What is postmodernism? Is it a problem? The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism. It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks. (Additional support includes Socialism, by Ludwig von Mises; and Freedom and Organization by Bertrand Russel.)
Enlightenment and Darkness
- Intro: The Trouble with Zombies
- Part 1: Truth is Dead
- Part 2: Objectivity is Dead
- Part 3: Hegel’s Dialectic
- Part 4: Staring into the Abyss
- Part 5: Heidegger Knows Nothing
Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics
- Part 6: Rousseau’s Paradise Lost
- Part 7: Radicalization and Revolution
- Part 8: Fear, Paranoia, Reaction, War, and Betrayal
- Part 9: First Terror
- Part 10: A Farewell to Kings
- Part 11: Civil War
- Part 12: Rousseau’s Paradise Found
- Part 13: Napoleonic Stress Disorder
- Part 14: Kant Goes Medieval
- Part 15: Herder’s Volksgeist
- Part 16: Fichte’s School of Nationalism
- Part 17: Hegel – Freedom is Slavery
Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism. Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets. Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.
Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy. Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe. Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Rousseau’s ideas and Napoleon’s conquests inspired the German Counter-Enlightenment thinkers (Kant, Herder, Fichte, Hegel). They gave Rousseau a German twist, including hero worship, state worship, totalitarianism, and dialectical history (with German supremacy).
Left Collectivism has roots in romanticism (inspired by Rousseau). Romanticism was both an aesthetic and a value system. It valued unthinking passion, sympathy, virtuous poverty, idyllic nature, danger, violence, and radicalism. It devalued social consequences and conventional morality. Lord Byron was prototypical.
Left Collectivism has roots in the problems of our industrial past. Families struggled to survive crowded filthy “third world” slums, malnutrition, epidemics, long hours, unsafe work, misery, crime, societal breakdown, and uncaring government. Revolution seemed imminent.
Left Collectivism has roots in utopian socialism. “Utopian socialism” is a label concocted by Marx and Engels to promote their own “scientific socialism”. Utopian socialists, such as Robert Owen, were heretics.
Before delving into more serious minds, we must take a (necessary) detour into Fairy Tale Land. Behold, the salacious French Mother Goose, Charles Fourier.
Fourier’s Fairy Tales
Fourier just wanted everybody to have fun. Work was boring, but so is sitting around with nothing to do. So, Fourier figured it out. The problem isn’t work (itself), but social arrangements (how we’ve organized society). The answer was simple: reorganize society so that workers can interchange occupations, at will. (Tired of flipping burgers? Be a brain surgeon, a poet, or a rocket scientist!) Then, work will be fun! (N’est-ce pas?)
When work is fun, we will all be inspired by un sentiment de rivalité joyeuse ou de noble émulation (“a feeling of joyous rivalry or noble emulation”), said Fourier. Our energy will double in un acharnement passioné au travail (“a relentless passion at work”). Work will be made a joy, instead of toil. Mankind will move to the next level.
Erotic pleasures awaited us at his phalanstères (“Grand Hotels”), Fourier promised. We would reorganize society into self-sustaining Grand Hotels (utopian communities of 500-2000 people). Each would include agriculture, industry, schools, ballrooms (the works). Fourier invented “feminism” that freed women from oppressive marriage and offered sexual abandon (no self-interest, there, no sirree Bob). His Grand Hotels promised orgiastic delights (lesbianism, homosexuality, pedophilia, bestiality, fetishism, incest). (Now, who’d be doing the work, then?)
Fourier fantasized a fairy tale world where animals would serve us. Dangerous beasts would be replaced by helpful beasts (anti-lions, for example). Anti-whales and anti-hippopotami would pull ships and boats. Anti-beavers would fish for us. Wondrous anti-horses would pull our carriages. Why no anti-fish (or anti-fish-and-chips, for that matter)? Why no candy cane forests or seas of swirly twirly gum drops?
Needless to say, Fourier’s Fairy Tales were profoundly influential. Marxists took up many of his themes: the “joy of labor” meme, a socialist paradise where we evolve into the “new man”, and (of course) sexual liberation. (Jihadists’ seventy-two virgins have nothing on these guys.)
Fourier’s ideas influenced the postmodernist Herbert Marcuse (another Frenchman, the “Father of the New Left”). This carried Fourier into the 1960’s and feminism that liberated young women from their bras (and panties). “Free love”, don’t ya know? (No agenda to see here! Move along! This is not the dirty old man you were looking for.)
Socialism gets serious. Next: Part 23, Marx and Moses.