Sunday, April 09, 2006

postmodernity and totalitarianism

Boy is my face red. Earlier I mentioned, contra postmodernity and in defense of reason, that totalitarian governments usually don't endorse, but attack reason. My admittedly fictional illustration was from Orwell's 1984. My undue assumption however was that postmodernity was against totalitarianism. Turns out the truly postmodern position (If Rorty and Foucault can be considered truly postmodern) is that totalitarians are not entirely suspect, being as they are such effective brokers of irony. Explains Carl Rapp,
"...In Rorty's interpretation, the point Orwell is trying to make in 1984 is that the worst thing that can happen to one is that one's capacity for doublethinking (or supreme fiction making) should be disrupted. That doublethink, in Rorty's view, should turn out to be a good thing after all, and that the spirit of Greek philosophy should turn out to be fully employed in the Ministry of Truth (and thus a bad thing after all), was a brilliant piece of virtuoso irony and a perfect demonstration of irony's power to make every determinacy waver and dissolve, not unworthy of the Ministry of Truth itself.

For his own part, Foucault admitted to Trombadori that the coherence of his own project of being always other than himself had not been incompatible, at least for a time, with Stalinism. The attractiveness of Stalinism for Foucault, during his brief stint in the Communist Party, had been the very fact that it required continuous and unremitting doublethinking in order to stay abreast of official Party policy and thus permitted one to be constantly changing" (chp. 2).
For details, see 175-6 (Rorty) and 52 (Foucault).

I've spent a lot of time on this blog assuming that the postmodern ethos was unequivocally opposed to totalitarianism. It was an unfair assumption, and I am sorry to have mischaracterized my opponents.

Happy holy week everybody.