From: chrsowen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Chris Owen)
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 1997 14:48:30 +0800 (WST)
I have no idea who Alan Ryan is as I'm not from the USA but I have the
complete article from which that quote is lifted. It comes from a column in
the London Review of Books.
"It is, for instance, pretty suicidal for embattled minorities to embrace
Michel Foucault, let alone Jaques Derrida. The minority view was always
that power could be undermined by truth: that it was unjustly distributed,
that its holders wanted this overlooked and purchased all sorts of
intellectual disguises for the purpose , that it would be an uphill
struggle getting the truth in front of the public, but that that was what
had to be done. Once you read Foucault as saying that truth is simply an
effect of power , you've had it. Those with power have 'truth' on their
side, and the old radical hope that we can undermine power with truth is
incoherent. But American departments of literature, history and sociology
contain large numbers of self-described leftists who have confused radical
doubts about objectivity with political radicalism, and are in a mess..."
Ryan's whole article is a commentary on what he sees as a (continuing)
crisis in education and is merely commenting on what he sees as a trend in
intellectual circles to what would (very) loosely be called post-modernism.
Alan Sokal is quoting from Ryan's article and never quotes or comments on
Foucault or Derrida at any point. See the web site for the 'Sokal Affair'
if you are interested.
Yes, Ryan's use of Foucault's work is perhaps flawed but his fundamental
premise argues what are the *practical* implications of adopting these
ideas. Reading some of these posts I tend to agree with him. Personally I'm
not sure how linguistic posturing about what 'minorties' means or how
someone uses the word helps anybody at all. That is, those with privelege
(you and I, students, academics etc) talking about this as opposed to
people in no position to do so. Maybe someone can help me out on this