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The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists Are Murdering Our Past Paperback – Feb 1 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books; New edition edition (Feb. 1 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893554120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893554122
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 21.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #206,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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First Sentence
Almost every week, the book review pages of the newspapers and magazines in most of the world's large English-speaking cities repeat a message that is rapidly becoming one of the intellectual axioms of our era: there is no longer any clear distinction between works of fiction and non-fiction. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rafe Champion on Aug. 28 2003
Format: Paperback
Keith Windschuttle was a young radical who grew up to become a scourge of the progressive intelligentsia and intellectual fraud. He is a courageous advocate for his causes and he is prepared to venture into the "lions dens" of his opponents to engage them in face to face debate, most recently in connection with his book "The Fabrication of Aboriginal History".
This earlier work is a critique of some modern theorists and theories which threaten to turn history and the humanities at large into an intellectual wasteland. It should be placed on the shelf alongside Sokal and Bricmont's book on intellectual impostures, though unfortunately the downside of both books is that the authors have misread the philosophy of Karl Popper and so depict him as a part of the problem and not as an ally.
The first chapter "Paris labels and designed concepts: The assension of cultural studies and the deluge of social theory" provides a valuable overview of the various intellectual icebergs that are floating loose in the sealanes of discourse. Many of the key players hail from France, though the German Heidegger was a major influence in paving the way for younger generations. Marxism and socialism in various forms provide a subtext for the movement, even while Marxism in its more rigorous traditional forms has become unfashionable. Cultural studies has become the major growth area on campus, catering for the perceived grievances of various groups and political movements.
The deluge of cultural theory incudes structuralism and semiotics, poststructuralism, and various kinds of postmodernism. The latter are classified as: the Neitzsche and Heidegger version; The Paris 1980s version (Lyotard and Baudrillard); the art and architecture version; the literary version; and the popular culture version.
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Format: Paperback
This is a book for a GENERAL audience - the widest possible reading public - because it's nothing short of a backlash against political correctness. I truly believe that wildly revisionist histories at least make us THINK, and can even throw new light on old stories (however dim that light might be). But we also need books like this to skewer obscurantist writing and the semiotic worldview - and I'm still not absolutely sure what semiotics is, which is part of Windschuttle's point. This is a stern check to a pendulum that might otherwise fly off the pin. He doesn't dismiss our elegiac feelings for the pre-Columbian world, he redirects it to the tribes that suffered genocide under the Mexica sacrificial knife. On the other hand, there are sections of his book difficult to read only because they're so hilarious. Structuralism? One of Windschuttle's unfortunate targets cites Captain Bligh's threat to make his crew "eat grass like cows." The author, Greg Dening, apparently goes on in his book to explain the crew's cultural understanding of those words, and I could hear the squeaky wheels of Monty Python's Trojan Bunny approaching. I find it very difficult to laugh helplessly and continue reading at the same time.
You won't be bored, or - God forbid - lost in the foreign language of postmodernism and hermeneutics!
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Format: Paperback
The essence of history, writes the author, is that it once tried to tell the truth, to describe as best as possible what really happened. Not anymore. No longer is there a distinction between history and fiction in this, one of many fronts, in the culture wars against Western Civilization. We find a war of atrocities committed by the West upon itself. As the Australian Windshuttle carries us through the wreckage we find objectivity has been abandoned, truth hopelessly politicized.
But no vacuum remains. The old objectivity is replaced by kind sounding censorship, control and quiet vendetta - a score to settle with the West. The author shows this is not isolated but permeates the West's political system, media and every university that once considered education its aim. The attack is not only on history but on knowledge, truth, the categorical separation of disciplines, and - in keeping with a perpetual incapacity of modern thinkers to grasp science - even that science fabricates its understandings of nature to serve political bias, regardless of truth. (Fortunately, nature is the final judge.)
One such "new movement" theory discussed by Windshuttle, structuralism, claims people are incapable of seeing outside structures imposed by their culture - a psychological edifice confining every thought to this structure. But structuralism cannot account for new movements outside the status quo. Insights radically outside accepted modes of thought are the mainstay of scientific and social revolutions - Einstein or Jesus. Windshuttle dismantles structuralism by showing how Sahlins and Dening not only lie about history but force-fit history to match their prejudice - the opposite of scientific method.
Double standards are glaring.
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Format: Paperback
This is a superb book, one that not only deflates the arguments of postmodern theory, but gets down to cases, demonstrating the flaws of postmodernism's pomps and works in treating discrete episodes of human history. This is not a screed, but a carefully and meticulously argued case. Armed with common sense and hard facts Windschuttle demonstrates the emptiness of those methods which proceed without them. The book is weighty and detailed, but Windschuttle writes with a light touch and a sure hand. The writing is exceptional and the results decisive.
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