REVIEWING MONTHLY REVIEW ON POSTMODERNISM

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Tue Jul 18 08:10:34 MDT 1995


In re: MONTHLY REVIEW, vol. 47, no. 3, July/August 1995, special
issue: "In Defense of History: Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda"

John Bellamy Foster's article "Marx and the Environment" is
excellent, but I think it is ultimately more useful in refuting
Green, anarchist, and New Age bullshit than postmodernism.  It is
the one really worthwhile and informative article in this issue.

Manning Marable's article on black identity and political trends
is his usual fare, not bad but nothing new.

I agree with the sentiments of the other anti-pomo articles but I
don't think they are anything special.  They raise the standard
objections to the usual pomo abuses, but they are not the
strongest or most in-depth treatments of the subject one could
find, as they are limited mostly to generalities.  As related to
historical materialism, and in particular to historiography, I
find a book such as Bryan D. Palmer's excellent DESCENT INTO
DISCOURSE: THE REIFICATION OF LANGUAGE AND THE WRITING OF SOCIAL
HISTORY (Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1990) far more
helpful.  I fear that MONTHLY REVIEW, which is stodgy enough as it
is, is going to come off none too good in its venerable battle
with the pomo shits.

Aside from a lack of technical detail and philosophical analysis
in its treatment, this issue suffers from a glaring weakness which
will be used against it: it fails to come to terms with the
explicitly left wing of postmodernism.  It is easy enough to
discredit a jet-setting phony like Lyoturd, and none too hard to
snap Dareiduh's Jacques-strap , but there is a contingent of pomo
and Cultural Studies people who claim themselves part of the left,
and it is precisely these people who need to be combated, which MR
fails to do.  (Anybody care to take on that bloated pig Stanley
Aronowitz, or Henry Giroux?  How about rethinking RETHINKING
MARXISM?  And how about some of these loathsome postcolonial
intellectuals?)

My own pet peeve is the au courant opportunist glorification of
the most execrable elements of popular culture as political
resistance.  I'm going to hurt the next person who throws gangsta
rap in my face.  Obviously, people with cushy academic jobs who
don't have to raise adolescent males in inner cities can afford to
be equinamous about the armchair promotion of ignorant, obnoxious,
and deleterious ideas and behavior.  White radical intellectuals
especially love to jerk themselves off fantasizing about black
criminality, but the academic buppies have learned their ways too.
I am especially incensed by the misuse of the great masters like
C.L.R. James, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright in the service of
such filth.  Take for example the odious article in the latest
SOCIAL TEXT (an academic rag I usually make a point of avoiding)
on Richard Wright, Cornel West, nihilism and gangsta rap -- it is
to puke!

One final remark about Cultural Studies: I am coming into contact
with a number of grad students as well as community activists who
have had it up to here with Cultural Studies.  In the USA these
people who have power over the careers of their students are
obstructionists in practice who are stunting the development and
limiting the options of students who want to do genuine
revolutionary intellectual work.  I'm glad to know there are still
some young people with sense; I was beginning to lose hope.


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