I read Helen Pluckrose’s Cynical Theories over the summer and it was a useful primer on the confluence of social justice politics and postmodernism. Pluckrose herself describes herself as a liberal (in the classical sense, not the Democrat sense), and was one of the perpetrators of the Sokol Squared hoax/study/“human experiment,” but the book was earnest and seemed fair. It was also dry, a little repetitive, and was more a survey of postmodern thinking than it was a survey of postmodern … practice?
Everything, All the Time, Everywhere is more about what I guess you could call “applied postmodernism.” It’s also fair, but to the extent Jeffries considers postmodernism and neoliberalism complementary you end up reading on a few tracks, by Jeffries’ own design. Each chapter is anchored in a trio of anecdotes: Something political, something pop cultural, and something artistic (broadly – photography, written word, and architecture all figure).
The intersection of neoliberalism and postmodernism are the most obviously disturbing to him. The book traces this confluence starting with the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 and ending with rise of private equity capitalism (the afterword touches on cryptocurrency, which strangely didn’t really turn up much in the first chapter, where examining it as a late reaction to going off the gold standard might have been interesting, but wouldn’t have fit in the chronological structure of the book).
He’s more tolerant of postmodern art across the range of examples he provides, identifying a certain playfulness with warmth. His takes on pop culture – the melding of commerce and art – are a little more despairing, and reflective of a frustration with the dead-end of postmodern “knowing” and ironic detachment.
The portions on art and pop culture were fun to read, if unsurprising. The political portions were edifying to the extent they drew connections between poltiics and postmodernism I hadn’t made.
Recommended if you’re into this sort of thing and would like an accessible but thoughtful survey that connects a lot of pieces.
Everything, All the Time, Everywhere by Stuart Jeffries 📚