Confessions of a Culture War Villain

by
February–March 1998, no. 198

Confessions of a Culture War Villain

by
February–March 1998, no. 198

I opened up my last issue of ABR to see my photograph. It’s there because I was mentioned at a conference at La Trobe as evidence of an ascendant anti­intellectualism. I suspect my new reputation as a villain on the black hat side of the Culture Wars has a lot to do with my play, Dead White Males, or, more accurately, the fact that the play proved popular with audiences. Dead White Males satirised the dominant theology of the humanities, variously called postmodernism, post-structuralism, deconstructionism, social constructionism or what you will. The theories are complex and prolix and, one suspects, on occasions, deliberately obscure, but the central proposition seems to be that there is no ‘reality’ in the world other than one constructed by words. Categories are ‘constructed’ according to the power interests of groups advantaged by such ‘construction’, and the main ‘intellectual labor’ confronting the humanities is to ‘deconstruct’ these false categories and show them to be based not on objective reality or knowledge, but on ideology generated by a group wishing to attain or maintain a power advantage. The corollary of this belief is that these ideologies or discourses are taken to be the ‘truth’ by those generating them and more often than not by those who are being exploited. Thus the only way that justice will be served is by analysing the modes and techniques of verbal deceit used in the construction of these ideologies to expose their fallacies and implausibilities.

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