Reconstructing Derrida: The Poetics of Nonsense and the Rule of the Cool

Essay here. Long and academic, but the author in essence identifies Feminism, especially institutionalized Feminism, as the original source of the current madness we see in colleges which is leaking out into the population at large. Excerpt:

'We all know what this “theory” means nowadays. Like “discourse”, it is a more polite name for the Derrida word salad, originally introduced in good faith in imperfect printed translations from the late 1970s, and then magisterially demonstrated in live performance ten years later and throughout the 1990s. It is the theory of everything and nothing: the theory that can never be refuted because it cannot be understood—unconscious random mistranslations turned into a model for literary and intellectual style.

Feminism was a particularly good match for the word salad treatment because the feminist project at universities was not rationalistic or scientific, specifically rejecting any kind of counter-argument or criticism from the start. The only thing that mattered was the invocation and repetition of key terms to act as badges of allegiance to the feminist project: patriarchy, rape culture, whatever it might be; but built on some simple theoretical point. Gender is performance. The patriarchy is a rape culture. Labial logic. By adopting a non-rationalist approach, the only thing that mattered was assertion, and this nouvelle vague approach was excellent news for the tenured professionals now installed in women’s studies departments.

It spread like wildfire. Black studies, Colonial studies, Queer studies, Fat studies… Anything with studies in it, and soon anything with gender or justice too. What was rewarded was the most extreme assertion, though to show that you were serious about pretending it all meant something, you had to decorate it with hundreds of pages of verbiage that amounts to ersatz mistranslation. Derrida’s complicated writings are a goldmine for serviceable terminology.

The chaotic, mistranslated text is the gold standard, the unreachable summit of wisdom. William Burroughs deserves some of the credit. Judith Butler has built a career on it, and to analyse it precisely, it is a reconstruction of the atmosphere of Derrida’s texts but without going to all the trouble of matching their density of content and ideas. Academic publishers are happy to go along with this imposture. Spivak, whose writing is also unreadable, took the atmospheric approach too, but directed mainly towards colonial studies and subaltern theory. But it has suddenly backfired in the universities.

The radical feminists who were able to reward each other with tenured positions through ever more extreme man-hating dressed up like this for publication in each other’s journals had found that their victory was complete as far as female students were concerned, with mandatory indoctrination classes, so next they tried various stratagems to pull male students in too, aiming at 100% control of the general population. Men’s Studies? Might backfire. Getting men to declare themselves as feminists? Easy enough but with spotty results. Gender studies? Yes! That seemed to hit the spot: a tried and tested formula which by sleight of hand would rope men into the feminist agenda with compulsory classes and what is now a familiar range of measures, at no cost beyond having to tolerate some grateful and docile men in the staff room, mouthing your slogans back at you.'

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This was surprisingly funny, well argued, and devastatingly good.

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