Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Letter to the Editor: Postmodernism is not the real threat to universities

Donors have too much influence

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To the Editor:

The Massachusetts Daily Collegian recently published a column by Bhavya Pant titled “Postmodernism and the ideological corruption of the humanities.” I would like to address some of the points made by the author on whether postmodernism poses a legitimate threat to universities.

First, I agree that criticism of postmodernism is legitimate. Its focus on relativism and its denial of objective truth are certainly troubling and should be subject to intense scrutiny. Its portrayals of science are worrisome at times as well. As a cultural phenomenon, philosopher Fredric Jameson describes postmodernist art as unimaginative parody which reflects on its “imprisonment in the past.” Not only is postmodernism not progressive, but it is actually quite reactionary because its acceptance of all narratives empower rather than disempower conservative elites. Thus, postmodernism can never be a vehicle for true social equality.

However, is postmodernism a boa constrictor that tightly wraps around and suffocates academia? In an essay titled, “The Trouble with Macroeconomics,” Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Romer highlights some of the wild assumptions that are made in macroeconomic models. Though Pluckrose and her co-authors’ papers are very colorful in their analysis and conclusions, they are no less inane than the projections made by macroeconomic models. Lee Smolin’s book “The Trouble with Physics,” which the title of Romer’s essay is based on, notes the lack of innovation over the past several decades within the subject, especially among string theorists. Are the problems in these subjects the fault of postmodernism?

The problems within much of academia today are not due to postmodernism, but another p-word: power. Take for example the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The Mercatus Center is a think tank that is closely associated with George Mason’s economic department. For decades, billionaires such as Charles and David Koch have heavily funded the Mercatus Center. In return, these donors were able to influence who would be able to join the think tank, and even who would be hired as professors at the University. The employees then engage in research that would largely benefit the interests of donors, even if their publications were intentionally deceptive.

Therefore, the major crisis facing academic departments is not the influence of some philosophic phenomenon, but its subservience to elites. As long as research is toeing a certain line (no matter how fatuous the methodology or conclusions), then unfortunately, like Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the universe, we might not be able to overcome this for 1,000 years!

On a final note, I would briefly like to touch on the author’s comments on “whiteness.” I can say with 100 percent certainty, and with hopefully zero controversy, that white supremacy predates postmodernism. White supremacy in its explicit and institutional forms is embedded not just in the United States, but in the world. As W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in 1920, “The discovery of personal whiteness among the world’s peoples is a very modern thing.” “Whiteness,” as to be understood today, rests on the advantages (privileges) that do exist. Merely recognizing them is not an act of cowardice to the supposed looming cloud of postmodernism, but an accurate and necessary observation of society today.

Jon Blum

UMass Class of 2021

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: Postmodernism is not the real threat to universities”

  1. amy on November 1st, 2018 12:28 am

    So you went from post-modernism to white supremacy? This doesn’t make sense at all. I wish we didn’t go to such a liberal college because nothing liberals think makes logical sense or conforms to reason. It just will never be recognized here because all the professors are liberals.

    The reason ‘white supremacy ‘ will never be taken seriously as complained about by liberals is because A. They have an ulterior motive and B. It’s not really accurate or fair. If you really cared about racism you would mention all types of racism.

    Racism by black people, asian people, hispanics,etc, in fact often statistics show the most racist people…..are not white people but usually minorities. Something liberals ignore.

    There is Asian supremacy, black supremacy, Hispanic supremacy and if you really cared about racism you would mention that too. White supremacy and according to the southern poverty law center by per capita, it’s actually the lowest amount of hate groups. Black and Muslims have far higher amount of hate groups as a proportion of their population.

  2. Mia on November 2nd, 2018 9:55 pm

    Ah, yes, the white guy who knows soooooo much about everything stomping on the opinion of a woman of color and mansplaining to her how she/we should be seeing race. Got it. Makes total sense, Jon!

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