Chomsky Calls Postmodern Critiques of Science Over-Inflated “Polysyllabic Truisms”
In the interview video below, Chomsky makes a blanket critique of what the interviewer calls the “left criticism of science” as imperialist, racist, sexist, etc. His answers shed quite a bit of light on what Chomsky perceives as the political ramifications of postmodern thought as well as the origins of the discourse. In his critique, such thinkers use “polysyllabic words and complicated constructions” to make claims that are “all very inflated” and which have “a terrible effect on the third world.”
Chomsky argues that “in the third world, popular movements really need serious intellectuals to participate. If they’re all ranting postmodernists… well, they’re gone.” His assessment of postmodern critiques of science echoes his criticism of Zizek and Lacan. (Chomsky appears to use the words “polysyllabic” and “monosyllabic” as terms for jargon vs. ordinary language.):
It’s considered very left wing, very advanced. Some of what appears in it sort of actually makes sense, but when you reproduce it in monosyllables, it turns out to be truisms. It’s perfectly true that when you look at scientists in the West, they’re mostly men, it’s perfectly true that women have had a hard time breaking into the scientific fields, and it’s perfectly true that there are institutional factors determining how science proceeds that reflect power structures. All of this can be described literally in monosyllables, and it turns out to be truisms. On the other hand, you don’t get to be a respected intellectual by presenting truisms in monosyllables.