Updated: Sep 24, 2022
I have a personal bugbear, referenced many times before, that postmodernism is actually right-wing and not—as most contemporary conservative commentators say—left-wing. Today, I was vindicated again (happens often). I flipped through a book called New Times (1989) that was published by Marxism Today, the theoretical organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain. In the essay extracted above, an essay by Dick Hebdige, it is stated that postmodernism is most often associated with the right—in particular, the essay goes on to note that it is even associated with fascism (the connection being with Nietzsche, the father of postmodernism and an influence on fascism). Indeed, perhaps I read this book once before many years ago…
Hebdige states that postmodernism contradicts the left’s project because the left seeks emancipatory pathways that are based on reason, progress, and science, whereas postmodernism suggests that these are just particular ways to know—all is flux, irrational and instinctual (and the left is none too keen on that situation). The reason is fairly obvious: postmodernism opens up an avenue for the return of religion, spirituality, and blood—and the left hates these things, it thinks these have been safely dealt with by reason and science. Ergo, postmodernism is a rightist development—although Hebdige acknowledges that “critical theorists”, adjacent to postmodernism, incline to the left.
The people who complain about “postmodern neo-Marxism” are actually conservative progressive liberals—Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Jordan Peterson, Steven Pinker. These names are those that most often complain about postmodernism and also celebrate the Enlightenment legacy—and they are all conservative progressives, not revolutionary leftists but nonetheless on the left. They fear postmodernism precisely because it might do away with their leftism, it might reintroduce religion and other chthonic forces that were once safely excised by Enlightenment science. This is not to say postmodernism is unalloyed “good”, not to say it will lead people back to spiritual paths automatically—it may have its own corruption, yet the left has always hated it.