On Post modernism,& Lou and Doug was Re: Cockburn and Women

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at SPAMqut.edu.au
Fri Nov 12 23:52:24 MST 1999

Lou's post offended Dennis but not myself or Carroll. I have read the
debates but really I cannot comment.  I have to do the hard years on Butler
before buying into the debate.  I am though interested in Doug's embrace of
the postmodern.  As I interpreted him here he has argued that there was
something residually radical about Postmodernism and we had to recover it.

However if Lou is quoting Doug correctly what this pursuit of the
residually 'radical' kernel of Postmodernism has led Doug into is the
morass of misrepresenting Marx and Marxists. I was especially interested in
the question of Marxism and gay oppression.  It is nice to have straight
people concerned about how we gays have been neglected within Marxism.
However the neglect of gays by Marxists other than Bernstein should not be
used to cast doubts on the emancipatory potential of Marxism as a discourse
and a political program. What is also essential here is that we have to
abandon any notion of Marxism as a 'theory of everything', It isn't nor
should we want it to be.  Moreover if one reads Engels' late letters you
will find that he was very aware that both he and Marx had overstressed the

There is though the serious question about what our attitude should be to
postmodernists as they have come under attack from the Right.  This is
happening in Australia around the right wing journal Quadrant.  There an
ex-Leftist and journalist Keith Windschuttle has led the attack on
postmodernist cultural studies.

On a much smaller and infinitely less significant scale the internal
examiners for my dissertation questioned my criticisms of the postmodernist
critic, avant garde film maker and poet Trinh T. Minh-ha. Perhaps I will
post at length on this some day.  But what struck me was that my examiners
felt protective towards Trinh because she was a woman and a
postmodernist.  they had not of course read her nor had they sat through
her film _Surname Viet -Given Name Nam_.  If they had the would have
noticed that Trinh uses Postmodernism and feminism to attack the Vietnamese
revolution. My examiners mistakenly thought there was something residually
radical about Trinh. They had been confused by style and had neglected the

I suspect Doug is making the same mistake with Judith Butler. On the wider
question of what to do about postmodernism not that it is under attack I
will only say that this stage that my heart is hardened against the
postmodernists.  They rooted Marxism out of the academy in the 80s and they
have depoliticised and disoriented a whole generation of students. May a
thousand Sokals bloom, I say.



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