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Postmodernism for zillionaires

“Postmodernism” in academia is the approach of saying nonsense using a bunch of technical-sounding jargon. At least, I think that’s what postmodernism is . . .

Hmm, let’s check wikipedia:

Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism, marking a departure from modernism. The term has been more generally applied to describe a historical era said to follow after modernity and the tendencies of this era.

Postmodernism is generally defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection toward what it describes as the grand narratives and ideologies associated with modernism . . .

Postmodernism is often associated with schools of thought such as deconstruction, post-structuralism, and institutional critique, as well as philosophers such as Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, and Fredric Jameson.

Criticisms of postmodernism are intellectually diverse and include arguments that postmodernism promotes obscurantism, is meaningless, and that it adds nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge. . . .

OK, so, yeah, postmodernism is a kind of aggressive anti-rigor.

I was thinking about this when reading about Elon Musk latest plan, which is to build highway tunnels in Miami . . . a city that’s basically underwater. I mean, why not go all-in and build a fleet of submarines? Musk’s an expert on that, right?

I can’t believe Musk doesn’t really plan to build tunnels in Miami; I guess it’s part of some plan he has to grab government $ (not that I have any problem with that, I spend government $ all the time). Meanwhile, various local government officials in Miami are saying positive things about the ridiculous tunnel plan—but I’m guessing that they don’t believe in it either; they just want to say yeah great because that’s what politicians do.

Anyway, the whole thing is so postmodern. It’s like some clever-clever philosopher positing a poststructuralist version of physics, or someone arguing that Moby Dick is just a text with no author, or whatever.

As with academic postmodernism, perhaps the very ridiculousness of the tunnels-in-Miami idea is part of its selling point? After all, anyone can come up with a good idea. It takes someone really special to promote a ridiculous idea with a straight face.

Also as with academic postmodernism, it’s almost irrelevant if the idea makes sense. For example, suppose some literature professor somewhere gets a reputation based on the latest version of hyperstructuralism or whatever. You and I can laugh, but this dude has a steady job. He doesn’t care whether this makes sense, any more than the beauty-and-sex-ratio researchers care whether their statistics make any sense. They have success within a closed community. With a zillionaire, the currency is not academic success but . . . currency. What does it matter to a zillionaire that he’s promoting a ridiculous idea? He has a zillion dollars, which in some way retroactively justifies all his decisions. Kinda like those pharaohs and their cathedrals. Or maybe it’s a Keynesian thing—taking literally the economic dictum about hiring people to dig holes and fill them up again. Experimental theater for the ultra-rich.

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