Reclaiming Truth: Contribution to a Critique of Cultural Relativism

Reclaiming Truth: Contribution to a Critique of Cultural Relativism

Reclaiming Truth: Contribution to a Critique of Cultural Relativism

Reclaiming Truth: Contribution to a Critique of Cultural Relativism

Excerpt

These essays were written over a four-year period (1990–94) and offer a range of perspectives — for the most part highly critical — on developments in critical and cultural theory during that time. They express the conviction that developments 'in theory' (for example those around post-structuralism, postmodernism and deconstruction) have a relevance beyond their specialised appeal to a small section of the academic or higher-education community. That is to say, these developments both reflect and exert some impact — in however 'mediated' a fashion — on debates in the wider cultural and socio-political spheres.

We have now witnessed some seventeen years of corrupt, unprincipled and socially divisive Conservative rule, during which period the main opposition has been extra-parliamentary, and largely carried on by activists and pressure-groups dependent on alternative forms of critical analysis and debate. As I write — in June 1995 — there is hardly a day that goes by without some fresh news of government lies and cover-ups, systematic fraud in high places, judicial connivance at false convictions, under-the-counter (government-sponsored) arms deals with brutal and sometimes hostile regimes, insider-trading by those with a hotline to the relevant Treasury sources, and ex-cabinet ministers making huge profits from share options on privatised industries which they themselves — with admirable foresight — made sure to sell off at a large discount while in office. 'Private affluence and public squalor': never has Galbraith's diagnosis been more apt.

To any political theorist viewing these events from a certain distance it might well seem that the British system was undergoing a full-scale legitimation crisis, a terminal breakdown in the structures and values of democratic accountability. (For more on this topic see my discussion of Habermas and Chomsky in Chapter One.) And so indeed it is — a veritable crisis — if judged by the standards that still officially prevail in parliamentary rhetoric and the organs of 'legitimate' (mainstream journalistic) opinion. But things go on pretty much as before with each new scandal duly reported, discussed for some days or weeks, and then let drop for mere lack of interest or . . .

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