New English Review Press, 2018

as reviewed on Goodreads

This is a peculiar book. It is also a delightful book. The subtitle suggests a scholarly treatment of the subject, but the title adequately scuttles that expectation, and we get a memoir of ideological development and conflict, with a sketch of the bizarre noösphere that is postmodernist social justice.

Michael Rectenwald hails from the left. The far left. We read of his apprenticeship with American poet Allen Ginsburg, his introduction into the world of postmodern philosophy and literary theory, his travails as a teacher and husband and divorcé and suitor, his work as an academic consultant on TV news as well as his work in writing scholarly articles and books, and, most importantly, his meteoric transit at his college and in the general culture as Twitter’s “Deplorable NYU Prof.” 

For many, that may be the sole delight this book provides, darting through the Twitterstorm and the following academic scandal that he initiated by daring to criticize the social justice cult. It is the first book I have read with an appendix of Tweets.

But I most enjoyed his concise explanations of the differences between Marxism, cultural Marxism, post-structuralism, post-modernism, Deconstruction and, yes, that strange cult, “social justice.” And his conclusion is interesting, too: he says we must treat social justice as a religion, and dethrone it from setting any policy — drive it from university administrations, where it now dominates — but not from its intellectual place in the Academy. Probably reasonable. But disappointingly modest. For social justice and the postmodernism it hails from are worse than mere cults, they constitute an insurrectionist cadre that demands more than the just a Cultural Revolution of virtue signalling and callouts (and doxxing). As far as I can tell, the crazed cult really does want to do what Barack Hussein Obama said he wanted to do: radically transform America.

I want freedom, not totalitarianism, whether mob-based or statist. So if we rush towards any form of radicalism, I suggest another direction.

But this book might be helpful in changing course. For, after all, the author himself has changed hos whole persoective — he was almost forced to, he explains, by the betrayals of nearly all of his colleagues and friends . . . and comrades. He is no longer a communist or socialist or advocate of that mirage, social justice. He wants freedom and individual rights, now, too.

If a one-time Marxist/postmodernist can undergo such a metamorphosis, may not a whole culture, as well? 

twv

Advertisements