Book Review: Cynical Theories
Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Has Made Everything About Race, Gender and Identity--and Why This Harms Everybody, by Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay
I read this book earlier this year and highly recommend it. Here is a brief review to tell you why.
Why I appreciate the book:
Critical Theory (CT) is a buzz word today is at the center of civil rights discourse, political debate, school curriculum and corporate America. But few seem to have a working understanding (informed by primary sources) as to what exactly CT is and what kind of impact it has on society. That's where Cynical Theories comes in clutch!
The authors do a great job tracing the historic development of critical theory from post modernism to today's various activist expressions: race, gender, sexuality and fat studies. They also present how scholarship in these arenas is affecting so much of society, from coprorate America to childhood education. Interestingly, they are not coming from a religious or conservative perspective. They are liberal atheist academics who care deeply about equality; they simply believe CT isn't the way forward and they make a compelling case why.
Here's what the author's say about the book:
"This is not a book that seeks to undermine liberal feminism, activism against racism, or campaigns for LGBT equality. On the contrary, Cynical Theories is born of our commitment to gender, racial and LGBT equality and our concern that the validity and importance of these are currently being alarmingly undermined by Social Justice approaches" (p. 19).
It wasn't only their grasp on the development of Social Justice thought/Critical Theory but their unique ability to put their finger on the tensions we all feel in culture today because of its influence in culture.
"We, everyday citizens who are increasingly befuddled about what has happened to society and how it happened so quickly, regularly hear demands to "decolonize" everything from academic curricula to hair-styles to mathematics. We hear laments about cultural appropriation at the same time we hear complaints about the lack of representation of certain identity groups in the arts. We hear that only white people can be racist and that they always are so, by default. Politicians, actors, and artists pride themselves on being intersectional. Companies flaunt their respect for "diversity" while making it clear that they are only interested in a superficial diversity of identity (not of opinions)." (pg. 65).
They also sound the alarm on the impact of Critical Theory on the emerging generation.
"If we train young people to read insult, hostility, and prejudice into every interaction, they may increasingly see the world as hostile to them and fail to thrive in it" (p. 132).
Who I recommend this book to:
- Those who want to understand Critical Theory and how it's shaping modern dialogue around race, gender and identity
- Those who intend to send their kids to university
- Pastors & ministry leaders who want to lead God's people into the ministry of reconciliation given to us by Jesus.
Keep in mind, this reads like a textbook. Lot's of definitions, original sources cited and dense information. But it's important information and I think you'll learn a lot.
Since 2009 Adam has trained and mobilized over 40 international evangelism teams and has equipped thousands in the areas of identity, hearing God and evangelism via seminars around the world. Adam has preached the gospel in city campaigns, universities, high schools and bamboo huts in remote villages, all with supernatural effect. Communicating with humor and fresh biblical insight, Adam is a unique prophetic evangelist who equips everyday Jesus-followers to live authentic, New Testament Christianity, discovering their highest joy in the Great Commandment and their unique assignment in the Great Commission.
Adam is author of New Identity: 30 Days of Prayer for Spiritual Transformation and producer of multiple e-courses and the Jesus Movement Now Podcast. He and his wife, Jenny, have four children and reside in Franklin, TN.
Adam is ordained through Messenger Fellowship, an international community of leaders, churches and ministries committed to the glory of God.