The Catholic Culture Podcast: 94 – Understanding Postmodern “Social Justice”


Dec 22, 2020

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The alarmists were right: ideas that were only a few years ago
complacently dismissed as the perennial agitation of a few campus
loonies are now pervasive in the corporate world, mass media and
pop culture.

Critical race theory, transgender ideology, the obsessive search
for oppressive power relations in every aspect of life and every
feature of language, the demand for all to be activists, shutting
down of dissenting speech as violence: common sense or the gift of
a solid Catholic formation will suffice for most who reject these

But some will want a more rigorous critique or a deeper
understanding of the philosophical roots of radical leftist
activism. To that end, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay have
written Cynical Theories, a very helpful primer on the
development of modern activism from 1960s postmodernist

In this episode, Thomas and political philosopher Darel Paul
discuss the book, which tracks how postcolonial theory, queer
theory, women’s/gender studies, critical race theory, and other
activist fields have instantiated or adapted the following central
principles and themes of postmodernism:

Postmodern principles:

  1. Radical skepticism about the ability to know anything, cultural
  2. Society is formed of systems of power and hierarchies which
    decide what and how things can be known

Postmodern themes: The blurring of boundaries, the power of
language, cultural relativism, loss of the individual and the

The episode concludes with a critique of Pluckrose and Lindsay’s
prescription of a return to Enlightenment liberalism as a
corrective to postmodernism.


[1:41] Reasons for discussing Cynical Theories

[4:36] Evidence of postmodernist activist movements reaching the

[10:58] What the book contributes to the discourse on woke

[15:00] Similarities and differences between postmodernism and

[26:25] The core postmodern principles and themes

[38:53] Policing speech as a tool of power rather than a
rational means of communicating truth

[47:58] The proliferation of postmodern principles into a number
of activist fields

[49:47] Defining one’s identity in terms of suffering and

[55:07] Tension between postmodern rejection of categories and
the need to have categories to critique power relations; the
emergence of queer theory; deliberate incoherence as liberation

[1:01:06] Conundrum for LGBTQ activists: gain “normal” status or
destroy idea of normality?

[1:06:40] Gender theory vs. critical race theory on

[1:18:50] Postmodernism as a class ideology?

[1:24:17] The postcolonial critique of science; epistemic

[1:27:30] Critique of Pluckrose and Lindsay’s advocacy of a
return to Enlightenment liberalism

[1:32:51] Liberalism as an inherently negative and
deconstructive philosophy

[1:40:04] Postmodernism as an extension and/or consequence of

[2:04:33] How to communicate truth to someone who believes
language is merely power?


Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories

Darel Paul, “Against Racialism”

Darel Paul, “Listening at the Great Awokening”

Darel Paul, “The Global Community Is a Fantasy”

Darel Paul, From Tolerance to Equality

Ep. 61 on liberalism as an anti-culture with James Matthew

Ep. 18 on the vice of acedia manifested in our refusal to accept
our given nature

Christmas episodes:

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) film discussion w/ Patrick

CCP 59 – The Glorious English Carol

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