Wolfgang Kowalsky inveighs against the ghosts of ‘French Theory’. A comment by Eugène Drieu La Rochelle

Wolfgang Kowalsky maladroit attempt to lay the blame for the current political unrest and dissatisfaction: Populism of both Left and Right, as the product of the Prophets of French Theory, who were advocates of  a toxic ‘relativism’ expresses political desperation. Like the obedient Neo-Liberal apologist, Kowalsky needs a villain for his shoddy little melodrama, and those political/moral nihilists of that ‘French Theory’ will do just fine! Not to forget the title that reeks of a Left-Wing animus posed as a question: The Left And Science In LaLaLand?

As Francois Cusset’s 2003 book titled ‘French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States’ and its English translation in 2008, these thinkers had seen their day in France in the 1960’s. As the Ferry and Renaut book ‘French Philosophy of the Sixties : an essay on Antihumanism’ published in 1984 in France and 1990 in English helped to establish that the ‘French Theorists’ were of a past not a future. Derrida, who died in 2004, spent many years teaching in American Universities, as his intellectual stardom faded in France. But without the Master,‘Deconstruction’ and its American advocates/thinkers slowly faded as an intellectual vogue.

As Cusset’s narrative unfolds, the decline of the ‘New Criticism‘ in the American Academy, and the void this loss of status created, in fact helped set the stage for the rise of ‘French Theory’. The luster of that exotic ‘Theory’ has simply faded over time! But its ghost makes a perfect stand-in for the actual culprit of the Rise of Populism, which is the Collapsed Utopianism Of the Neo-Liberal Mirage. That began its political ascent with the rise of Thatcher/Reagan and is now in a protracted state of slow-motion collapse. Intellectual honesty won’t meet the needs of the Neo-Liberal apologist, so myth-making is the argumentative imperative!

Eugène Drieu La Rochelle




About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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