Wednesday, July 06, 2011


I've been at this game (leftism) for over 40 years now, and I certainly have accumulated a scrapbook full of "stupid things lefties believe and do". Back in those deep dark days of my youth a lot of the smellier bullshit used to revolve around the word dialectics .This, of course, had its own secret Marxist meaning in addition to a regular definition that had nothing whatsoever to do with either Hegel or Marx.

To be "dialectic about it" the use of the language that surrounded this supposed "quick key to understanding the world" was "contradictory". It was a supposed path to understanding that might change the world, but, on the other hand, it was the occasion of nothing more than endless word games and attempts at pseudointellectual posturing. As such its acceptance which was supposedly a "plus" for changing the world made the left an object of ridicule or disgust. Exactly the opposite of what its speakers intended. I wonder what the synthesis of this quandary would be if you were to stay in this literary form ?

Back in those days , as it did in generations past "dialectics" served a number of leftist functions but was an absolute failure in what it was supposed to do. While it never led to any unexpected insights that couldn't have been seen via less complex common sense it did give its practitioners at least the illusion of superiority to those of lesser "consciousness". But that illusion provoked more hostility (and sometimes ridicule)than acceptance of the "dialectical message" because of its "superiority". Posturing has a tendency to finally be found out.

Ah but academic lefty fashions come and go, and these days it is hard to find many advocates for "dialectics" except amongst a quite aged cadre of academics. A few decades ago the fashion shifted, both in the academy and in the real world. The interests of younger radicals (once again unfortunately most represented in social science departments of universities) changed from Leninist dreams of becoming a new ruling class (though that's never how they would have put it) to issues that had more "emotional charge" if not exactly the same objective importance as "class struggle".

It is not coincidental that the final social configuration that the rebellious 60s and 70s produced offered all sorts of hitherto unknown opportunities to exercise power over others outside the realm of actual productive enterprise. "Revolution" would hardly be of benefit to this emerging caste/class who, in the end, prey on the weaknesses of various marginals in a society that produces more and more of them. Similarly a totalitarian vision of the world such as Marxist philosophy held little attraction for the "resentariat" who saw the road to power open and clear.

The new 'magical key' that replaced dialectics was "post modernism". If anything this replacement in academic fashion was even more trivial and useless than its ancestor. The trivial disguise of such commonplaces as, "nothing lasts forever and everything changes", "there is struggle in all social systems", etc. including some statements that are demonstrably false such as Marxism's belief that history in inevitably "progressive" gave way to a new set of truisms and falsehood.

The baby was named "post-modernism", and it was born in the most appropriate academic manger ie literature departments which didn't even have the tenuous connection to reality that many social sciences had. The baby was a bastard from the get-go. It espoused a "radical relativism" towards anything but its own theories and conclusions. In this it repeated the fallacy of the 'necessary being argument' for the existence of God while being blithely unaware that it was setting up an eternal mirror paradox.

But essential value or not the baby was indeed born at the right time when there was widespread "radical sympathy" for a great number of 'new causes' while at the same time the traditional leftism was saying its before death prayers. The totalitarian system of Marxism had been replaced by a vague collection of "oppressions", not all of them of equal importance. The trainers of the new segment of the ruling class arrived at their tenure, usually without any opposition that they couldn't shout down. What to do ? What to do ?

By the time that post-modernism became the dominant ideology, at least in the North American academy, pretty well everything that could be said about "oppressions" had been said already repeatedly. Now understand something about that particularly vicious, close to chimpanzee social interactions, "politics" that happens in the academy. The theory is that an academic has to continually produce original thought or investigation. By the time the "anti-ists" began to populate the departments the various oppression veins of ore had pretty well been mined out. Not such a good thing if you are trying to advance yourself in such a cutthroat situation as a social science department.

Now "dialectics" and writing about it certainly had its stylistic difficulties of which a vague abstract way of speaking was one. Still, it was a cut above the academic fashion of post-modernism. The champions of dialectics did indeed say things that were wrong and even ridiculous to those outside the magic circle. But most of what they said actually made sense. With the advent of post-modernism it became the fashion to write in a way that was both "beyond grammar" and also "beyond sense". Without the imaginary clothes of the emperor what was called "intersectionality" would have been seen as the triviality that it is. For those without an acquaintance with academic leftism (lucky you) "intersectionality" means that you collect a handful of "isms", sexism, racism, classicism (sic), etc., etc., etc. off into increasingly bizarre "oppressions" and you note that almost all individuals may be both "oppressors" or "victims" depending upon how you look at their situation.

To say that this is a trivial observation actually overstates the case. One can expand the oppressions and the isms endlessly and there is no dou7bt that leftists have already plumbed most of what is open to human imagination..."lookism" ???? The problem is that even with this tool there comes a point where there is no longer anything, true or false, to be said about the subject. A bad situation for those who wish to be published in academic journals.

Ah here's the meat of this long essay. I came across the following question on an usually sane anarchist board, "Is the idea of Kyriarchy more revealing and useful than intersectionality"?. Well, the short reply is that it is somewhat difficult to be less than zero, but it still can be achieved. Now, I had an advantage here as an ex-Catholic in that I remember the old "Kyrie eléison" which meant "Lord have mercy" in the Mass. So I go in search of the originator of this neologism. I'm not disappointed as the originator is one Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza a "feminist Catholic theologian". Work your mind around that little tidbit of information.

Now I have little doubt that Professor Fiorenza has a vast academic knowledge of the subject of Biblical studies, and she even hold many opinions that she doesn't dare voice for fear of the discipline of the Church. I also suspect, though I am not certain of this, that she is literate in ancient Greek. Since that may be the case let's get really pedantic here. The word from which this all derives is the Greek "Kyrios" for Lord. In the Catholic mass "Kyrie" is the 'vocative case' use in speaking to an individual, in this case the Lord. Now to make an English word out of this Greek and to mean it to say "rule of the Lord" you would have to use "kyrionarchy"(the possessive case). Not as snappy as the using the old Catholic vocative case for sure.

However that may be one can forgive Professor Fiorenza for using a word form that she was convinced nobody would check up on. But let's investigate the meaning of her neologism. "Kyriarchy" means, if you excuse the grammar of its originator" "Lord Rule" ie "Rule of the Lord". Fascinating isn't it that the definition of "Lord" already assumes the function of "ruling". What else do "Lords" do pray tell ? So what does 'Kyriearchy' mean ? It means "rule by those who rule". Only in the hothouse of academic leftism where connection to reality has long since been abandoned could this be said to be an "advance" on anything.

Anyways I'm sure everybody has been bored to death now, but that's as I see it.


ann arky said...

Not bored, a little enlightened and enjoy the article. A wee change from reading about the Mutdoch Mafia and the sewer it lives in. Though I suppose that sewer is the real world.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

I tried on post-modernism about twenty years ago. It did not fit. Best to keep the bullshit on the farm, is what I learned from post-modernism.