From Claire Berlinski’s review of The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind by Bruce Bawer:
This inability of many young Americans to express a simple or even grammatically coherent thought, in Bawer’s view, owes to a variety of academic fads that in the early 1980s captured the American university. One was postmodernism, of course, which traced its roots to the great anthropologists, but from which, alas, was derived a form of crude cultural relativism that achieved the ignominious trifecta of insipidity, incoherence, and blithe ignorance of a philosophical literature treating the idea of relativism from the Sophists to, at the very least, G. E. Moore. From this followed the conclusion that values, such as individual liberty, were not universal, and as the Canadian poet David Solway put it, that we must perforce believe that ‘[t]here are no barbarians, only different forms of civilized men.’
Then arrived the minor idea of hegemony, conceived by the minor Marxist intellect Antonio Gramsci, who argued that modern liberal democracies are no freer than the most ruthless of totalitarianisms. The oppression was merely unseen. That this idea is absurd—engineers don’t waste energy worrying about plane crashes so subtle that passengers neither notice them nor complain of them—was no obstacle to its advancement. Bawer notes as well the Leninist Paulo Freire, who gave us the common jargon of the contemporary humanities—dialogue, communication, solidarity—and the idea that the point of education is to recognize one’s own oppression so as better to resist it. The Marxist post-colonialist Frantz Fanon completes the intellectual trio.
The chief objective of an education in the humanities today, Bawer argues—with abundant anecdotal evidence to support the claim—is to appreciate that life is all about hegemonic power and to use ‘theory’ to uncover its workings. Depending upon their sex, skin color, or sexual orientation, students are asked to accept as axiomatic that they are either the unconscious instrument of such power or the repository of its collective grievance and victimhood.
Sounds pretty familiar to me although perhaps overdone but not all that overdone. The reviewer, on the other hand, doesn’t actually like the book’s conclusions since it visits much of the problems of our youth culture on the social science and humanities as taught at the institutes of higher learning they attend. Sure there’s lots more to it than that, but that is also one part of the problem. Will now track down the book and read it for myself.