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  • Dr Sean Gabb
    Dear All, I left the name field blank in my spam software earlier. This exposes the nature of my personal messages , but doesn t at all detract from my
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2008
      Dear All,

      I left the name field blank in my spam software earlier. This exposes the
      nature of my "personal messages", but doesn't at all detract from my
      burning desire to see you, Yahoo Group: Libertarian Debaters, at the LA
      Conference - details here:


      Now, Yahoo Group: Libertarian Debaters, since I am too busy changing
      nappies and looking after my little Baby Bear to do much original writing
      beyond my new novel, here is a blast from the past.

      Best wishes,



      Blast from the Past: Post-Modernism and Hot Air

      Free Life Commentary,
      an independent journal of comment
      published on the Internet
      Issue Number 51

      9th July 2001
      Review Article by Dr Sean Gabb
      Deep Citizenship
      Barry Clarke
      Pluto Press, London, 1996, 168pp, £10.99 (pbk)
      (ISBN 0 7453 11016)

      Every so often, I gather up a mass of the review copies I have been sent
      of new books and take them to the nearest charity shop. The book that I
      am briefly reviewing here has lain unopened on a shelf for about five
      years. Looking through it, I realise I should have made an effort with
      it, as it is deserving of some notice. I cannot be bothered to give it a
      full scale review. But here are my brief thoughts on it.

      I used to be troubled by the post-modernists. Whenever I looked into
      their works, I found them full of claims that everything I believed was
      wrong, with arguments in support that sounded impressive but always
      seemed just outside the range of my understanding. I would look up from
      the page feeling distinctly unintelligent. Perhaps, I would think, I was
      an intellectual incompetent. Perhaps I was able to travel easily enough
      along paths that generations of previous thinkers had made smooth and
      provided with sign posts, but not to strike out in new directions which
      might lead more directly to the truth, but where the ground was still
      uneven. It took me a while to realise that this was one of the main
      objects of post-modernism, and that the arguments themselves, so far as
      they could be translated into normal English, were just hot air.

      Post-modernism is the last refuge of people who realise they have been
      wrong for most of their adult lives, but who for reasons of pride or
      career cannot make a full recantation. They simply claim that
      circumstances have changed, and that because of this all the old ways of
      thinking and doing things are obsolete—not just their own, but also those
      of their opponents. Without ever admitting to having been wrong in the
      past, they have abandoned their old positions in favour of new ones from
      which they can continue sneering at everyone else and preening themselves
      on their own effortless superiority and fitness to rule.

      To some extent, this is an improvement. Our musical establishment, for
      example, will never admit that composers like Hans Werner Henze were
      charlatans; and so any theory that lets them start commissioning real
      music again without public embarrassment must be a relief. It is the same
      with the more intelligent socialists. If talking about “post-Fordism”
      lets them forget about their printing press and machine gun economics, we
      all gain.

      As well as benefits, however, post-modernism has its costs. In politics,
      for example, though it may disguise a retreat from evil, it also
      disguises much remaining or even new evil. The old socialists may have
      been wrong, but they usually argued in the normal way from their
      premises; and their opponents could see where and why the arguments were
      wrong. The post-modernists prefer to advance behind a barrage of
      ambiguity and verbal tricks. We can suspect their intentions, but these
      are plain only to the initiated.

      Turning to the work under review, it is almost a classical illustration
      of these faults. According to the puff on its back cover,

      [p]olitics is on the verge of a radical break with the past, permitting a
      post-liberal democratic politics that is relevant to the politically
      empowered individual. Yet such empowerment is only possible against the
      backdrop of a re-conceptualisation of citizenship.

      The author spends 125 pages arguing for these propositions; and, so far
      as I can tell, he fails to establish either of them. He begins with the
      standard claim, that

      Marxism, as a systematic ideology, is by common consent, dead [Dr
      Clarke's punctuation]. But… liberalism, or at least that part of it that
      takes European history and purely European characteristics as universal,
      and that part of it that takes civil society as unpolitical, is equally

      Of course, he nowhere proves this second part of his claim, or even
      seriously tries to. He never tries to show what is bad about limited
      government, or how the laws of demand and supply stop working in places
      like Africa and Central Asia, or how the health, wealth and happiness
      that derive from respect for these things are either bad in themselves or
      regarded as irrelevant by non-Europeans.

      A few moments’ thought should be enough to tell anyone that European
      history and characteristics are of supreme importance, so far as they
      allow people to understand or join the only real civilisation that has
      ever yet existed on this planet. It is wrong to despise people because
      they come from cultures that have not our heritage of legal and
      scientific progress. It is wrong to expect them to put away all their
      local customs, and to dress and eat and worship and be entertained
      exactly as we are. It is also false to claim that European civilisation
      is entirely the achievement of Europeans, owing nothing to the genius of
      earlier times and other places. Even so, the basic elements of European
      civilisation are of universal value, and must be accepted by anyone who
      does not wish to remain poor and oppressed.

      All Mr Clarke does succeed in showing is a reason to cut off all public
      funding to the University of Essex, which employs him as a lecturer—and
      where I understand he is thought to be tremendously clever.

      Indeed, his book is so opaque that even its intention would have escaped
      me without the back cover to act as a guide—a back cover that was
      probably written by somebody else.

      Sean Gabb
      Director, The Libertarian Alliance
      Tel: 07956 472 199
      Skype Username: seangabb


      Linkedin Details: http://www.linkedin.com/in/seangabb
      Wikipedia Entry: http://tinyurl.com/23jvoz

      FREE download of my book - "Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How
      Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back" -
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