A Critique of Post-Structuralism’s Rejection of “Grand Narratives” and The Need For A “Post-Post-Structuralism”

The rejection of “grand narratives” by post-structuralism is no different from Marx’s conclusion that religion would simply no longer exist in a truly free, or classless society. The post-structuralist critique of ideology, like Marx’s critique of religion, is by and large rooted in social reality. But the post-structuralists fail to understand that rejecting all “grand narratives” manifests itself as the biggest grand narrative of all. In attempting to transcend what their critique of society has found, the post-structuralists embrace it in it’s most toxic form. The rejection of ideology is not at all a negation of ideology but on the contrary, it is one of the most toxic forms of ideology in the present society. Like the Stalinist distortion of Marxism, that which is generally correct and emancipatory has been converted into that which is dogmatic, oppressive, and vile. The statue of dead Lenin under Stalinism beats the oppressed worker with the works of Karl Marx just as the early bourgeois conception of Christ beats the rebellious slave with the crucifix.

The real critique here is merely of the “completeness” or the ideological “full circle” of ideological structures and grand narratives, including the “completeness” in the logic of post-structuralism itself. The post-structuralists are correct in their initial critique of ideology, in the application of structural linguistics to society at large and their skepticism towards the alleged objectivity of phenomenology. But to take it to faithfully to its “logical” conclusion brings with it certain dangers that are present in nearly every “correct” ideological school of thought, dangers the post-structuralists themselves know all too well. This is where all ideological systems have a tendency to go from that which is correct, to that which is wrong or at worse, oppressive. Reason itself is the cantor of the rhythm of any correct ideological school of thought. But the subjectivity of experience itself can cause the cantor to turn into an uncompromising fanatic under the illusion of correctness or objectivity. What is needed therefore, is not an abandonment or a rejection of post-structuralism, but a post-post-structuralism that dialectically transcends the initial application of structural linguistics onto society itself. And I am by no means qualified to carry out such a monumental task in modern philosophy. But I can give some initial impressions as to the attitude of such a philosophical system. The basic idea is that ideological schools can bring a people only halfway, even “revolutionary” philosophical outlooks such as post-structuralism. Real praxis then, starts with ideological critique and ends in action, and “logical conclusions” thus, must be based on actual experience rather than concretely on theoretical leaps of logic. But awareness of the shortcomings of ideology naturally should lead one to not take their ideological beliefs too seriously. They should embrace reason and reject fundamentalism whether religious or political. The awareness of the subjectivity of phenomenology does not itself constitute the rejection of “grand narratives”, but on the contrary, it merely demands humbleness of the followers of this or that world outlook. The rejection of “grand narratives” leads politically to stagnation and conservatism. In our world, nothing is needed more than a “grand narrative”. If humanity stops now, the consequences will be catastrophic. Every follower of this or that belief should be completely willing to abandon their views if they are confronted with evidence that demand such an abandonment. Even if one dedicates their whole life to this or that view, they should happily and enthusiastically celebrate the logical destruction of their world outlook, and be grateful to that which is responsible. Like a scientific theory, one’s view can be based largely on what seems to be objective truth, but like a scientific theory, this or that viewpoint can and should be abandoned when new evidence comes to light that fundamentally challenged said theory.

In a word, what for lack of a better word I call ‘post-post-structuralism’, should demand ideological agnosticism. But what do I mean by this? I do not mean agnosticism in the traditional sense of the word (neutrality). A Christian Agnostic for instance, may believe in the basic tenets of the Christian faith. When he dies he may believe he will go to heaven, but such a person does not purport to know that their religious world out-look is correct. Nothing is more arrogant, when faced with the subjectivity of existence and the limitations of phenomenology, than to purport to know objective truth- even when ones views are based on reason and not faith alone. One should accept that in this or that ideology which is based on reason, but the “complete” circular conclusions derived thereof should be viewed with agnosticism. This does not mean they do not believe in the conclusions their logical, political, or philosophical systems arrive at, but that they are agnostic towards them. Overall, the best judge of the benevolence or malevolence of this or that ideology is the actual effect it has on society. Human rights is an excellent example of this. No one is so stupid to believe in the objective existence of human rights. One can look at positive effect it has on society (yes, we have negative liberty in most of the developed world), and the negative (countless imperialist wars and interventions in the name of human rights under the cloak of benevolence). Monolithic ideological systems present in totalitarian political religions do not merely go full circle, they spiral. But in our present era, nothing is more dangerous or hypocritical than to reject “grand narratives” in the name of “rejecting ideology”.

I have tried to express my criticism here briefly, being only familiar with post-structuralism to a certain degree. I am by no means an expert on the matter and will happily accept criticism from readers.

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