Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity--And Why This Harms Everybody
Have you heard that language is violence and that science is sexist? Have you read that you shouldn't practice yoga or cook Chinese food? Or been told that being obese is healthy, that there is no such thing as biological sex, or that only white people can be racist? Are you confused by these ideas and wonder how they have managed to challenge so quickly the very logic of Western society? In this probing and intrepid volume, Helen Pluckrose and James A. Lindsay document the evolution of this dogma, from its coarse origins in French postmodernism to its refinement within activist academic fields--specifically, in critical studies departments that by design produce and popularize politically actionable theories in the name of social justice. Today, this dogma is recognizable as much by its effects, such as cancel culture and social media dogpiles, as by its tenets, which are unquestioningly embraced as axiomatic in much of the media: knowledge is a social construct; science and reason are tools of oppression; all human interactions are sites of oppressive power play; and language is dangerous. As Pluckrose and Lindsay warn, the unchecked proliferation of these anti-Enlightenment beliefs presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but also to modernity itself. While acknowledging the need to challenge the complacency of those who think a just society has been fully achieved, Pluckrose and Lindsay break down how this often-radical activist scholarship does far more harm than good, not least to those marginalized communities it claims to champion. They also detail its alarmingly inconsistent ethics, which represent an illiberal return to evaluating individuals by their immutable characteristics. Only through a proper understanding of the evolution of these ideas can those who value science, reason, and consistently liberal ethics successfully challenge this dangerous and authoritarian orthodoxy--in the academy, in culture, and beyond.