Friday, October 09, 2020

Book Review: Cynical Theories, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay

What is "critical theory(ies)"? The most recent book by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, entitled Cynical Theories, is an attempt by the two academics to describe critical theories and their evolution from a secular liberal ("old left") perspective. I have read it and here is my review of the book. An excerpt:

Cynical Theories, a play on “critical theory,” is a book that addresses the issue of critical theories, from a critical, liberal perspective. The authors Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay identify as liberals, and support what they believe to be LGBT equality (p. 19), but are against critical theories and thus the addition of “Q” to the gender alphabet group acronym. In their view, critical theories have hijacked the liberal project and are destructive of both it and society. Of concern to them is the fact that critical theories are provoking the rise of an equally identitarian right (p. 259), and the attack of the two extremes on society will eviscerate liberal society as it currently stands.


Of their solution to Critical Theories with a return to secular liberalism, let me offer these two sentences from the review:

Secular liberalism therefore fails to be the proper solution to Critical Theory as it cannot justify itself against other systems. It cannot justify any of its preferences, and as such, is unable to stop the emergence and progression of Critical Theories, which all happened under the watch of the liberal intelligentsia.