Postmodernism & Critical Theory


Course Description:

Are “critical theory” and postmodernism the sources of authoritarian “social justice” and “identity” politics emanating from college campuses? Do the ideas of “critical theorists” like Herbert Marcuse and Kimberlé Crenshaw and postmodernist philosophers like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida constitute a threat to political freedom or are they consistent with the ethic of personal liberty? Are these ideas deeply held and well-intentioned beliefs or just “cynical theories” intended to undermine every aspect of society and institute repressive rule?

This course is unique among university courses in that it is co-taught by two scholars of critical theory and postmodernism who are on opposite sides of many of these questions. It will not only be a three-week discussion but also a civil, respectful debate involving the instructors and participants.

By examining the texts associated with the notorious schools of thought, we will all deepen our understanding of ideas that both instructors agree have shaped the discourse in mainstream American media and politics.

Participants unfamiliar with the texts will gain knowledge of the major arguments in the most famous works of Marcuse, Crenshaw, Foucault, Derrida and other critical theorists and postmodernist philosophers, and will attain new ways of thinking about the questions they raise:

– Is critical theory or postmodernism a Trojan horse for totalitarianism?
– Is the United States intrinsically oppressive, racist, sexist, and homophobic?
– What is power, who holds it, and where is it?
– Does power operate from the top of a society downward or from the bottom of society upward,
or does it move in different directions and originate from multiple sources?
– Does truth exist?
– Is there a reality that exists outside and apart from human consciousness?
– Can ethics be objective?
– What purposes have truth claims served?
– What are scientific “facts”?
– Are words violent?
– Does one’s biology determine one’s destiny?
– Were you born a man or a woman or neither?
– Does freedom exist?

Meet the Instructor

James Lindsay


James Lindsay is a mathematician and cultural critic who many (including Thaddeus Russell) consider to be the leading scholarly critic of critical theory and postmodernism. He is best known for his involvement in the “grievance studies affair,” in which he and his partners Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose authored deliberately nonsensical articles that were accepted for publication by academic journals, and for co-authoring with Pluckrose the bestselling book Cynical Theories (2020) and founding New Discourses, a media website and educational resource on critical theory and the politics of “social justice.”

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Video course

Full access to high quality video courses.

Office Hours

Speak one-on-one with the instructor via phone or video call

Social Learning

Participate in a course related social media network with others taking the course.