Saturday, November 6, 2021

Best of 2021: On Challenging Problematic Theories

A Justice Critique of Postmodernism, from a Psychological Perspective

Back in the 1950s, the psychologist Julian B. Rotter developed the idea that people could be placed on a spectrum of having an internal locus of control on one end, vs an external locus of control on the other end. People with an internal locus of control believed that they were in control of, and responsible for, the successes or failures in their lives, and Rotter observed that they had high achievement motivation. This, of course, is an essential ingredient for success in life, as well as a key factor in psychological health. This is why, if we want to be successful, we should aim to orientate ourselves to have an internal locus of control.
 
However, postmodern critical theories teach women and various minorities, including ethnic minorities and LGBT people alike, that their fate is being determined by an oppressive system that won’t let them succeed.

How the Theory Left Drove People to the Reactionary Right

Having read plenty of political history, and having reflected on the topic for some time, I have come to the conclusion that it all began in the late 1960s, when a faction of the Left turned away from the workers and towards intellectuals for their support. This became the critical theory-based New Left, which presented endless theory-based critiques of the existing society. Over time, the cultural changes arising from this theory-based Left led to a cascade of social effects, which steadily drove a substantial number of people towards hardline reactionary conservatism.

When Theory is Slavery

Anyway, the key point is, much of the Western Left today takes a theory-based approach to everything, and base their so-called progressivism on achieving the goals of their theory. They decide what is a good course of action, or what counts as success, not based on objective reality, not based on if the lives of people have actually been made better, but on their theoretical concerns. This, I think, is essentially being a slave to theory. Hence theory has actually become slavery, in the context of the 21st century Western Left.

Why Critical Theory & Echo Chambers are a Dangerous Combination

Of particular concern is the recent rise of postmodern critical theories, like critical race theory, critical gender theory and so on, and how these can exacerbate the echo chamber cognitive bias problem exponentially. Postmodern criticalism rejects the requirement of objectivity outright, and encourages the dangerous idea that each person can have ‘their own truth’. I’m concerned that people who have this worldview would be even less likely to keep their cognitive biases in check.