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Political Correctness

Political Correctness: A Response from the Cultural Left

Foreword by Teresa Brennan
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Political Correctness
    Book Description:

    Written with refreshing clarity and wit, Political Correctness describes a cultural nonphenomenon brought into being by the desires of neoconservatives. Nostalgic for the simple moral logic of the Cold War, the conservative Right has created an evil empire within and conferred upon its enemies-from multiculturalists to postmodernists and poststructuralists-a McCarthyite agenda that demands action from the high-minded.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8604-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xx)
    Teresa Brennan

    On May 10 of 1995 in the Palais de Justice in Paris, the three presiding judges awarded damages to Professor Alice Jardine of Harvard University againstLe Figaromagazine. The damages were for 150,000 francs (about $30,000, the largest amount ever awarded againstLe Figaro).The cause?Le Figarohad claimed that Jardine, and her colleague Professor Susan Suleiman, held their professorships only because of the American enforcement of political correctness. According toLe Figaro,Suleiman and Jardine taught only courses on homosexual women of color. Moreover, it appeared that Harvard had appointed them merely because they were women; Jardine...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  5. 1. The PC Lexicon
    (pp. 1-12)

    If you ask a group of Americans whatpolitical correctnessmeans, chances are many of them would link the phrase to a “repressive agenda” set forth by “tenured radicals” on college campuses today. Right-wing commentators have constructed this agenda, which many Americans find alien. They do not understand why it is necessary to refer to blacks as African Americans, Orientals as Asian Americans, and women as womyn (Beard and Cerf 4, 7, 92). They believe such changes are of the same order as substituting “domestic incarceration survivor” for wife, “melanin impoverished” for white, “follicularly challenged” for bald, and “processed tree...

  6. 2. Sound Bite Myth: Scholars Hate Students
    (pp. 13-30)

    Although right-wing critics have launched a series of rhetorical attacks in the last decade against progressive democratic forces in the academy, for the most part these attacks have gone unanswered. The big lie has been repeated so often there is a danger that the public will accept the charge of political correctness as an unassailable truth. Meanwhile, many professors have been so intent on fighting other political battles (trying to institutionalize studies in gender, race, ethnicity, and class) that they have lost sight of the larger war raging outside the narrow confines of the campus environment. In the past twenty...

  7. 3. The Myth of Disinterested Scholarship
    (pp. 31-50)

    We have seen how right-wing commentators redescribe familiar terms and switch meanings as a means of reclaiming the center ground occupied by middle-class values. Because far right extremists only attract about 25 percent of the vote in the United States, they have pretended to moderate their beliefs by repositioning themselves front and center. To understand how they have accomplished such subterfuge, let us call up the image of a football field and pretend it is an area of ideological combat. I invoke the image of the athletic contest to mimic the new iconographic symbols being disseminated by Pat Robertson and...

  8. 4. Mythic Parameters: Fast-Food PC, McCarthyism, and McReaganism
    (pp. 51-74)

    In the April 22,1991, issue ofNewsweek,George Will described the curret skirmishes over political correctness as a “low-visibility, high-intensity war” with a domestic enemy (72). His description appears in an article on the nomination of the conservative Carol Iannone to the National Council on the Humanities. For George Will, Iannone’s nomination is one skirmish in a battle whose lines of conflict are clearly demarcated: on one hand, there is a group of “philistines [who] are in the academies shaping tomorrow’s elites, and hence tomorrow’s governance,” and, on the other, there is a group of scholars in a “burgeoning organization...

  9. 5. Constructing the Enemy
    (pp. 75-125)

    One method right-wing critics have used to stigmatize their enemies has been to disseminate fear as the main ingredient of their ideological perspective. In this chapter, we will examine the neoconservative use of fear (especially paranoia), which is often tied to projection. Lacan argued that the modern period was especially marked by an escalation of paranoia and projections. Teresa Brennan has drawn out this aspect of Lacan’s work while explicating the historical dynamics that underpin it. While in broad agreement with Brennan’s argument, I want to suggest here that McCarthyism marks the beginning of what she terms the Age of...

  10. 6. The Mirror of Manufactured Cultural Relations
    (pp. 126-155)

    For Lacan, paranoia is related to the mirror-stage attempt to attain a future-perfect mastery over a fragmented body image. In the Lacanian mirror-stage paradigm, there is a gap between the child who peers into the mirror and the objectified virtual image that seems to stare back at the child. The child attempts to cross this gap by finding a unified self in a series of “movements assumed in the [mirror] image,” movements connected to an attitude acquired when the child leans forward while anticipating in the mirror a “mirage” of maturation. This mirage manifests when a gestalt of imagistic bits...

  11. 7. White Male Canon Formation and the End of History
    (pp. 156-186)

    In the introduction toThe National Review College Guide,William F. Buckley, Jr., openly proclaims that the “impulse behind this book is one part political” (9). Those who have read right-wing critics over the past fifteen years might be amazed that Buckley would admit the obvious: neoconservative scholars who hurl accusations at “PC professors” are not objective observers. Buckley’s concession is refreshing because he forthrightly sets neoconservatives in opposition to what he calls the leftwing “ideological biases against God or man” (9). But candor turns into audacity when Buckley assumes that God implicitly backs his right-wing ideological agenda. According to...

  12. 8. Where Do We Go from Here?
    (pp. 187-220)

    I conclude this book by questioning representatives from several groups that have been actively engaged in debating right-wing critics for a number of years. To this end, I have asked these representatives two questions:

    1. In the past ten years, right-wing neocons have appropriated the termpolitical correctnessto undermine feminists who were redefining the debate about patriarchal bias; African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics interested in legitimizing cultural diversity; gay and lesbian groups wishing to attain basic civil liberties; and academics who celebrate difference. How successful have neoconservatives been in linking the PC debate to their overall agenda of...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-228)
  14. Index
    (pp. 229-230)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)