of knowledge that just happened to be precisely of the sort that one would need in order to manipulate and control them.
Rather than striving for an elusive value neutrality, it would instead adopt a commitment to improving the human condition, then make these commitments explicit, as part of the inquiry, so that the entire exercise would be methodologically transparent.
What have I learned in the interim? Mainly to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it! Two years ago I was asked to serve on a jury for a book prize, to select the best work published by a Canadian university press in the social sciences.
Shortly thereafter, a big box of books arrived on my doorstep, from a wide range of disciplines. In other words, only four of them had as their primary objective the desire to establish and present to the reader facts about the world.
The others, by contrast, had as their primary objective the desire to advance a normative agenda — typically, to combat some form of oppression. Most of these books were also profoundly cringe-inducing. They were, to put it mildly, bad. Forced to read a dozen of them, however, I began to notice certain patterns in the badness.
The biggest problem with the books I read is that they almost invariably failed on the second half of this. It was obvious that the authors — with the exception of a few law professors — had no idea at all how to make a normative argument.
Indeed, they seem incredibly averse even to stating clearly what sort of normative standards they were employing. A genuinely critical theory, Habermas argued, has no need for this subterfuge, it should introduce its normative principles explicitly, and provide a rational defence of them.
There is no group of people out there who actually describe themselves as a neoliberals. Because of this, there are no constraints on what it can refer to, and there is no one to answer any of the criticisms that are made of it.
After all, if they wanted to engage with people outside that chamber, they would have to address one or more of the ideologies that are actually, and self-consciously, held by people outside that chamber.
In this respect, people who criticize neoliberalism are the cowardly lions of academia. The fact that there are no self-identified neoliberals in the world does, however, have one desired consequence.
As a result, no one ever feels obliged to say what is so bad about it.
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Beyond that, it can mean pretty much anything. No one ever explains their reasoning. It seems to be determined just by gut response — whether the person sees means-testing as way of denying benefits to some, or as a way of making the program more progressive and thus reducing inequality.
In any case, the mere fact that applying for the benefit involves filling out a form is likely to lead the critical studies practitioner to denounce it for being committed to the re production of docile bodies, in order to advance the normalizing agenda of the neocolonial state, or something like that.
It was obvious from the discussion that the author also regarded neoconservativism as a terribly bad thing, and in some way different from neoliberalism, but it was absolutely unclear how they were thought to differ.
Reading through these books, I discovered a whole new set of cryptonormative terms that I had perhaps been vaguely aware of, but had not realized how important they were. Anything that stigmatizes anyone else is bad.
In any case, it seems to me fairly obvious why these books are written in the way they are. The authors feel a passionate moral commitment to the improvement of society — this is what animates their entire project, compels them to write a book — but they have no idea how to defend these commitments intellectually, and they have also read a great deal of once-fashionable theory that is essentially skeptical about the foundations of these moral commitments i.
As a result, they are basically moral noncognitivists, and perhaps even skeptics. So they turn to using rhetoric and techniques of social control, such as audience limitation, as a way of securing agreement on their normative agenda.
This is — perhaps needless to say — not how critical theory was supposed to be done. Let me give a specific example of this.The Dark Enlightenment – Part 1 The Dark Enlightenment – Part 2 The Dark Enlightenment – Part 3 The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4 The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4a The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4b The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4c The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4d The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4e The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4f(inal) Part 1: Neo-reactionaries head for the exit.
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The Dark Enlightenment – Part 1 The Dark Enlightenment – Part 2 The Dark Enlightenment – Part 3 The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4 The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4a The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4b The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4c The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4d The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4e The Dark Enlightenment – Part 4f(inal) Part 1: Neo-reactionaries head for the exit.
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