People of many political persuasions have identified postmodernism as a major threat to civilization. The most notable recent attacks have come from Jordan Peterson and other members of the so-called "Intellectual Dark Web."
Reason Editor-at-Large Nick Gillespie has a problem with that. He sat down with Zach Weissmueller, video journalist for Reason TV, to discuss and defend postmodernism—a term he says has been widely mischaracterized by its most vociferous critics—from a libertarian perspective.
Watch the full interview above. Transcript is below.
Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Lorenz Lo.
"Say It Again, I'm Listening," by Daniel Birch is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) Source: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Daniel_Birch/Synth_Movements_Vol1/Say_It_Again_Im_Listening Artist: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Daniel_Birch
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INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT: This is a rush transcript. Check against video for accuracy.
Zach Weissmueller: [0:48] Postmodernism has been identified as a threat to civilization by people of all sorts of political persuasions over the years. Recently, most prominently, by Jordan Peterson and other members of what's become known as the Intellectual Dark Web. But you, Nick Gillespie, think that postmodernism might be useful and is not all bad from a libertarian perspective. First, what exactly is your understanding of postmodernism?
Nick Gillespie: [1:18] Yeah, famously in the 1979 book, The Postmodern Condition by Jean-François Lyotard, he defined postmodernism as "incredulity toward metanarratives," which means that, you don't take knowledge, or assertions of knowledge, as a given, but rather you understand that knowledge and wisdom, and even scientific understanding of things, is not something that you're walking around and you discover in the backyard that you stumble across like you stumble across the Grand Canyon, or a mountain, or something. Rather it's something that produced by humans, and, as a result, it's contingent, it's limited.
Incredulity toward metanarratives means that you are skeptical of these big stories that we tell about, "Well this is the why the world is the way it is. This is why it's always been that way. This is why it always will be that way." Or, alternatively, "This is why the world should be this way, which just happens to comport with what I want." I see that phrase, incredulity toward meta narrative, as very simpatico with libertarianism, and it's very simpatico with something like public choice economics, which James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, the founders of it, called "politics without romance." What it does is it looks at what is being said, why it is being said, who benefits, and whether or not it actually holds up to scrutiny from a kind of 360-degree angle.
Excerpt of Michel Foucault: [2:38] It seems to be that the real political task in our contemporary society is to criticize the workings of insitutions--particularly the ones that appear to be neutral and independent--and to attack them in such a way that the political violence, which has always exercised itself obscurely through them, will finally be unmasked so one can fight against them.