The Trouble with Theory : The educational costs of postmodernism book cover
1st Edition

The Trouble with Theory
The educational costs of postmodernism

ISBN 9781741755220
Published August 1, 2008 by Routledge
240 Pages

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Book Description

Postmodern theory has engaged the hearts and heads of the brightest students because of its apparent political and social radicalism. Despite this Professor Gavin Kitching claims that, 'At the heart of postmodernism is very poor, deeply confused and misbegotten philosophy. As a result even the very best students who fall under its sway produce radically incoherent ideas about language, meaning, truth and reality.'

This is not another conservative attack on postmodernism. Rather, it is a carefully considered analysis from a dedicated university teacher who is convinced that we have gone terribly astray. He shows that postmodern theory is at best irrelevant to, and at worst undermining of, persuasive political arguments, and reveals the basic philosophical confusion at its heart which makes this so.

Essential reading for any student writing a thesis in the humanities and the social sciences, and for their teachers.

Table of Contents




Addendum: Research methodology and book structure


1 Doing theory', or creating a landscape

2 Relationships', or arranging objects in the landscape

3 Zapping landscapes and setting objects alight: Power

4 The social construction of reality: Equivocations

5 Language and discourse


6 An outsider's view of the world: The contemplative stance of the theorist

7 Theory and Tractatus epistemology

Addendum: The Philosophical Investigations, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the Augustinian picture' of language: An aside on a technical but relevant issue in Wittgensteinian exegesis

8 The last and most tangled knot: The linguistic construction of subjectivity

Addendum: Wittgenstein's conception of language as a city, or theory as

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Gavin Kitching is Professor of Politics in the School of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of New South Wales. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences and has research interests in the philosophy of Wittgenstein, globalisation, and agricultural development in the Third World.


'It is the strongest and best attack on the ravages of routine post-modernism that I have ever read. I applaud the way he lists the good causes that students warmly espouse, and then suggests a simpler way to support them without the self-destructive it's all just language that is implicit in their work.' - Professor Sir Bernard Crick, Emeritus Professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London

'Gavin Kitching rattles the cages. Will the inmates hear this? They should, if only for the reason that there is virtue in learning to argue against yourself. This is a serious book.' - Professor Peter Beilharz, Sociology, La Trobe University

'Required reading for anyone who wants to understand how and why postmodernism has had such disastrous pedagogical consequences.' - Professor David G. Stern, Philosophy, University of Iowa