Organization: New York University
Several scholars have recently lamented the homogenization of campus culture in North America and beyond, as “social justice” ideology, the child of postmodern theory and the New Left, has overtaken academia. At the same time, a wider spectrum of the population than ever before attends university, with students often assuming significant personal debt to acquire credentials that may end up being less a sign of having undergone an intellectual apprenticeship than of having been socialized into the postmodern liberal order.
In the humanities and social sciences, students are trained to speak the “progressive” language of diversity, equity and inclusion, while calculating their own and others’ degrees of subordination and oppression using an intersectionality grid. Pedagogical tools like “progressive stacking” determine the order of classroom participation on the basis of an inverted social justice hierarchy, under which those deemed most subordinated speak first and those most privileged speak last, if at all. Students now generally take for granted such disciplinary apparatuses as safe spaces, trigger warnings, bias reporting hotlines, and the no-platforming of speakers. In fact, students most likely have been exposed to these and other mechanisms of social justice indoctrination long before they reach the portals of the university.
As education has become more diverse in terms of the exterior markers of sexual, gender, racial, religious, and ethnic identity, a crypto-puritan spirit of intolerance towards other value systems and structures of consciousness has taken hold. Cultural and intellectual development is jeopardized because students no longer encounter challenging ideas and no longer have the freedom to be wrong or to change their minds. This impacts all of society because graduates go on to staff businesses, civil service offices, mainstream media establishments, and the university itself, bringing with them the spirit of intolerance to insufficiently “progressive” ideas. This cultural and intellectual insularity has created new forms of alienation, leading to the polarization of political life, while mainstream media outlets have become mere sources of hyper-partisan rhetoric, where issues of significance are occluded by fake or overblown controversies.
We are now embroiled in a culture war on many fronts in which the political language of left and right as inherited from the French Revolution is too blunt an instrument to describe the actual values and aspirations of the different constituencies who are trying to be heard, often in alternative venues made possible only by new media, while the university veers toward comparative irrelevancy.
We therefore aim to publish a volume of scholarly meditations that would finally bypass the patent language of leftist critique to discuss the possibility, or the actual emergence, of new noetic cultures. This volume seeks to explore options for cultivating a meaningful and purposive life of the mind in an era when the university tradition derived from the European middle ages appears to be exhausted. Can we salvage remnants from conservative, liberal, and radical traditions and can we incorporate their various wisdoms without perpetuating their conflicts? Or perhaps these conflicts are useful and need to be resurrected in some fashion.
Integralism, metamodernism, radical orthodoxy, accelerationism, and neo-reactionary thought are just some of the alternatives to the social justice creed that have emerged in recent decades. Some of these perspectives attempt to transcend the old divisions between left and right in a more inclusive paradigm, while others operate in defiance of both the “progressive” ethos of the universities and of political party conservatism. Some suggest an alternative conceptual framework in which the old terminology no longer applies, while others are clearly working within traditions that have been marginalized or repressed in the social justice era.
Apart from programs for rebellion, reform, revolution, and evolution, there are also trends within society that may change us, possibly without our cooperation: transhumanism describes the consequences of a techno-cultural civilization in which noetic cultures must either incorporate or compete with strictly materialist understandings of intellectual activity in terms of computational power, something machines are clearly better at than we are. Reframing intelligence in terms of noetic cultures may help us to consider what it is to be wise, rather than merely preparing us to respond strategically to the computational challenges posed by artificial intelligence. In addition to these prospects, we would also be interested in reviewing accelerationist strategies that seek to expedite the seemingly ineluctable processes that threaten our destruction the sooner to find out what else is possible.
One of our objectives is to create conversation among groups that may not yet be aware of each other. Above all we want to reanimate and extend the notion of diversity to encompass truly challenging types of deep cultural and intellectual difference. This aim entails dealing in good faith with others whose values may appear threatening to our own.
The following is a provisional set of headings under which articles for this volume may be proposed but we are open to proposals dealing with noetic cultures that we don’t yet know about:
· Neoreactionary models
We welcome chapters that draw upon existing noetic cultures or that propose new ones but each chapter should represent a position paper on a perspective, not only conveying the noetic culture’s particular character but also advancing the prevailing thinking in relation to it. How, in particular, does the noetic culture at hand address the current crisis and why is it preferable to social justice and other possible frameworks?
Essays should aim at a length of 5,000 to 12,500 words, although longer pieces will be considered if the length is justified by the content.
Submissions of full essays (December 1, 2018) or proposals (October 1, 2018) should be sent to the volume editors – Michael Rectenwald, John Tangney and Robert Conan Ryan – at NewNoeticCultures@gmail.com.