There is an article of mine in the latest Quadrant which has been put up online. It is a review of Roger Scruton’s latest book, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. It is as good a book as you are likely to read on political theory in the modern age. How good? This good, taken from a review in The Guardian:
This polemic adopts the abusive and paranoid style it decries in its leftwing opponents.
Abusive, absolutely. It’s a short book and has to cover much territory by cutting to the chase. Paranoid, if this book doesn’t scare you, you must already be on the left. I, on the other hand, describe the book like this:
The book has a specific purpose. It is to provide a way of escape to students who are caught up in various versions of a modern humanities course, where they are fed an endless mind-numbing postmodernist gruel. The book goes through the various manifestations of the modern Left to explain their idiocies and unravel the Newspeak in which they are encoded. But the book does more. It opens up to those of us who are only vaguely aware of the ways in which the humanities are now taught, our own entry into the depths of a problem most of us are, at best, only dimly aware of. . . .
Scruton explains why everything you know, believe and understand about the world can be instantly dismissed by these people through the revolutionary perspective of Grand Theory. And here we are discussing nearly every one of the major philosophical thinkers of the modern age: Hobsbawm, Thompson, Dworkin, Sartre, Foucault, Habermas, Althusser, Lacan, Deleuze, Gramsci, Said, Badiou, Žižek and many others still who do not make it into chapter titles.
Unless you are a specialist in postmodernist philosophy, you will know next to nothing about most of them. Yet these are not just the major authors who people the reading lists of courses in Cultural Studies, but it is their views that underpin the content of the media and political discourse across the West. These people may be as loopy as it is possible to be, and their works near-unreadable nonsense, but they inform our debates and are the essence of politically correct discourse. You cannot avoid any of it. What Scruton offers in Fools, Frauds and Firebrands is an opportunity to find out for yourself what passes for modern thought, provided in a way that you will understand not just their content, not just their dangers, but also their incredible idiocy. This is where one of the most crucially important battles of our time is being fought, and unless you understand what is taking place, you will be unable to do a thing. That is why you should read this book. If nothing else, you will understand the nature of the icebergs that have ripped through the hull of the cultural ship of the West and why it may soon sink into oblivion.
The aim of this post is to get you to read the review. The aim of the review is to get you to read the book. But all of it is to get you to understand the intellectual world in which we live and the dangers we collectively face. Roger Scruton is one of the very few who can explain the depths of these problems in a way you can understand. But he can only do that if you read what he has written which is what you should do.