Those marginalized by modernist rationalism

06.04.2016 |

by Ralph Pettman


In this lesson, you’ll learn that modernist rationalism was the product of well-off, imperially-minded, environmentally-indifferent European males.

Modernist rationalism, in other words, favored the viewsand personal interestsof rich, white, ecologically-ignorant men. This marginalized half of humankindwomen, for example, who were seen as biologically inferior; environmentalists, who were seen as emotional; first peoples, who were seen as primitive; those with brown skin, who were seen as racially inferior; and the poor, who were seen as illiterate and malnourished.

All these groups fought back. They still do. In the process, they make alliances with each other and with the advocates of other doctrines.

For example, feminism (both women and men) who want greater gender equality seek the support of individualists who want human rights for all. Or they join Marxists in calling for an end to capitalism and hence an end to the way (under the capitalist mode of production) women are the world’s “last colony.” Because they’re marginalized already, they can turn anywhere for analytical and political support, and they do. Their cause is certainly compelling. A much-touted statistic once pointed out that women are half the world’s population. They do two-thirds of all the world’s work. They do one-third of all the world’s paid work. For this they earn just one-tenth of the world’s income. The accuracy of this statistic is questioned, but the injustice is not.

Accounts of world affairs by environmentalists are still considered less compelling than strategic, economic, or civic ones despite the fact that their implications are extremely serious. Without a viable planet to live on, world affairs are academic. There’s nowhere else to go. There’s no other planet to live on. Waging war on generations yet unbornwho have no way to fight backis potentially catastrophic. Again, environmentalists make alliances with other approaches, like those of the internationalists or economic liberalists.

Post-colonialists point out how the end of the great European empires did not stop imperialism, since its effects remain palpable. It’s the ongoing influence of these empires that stops post-colonial people from having faith in themselves and their own ways of living. First peoples suffer a similar plight. Developmentalists document the persistence of global poverty despite global productivity. (The most peripheralized of all are probably the sacralists. They prioritize a spiritual understanding of world affairs. The secular nature of rationalism was supposed to make religion irrelevant. It didn’t. In fact, it’s currently making a comeback.)

In the next lesson, you’ll learn how rationalists are starting to recognize how their approach limits and distortsand how they compensate for these effects.


Recommended book

“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” by Naomi Klein


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