Re: PHIL: Postmodernist nonsense

Steve Witham (
Tue, 25 Mar 1997 00:10:07 -0400

Just read an interesting book: "Derrida for Beginners," by Jim Powel.
It's in comic-book ("Cartoon History of") style.

Now if Postmodernism is as closely linked to "deconstruction" as I thought,
this is very interesting. Max says-

>I spent this past weekend at a conference in Munich, Germany discussing why
>Europe is undergoing a "Big Fatigue" while the USA seems so much more

The thing is that this book says that, "Soon (early '70's) the American study
of deconstruction eclipsed its French following, revolutionize
and politicize literature and humanities departments nationwide, then

So American academics have aparently had a big hand in this stuff.
(*Smack!*) Could it be that America as a whole hasn't fallen into the
spell because America ignores its academics? Not sure how happy I am
about that. Or is it that we're much quicker to get the point, especially
of an anti-establishment, anti-tradition idea, rather than belabor it?
Another pair of quotes: Camile Paglia: "America doesn't need
deconstruction." Derrida: "America *is* deconstruction."

Deconstruction has something to do with people undermining their positions
(if you analize with eyes crossed, thumb up nose) by the very concepts
or distinctions they use to support their positions. Like the way that
Ayn Rand would say you *had* to believe her prejudices because in order
to argue against her you had to employ them. Only the opposite. I mean
deconstruction is stranger, but I didn't like how Rand wired her basement
either. Me for say it straight, even if you're talking about something

Two things I did get out of this book. Now I'm more willing to think "It's
a French (or Euro, or Academic) thing." Instead of being an incisive
analysis that turns the world on its head, it's more like a critique of
stodgy smarty-pants French/Euro/Academic philosophy done in a stodgy
smarty-pants way. (A friend (in the mid-80's) said he made some puns in
French to some French people and they were astonished--they don't *do*
puns. But Derrida is like puns flogged beyond death.)

The other thing is the Structuralism/Post-Structuralism riddle. It's not
that these were two generations of French/Euro/Academics. Rather, Claude
Levi-Strauss came up with Structuralism, which caught a bunch of hopeful
enthusiasm, ONLY TO BE IMMEDIATELY TOPP(L)ED by Derrida (in a lecture at
*Johns Hopkins*), giving birth to "Post-strux". So these people seem to
have been flitting after fads, except the deconstruction fad lasted about
20 years (~'66-'87).

I suspect it has to do with the Marxists' desparate need to escape the
middle-class Ideology they assume they're under the spell of. I mean
*there's* a Big F...atiguing meme to be suffering under. For me,
deconstruction makes cracks, but not *treads*. No traction.

Yet in FrancoEuroAcademe it does seem to cling tenaciously. Maybe
some sort of memetic evolutionarily stable strategy niche thing.
You have to be there...?

But then, the idea that *Those people's ideas are irreconcilably alien*
is a self-promoting divisive Fatiguing idea in itself.


--           Steve Witham          web page under reconsideration
"At the latter I was informal, at the former I wore my suit,
 I wore my swimming suit."  --Kate & Anna McGarrigle