A new book on Woke Academia by two of the “grievance studies” authors

April 21, 2020 • 1:30 pm

Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay are two of the three “grievance studies” hoaxers (Peter Boghossian was the other); all have devoted considerable time and valuable effort to debunking the postmodernistic debasement of woke academia. Now Pluckrose and Lindsay have collaborated on an upcoming book, called to my attention by Paul Topping. It goes on sale June 16, and is only $20 for a 348-page hardback. The Amazon summary is below, along with a cover image (click screenshot to go to Amazon page) and three endorsements.

Have you heard that language is violence and that science is sexist? Have you read that you shouldn’t practice yoga or cook Chinese food? Are you confused by these ideas and wonder how they have managed to challenge so quickly the very logic of Western society? In this probing and intrepid volume, Helen Pluckrose and James A. Lindsay document the evolution of this dogma, from its coarse origins in French postmodernism to its refinement within activist academic fields. As Pluckrose and Lindsay warn, the unchecked proliferation of these anti-Enlightenment beliefs presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but also to modernity itself. Only through a proper understanding of the evolution of these ideas can those who value science, reason, and consistently liberal ethics successfully challenge this dangerous and authoritarian orthodoxy.

I will of course be reading it. Pluckrose and Lindsay are no slouches, though they’re demonized, as expected, by exponents of the Woke Campus.  And the book already has the endorsement of three names you’ll know, two of them academics:

“Many people are nonplussed by the surge of wokery, social justice warfare, intersectionality, and identity politics that has spilled out of academia and inundated other spheres of life. Where did it come from? What ideas are behind it? This book exposes the surprisingly shallow intellectual roots of the movements that appear to be engulfing our culture.” —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now

Cynical Theories is a brilliant book, offering an incisive and much needed critique of the cult of social justice. The authors painstakingly trace its origins in postmodernism and, in doing so, expose the ways in which a once fashionable coterie of theorists infiltrated the mainstream with catastrophic consequences for liberalism, equality, and free speech.” —Andrew Doyle, creator of Titania McGrath

“In this important and timely book, Pluckrose and Lindsay trace the intellectual origins of today’s Social Justice crusaders. With clear prose and a fair-minded spirit, they argue forcefully that struggles for social justice are strongest when they are founded on respect for evidence, reason, and free and open debate. They deplore the harm that closed-minded Social Justice ideologues are doing to the cause of social justice (lower-case), and they offer practical strategies for doing better.” —Alan Sokal, Professor of Mathematics, University College London, and coauthor of Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science

39 thoughts on “A new book on Woke Academia by two of the “grievance studies” authors

  1. I’ve been thinking about this term “grievance”.

    Is that supposed to mean one person might be born into less-than-ideal circumstances, while another – born into a closer to ideal scenario – reveals a large discrepancy in how successful each person is?

    Because put another way, someone might have an unfair life foisted on them by some other group- and would justifiably have a grievance to express.

    I can’t even formulate my own definition of “grievance”.

    1. …and then there’s justified grievance, rhetorical grievance, and confected grievance.

      Probably several more ‘types’ too. But they need treating differently. Some with more or less respect, and some being resoundingly rejected.

      Even Social Justice peeps recognise this to some extent, hence intersectionalism, but they are unwilling to reject false grievance.

  2. If you keep a list of books to read, Sokal’s Fashionable Nonsense, written with Jean Bricmont, is a good one.

    1. Finally you Pommies get a sense of what it was like over here at the time of the Boston Tea Party. 🙂

      1. I seem to recall we halved the tax on sugar, but the problem arose when we tried to stop the smuggling?

          1. Don’t you just love the way we Brits added lime juice to rum to avoid scurvy at sea, and added quinine to tonic water to drink with gin to prevent malaria? There’s a theme here…

  3. I have no doubt that Pluckrose and Lindsay have done a good job of dissecting the foibles of the Social Justice (with a capital) that has much influence on college campuses and elsewhere. But, here’s what disturbs me. Some of those folks that get all riled up about this movement give the impression (wittingly or not) that it is some sort of dangerous break with the traditional placidity of American society. But, even a casual understanding of American history is that it is replete with groups whose total reason for being was to air grievances. For good or for bad, these groups altered the trajectory of the nation’s history. From the American revolutionaries to the abolitionists to the southern slaverholders to women’s rights to the Populists of the 1890s to the American labor movement to the Ku Klux Klan to the civil rights movement to the biggest grievance group today – the Republican Party, to name just a few, the country has been filled with people feeling they were not getting a fair shake from the rest of society. So, from the perspective of history, the Social Justice movement is small potatoes, particularly compared to the Republican Party – the home of white grievance in its many manifestations.

    Social Justice should be called out if for no other reason than their tactics are counterproductive. I dare to predict that within a few years it will shrivel to a few hard core activists, especially if on-campus learning becomes limited. I know many readers of this site will disagree with me on this. After laying dormant for perhaps decades, it may re-emerge in a less extreme form. But, regardless of what happens, Social Justice is American as apple pie.

    1. I think it isn’t the “grievance” part of “grievance studies” that’s the issue. As you say, groups seeking redress for grievances is as old as the hills. It’s how they go about it that seems new. They aren’t satisfied with trying to fix the system. The fixing just isn’t happening fast enough for them so they’ve turned their focus solely on the grieving, identity, and shunning and shaming of everyone else.

      1. Whereas the right wing snowflakes are demonstrating their grievances and impatience with automatic weapons. Historian is correct, call the woke out if you must, but have perspective.

          1. Is that an interrogative, sir, or just an interjection? I gather that you are British, so perhaps you have never experienced the sight of aggressive looking civilians gathering en masse and carrying carrying assault rifles. I had not either until this president came into office. It’s a chilling sight. These people look more like armed gangs than anything else.
            I understand the concerns about shallow wokeness, but I am not as worked up about it as most of the people in this forum. Given everything that we’re up against now, it’s like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, to use a tired but apt simile.

            1. I’m a Brit that has lived in the US most of my life. I have never experienced civilians with guns “en masse” and hope I never do. I am totally anti-gun. That all said, I am not sure how it bears on this conversation. Sounds like we’re in violent agreement on those things.

              Sounds like I am more worked up about the wokeness. It’s for many reasons. I believe it is interfering with actual work toward social justice. Some of the people that voted for Trump, did so as way of lashing back at what they see as encroaching wokeness. They may very well be full of shit but if it resulted in Trump’s election, it is a big deal regardless. It also affects universities in the quality of people they hire and retain and in the educational experience of its students. The details of this are well-covered on this website. Suffice it to say that I am glad I am not a student right now, though it would be nice to be young again. It also seems to be getting worse. Although sites like this one fight against it, I don’t see it letting up any time soon.

              Anyway, that’s probably enough.

              1. I have seen armed gatherings, They scare me. I see those people as the rise of our own homegrown brown shirts. That seems to be the key difference between our viewpoints. The woke, for me, just don’t rise to the level of even a minor concern along side that. This was my sole point.

              2. Given the choice you outline, I would agree. However, it seems like a false choice. I’m against both “brown shirts” with guns AND loony Left wokers and plan to speak out against both in the future.

              3. Fair enough, Mr. Topping. Do you see the woke as being as dangerous as fascists with guns? How much time do you spend worrying about one and not the other? Given a choice between allying yourself with a woke person and a fascist, which would you choose? This is what I was referring to as perspective.

  4. The woke have little to say in these dire times – their feeble proclamations sound totally irrelevant in the face of global catastrophe.


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