Privileging concepts like epistemology hides flaws in postmodern approaches to international relations. Their authors prefer dogmatic faith over critical investigation.
(Darryl, Associate Professor & Deputy Director, Centre for Asia and Globalisation. International Relations and the Challenge of Postmodernism: Defending the Discipline. pg. 138)
First, I must acknowledge that any theoretical critique of Ashley’s project, including this one, is destined to failure, at least in its ability to affect the course of debate within postmodernism. This problem is not endemic to the nature of the critique(s), but reflects the fact that postmodern theory is as much driven by ideological commitment as by theoretical innovation. Moreover, within international relations theory the postmodernist perspective exists independently of contending approaches, hermetically isolated if only because of its specialized nomenclature and distinctive ideological hue that encloses participants in a select and self-absorbed theoretical-ideological discourse. Membership to this discourse is exclusive and limited to those who promise to take up the faith and propagate it, not question it critically. Thus, regardless of how erudite critiques migh be, or how serendipitous critical analysis proves, we can scarcely expect Ashley to be convinced by intellectual mustings when they are contrary to his political ambitions. For in Ashley’s writings we are confronted as much by ideological intransigence as we debate over ontological and epistemological issues. The postmodernist/modernist divide is more ideological than theoretical, a battle not between contending ontologies so much as between political loyalties. The façade of ontological and epistemological debate has thus been used deceptively to shield the underlying ideological axis upon which these debates ultimately rest. For this reason, we should not be surprised that postmodernists remain unconvinced by modernist theory, or vice versa, or that each is largely uninterested in the others perspective, theory, or arguments. Those views, theories, or paradigms not in accord with one’s own worldview or basic values are rarely considered, let alone studied. And while Ashley would have us believe that these failings are the exclusive prsever of modernist/positivist theory, postmodernist theory too is just as guilty, having evolved in isolation, cocooned by technical nomenclature, reticent to engage contending perspectives in useful dialogue, and trigger happy in rejecting opposing perspectives without first understanding them.
Reforming the state is a strategic necessity – non-state alternatives will either be crushed by the state or result in less accountable tyrannies
(Noam, Professor of Linguistics at MIT. The Common Good: Noam Chomsky Interviewed by David Barsamian, p. 84-85)
So Argentina is “minimizing the state”—cutting down public expenditures, the way our government is doing, but much more extremely. Of course, when you minimize the state, you maximize something else—and it isn’t popular control. What gets maximized is private power, domestic and foreign. I met with a very lively anarchist movement in Buenos Aires, and with other anarchist groups as far away as northeast Brazil, where nobody even knew they existed. We had a lot of discussions about these matters. They recognize that they have to try to use the state—even though they regard it as totally illegitimate. The reason is perfectly obvious: When you eliminate the one institutional structure in which people can participate to some extent—namely the government—you’re simply handing over power to unaccountable private tyrannies that are much worse. So you have to make use of the state, all the time recognizing that you ultimately want to eliminate it. Some of the rural workers in Brazil have an interesting slogan. They say their immediate task is “expanding the floor of the cage.” They understand that they’re trapped inside a cage, but realize that protecting it when it’s under attack from even worse predators on the outside, and extending the limits of what the cage will allow, are both essential preliminaries to dismantling it. If they attack the cage directly when they’re so vulnerable, they’ll get murdered.That’s something anyone ought to be able to understand who can keep two ideas in their head at once, but some people here in the US tend to be so rigid and doctrinaire that they don’t understand the point. But unless the left here is willing to tolerate that level of complexity, we’re not going to be of any use to people who are suffering and need our help—or, for that matter, to ourselves.
Neg – Western Science Good
Their kritik of science sweeps the rug out from under anti-colonial movements attempting to use science to counter domination and violence—it ends up validating all non-Western views, including reactionary, nationalist, and oppressive
One of the most remarkable - and the least remarked upon - features of the "radical" movement engaged in deconstructing natural science is how it ends up denying the unity (i.e., universality) of truth, reason, reality, and science precisely in the name of those who need these unities most urgently - the "people resisting despotism and its lies." This includes those of us from non-Western societies fighting against the despotism of some of our own cultural traditions, and the untested and untestable cosmologies that are used to justify these traditions. A loose and varied assortment of theories that bear the label of social constructivism have declared the very content of modern natural science to be justified, in the final instance, by "Western" cultural values and social interests. Once modern science is seen not as a universally valid knowledge about the natural world, but as a particular or "ethno"-construct of Western society, it becomes easy to see science as a part of the imperialistic West's despotism, which the west's "Others" must resist in the name of cultural survival and anti-imperialism. Modern science thus becomes a despotism, an object of resistance rather than an ally of those resisting despotism.My goal in this paper is to cast a critical look at these anti-realist and relativist views of "Western" science, which have gained wide currency in the postmodern academy; and I want to look at them from the perspective of the people's science movements in non-Western countries. These theories - unlike the Marxian idea of social mediation of knowledge with which they are often confused - have eroded the distinction between scientifically justified beliefs and folk beliefs and/or ideology. What has undermined these distinctions is the fundamental thesis of social constructivism which states that all beliefs alike are justified by the community consensus, which is itself based upon social power, rhetoric and custom. There is no objective truth about the real world which scientifically justified knowledge can aim toward, but rather all "truth" about "reality" is literally constructed out of choices between equally justifiable interpretations that a "thought collective" makes. These choices, in turn, are driven by the conscious and unconscious biases and interests of the members of any community of inquirers. Though varied in emphases and details, constructivist theorists agree that there simply is no truth, or even reality, that can transcend the local social context of inquiry. The "unities" of truth and reason that Ian Hacking speaks for (above), are treated in the constructivist discourse as remnants of the imperialistic impulse of the Enlightenment which sought to impose the West's own peculiar stories about truth and reality on the rest of the world. Such a view of knowledge justifies itself in the name of cultural autonomy, tolerance, and respect for non-Western ways of knowing the world and living in it. But I will argue that, in actual practice, such "tolerance" has only ended up providing theoretical grounds for, and a progressive gloss on, the fast growing anti-modernist, nativist and cultural/religious revivalist movements in many parts of what used to be called the Third World. These movements seek to subordinate scientific rationality to local traditions, and thus are incapable of critically interrogating these same traditions, many of which are patently illiberal and oppressive to women and other marginalized groups in non-Western societies. Almost in direct proportion to the rise of nativist anti-modernist social movements, which correspond with ascendance of social constructivist theories in the academy globally, many pans of the Third World have seen a decline and stigmatization of people's science movements. These people's science movements seek to appropriate the contents and methods of modern science in order to bring traditional knowledge under empirical scrutiny and critique. In the part of the Third World that I am most familiar with - my native India - people's science movements have come to be eclipsed by the highly visible and vocal transnational alliance that has emerged around the idea that modern science is Western, and that the non-West needs its non-Western "ethno"-sciences. Affirmed and emboldened by the most avant-garde intellectuals in the West and at home, these nativist movements tend to label any critique of traditional knowledge from the vantage point of modern science as a sign of Western imperialism, or worse, a hangover from the old, "discredited" and "Western" Enlightenment (although, interestingly, they continue to applaud the critique of "Western" science from the perspective of ethnosciences as anti-Eurocentric, and therefore progressive).(1) Indeed, I believe that the recent electoral success of the religious right (the BJP) in India has definitely benefited from the cultural climate in which even the supposedly Left-inclined intellectuals and activists tend to treat all liberal and modern ideas as "Western," inauthentic, and thus inappropriate for India. Thus I will try to show that although the animus against the rationality of modern science is purportedly justified in the name of anti-imperialism and egalitarianism, its real beneficiaries are not the people but the nativists and nationalists of all stripes, religious or "merely" cultural/civilizational.