Richard Seymour, How postmodernism became the universal scapegoat of the era New Statesman, 24 June 2021
In the slew of rightist culture-war bogeymen, from “cultural Marxism” to “critical race theory”, one of the most surprising candidates for obloquy is postmodernism.
In December 2020, the women and equalities minister Liz Truss bewailed “postmodernist philosophy – pioneered by Foucault – that put societal power structures and labels ahead of individuals and their endeavours”. The malign influence of postmodernism, she suggested, had reached directly into working-class Leeds communities in the 1980s, where children were taught about racism and sexism but not how to read and write. Remarkably, then, the putative failures of education policy, above all the supposed failings of local authorities, were down to 20th-century French philosopher Michel Foucault.
To an extraordinary degree, postmodernism has become the universal scapegoat of the era, the bête noir of “Resistance” liberals, reactionaries, “New Atheists” and trademarked defenders of “Reason”. The irrational and incoherent fear of the “pomo”, or pomophobia, has claimed minds from across the political spectrum. According to the American literary critic Michiko Kakutani, postmodernism is responsible for the assault on knowledge and reason that allowed Donald Trump to lie his way into the White House.