There are two ways, Dalrymple points out,
for prose to impress more than it should: by portentousness and by incomprehensibility.
In another Dose post, we looked at how Dalrymple views portentousness as exemplified by the contents of a Western news-magazine. In this Dose blog post, let us see how Dalrymple views incomprehensibility.
Prestige conferred by impenetrability
Picking up a criminological journal, Dalrymple comes across a representatively logorrhoeic and polysyllabically incomprehensible passage:
We use this signifier, hypermodernity, instead of, say, postmodernity or high modernity, because the prefix hyper is probably better for conveying the strategic dimension of contemporary modernity. It is precisely this strategic dimension of the contemporary which is producing extreme levels of reflexivity and flexibility. These, in turn, (re)produce a process of socio-cultural hyperdifferentiation, and, as such, feedback into contemporary strategisation….In this article, we have argued for an answer that will try to mobilise hypermodern energies of dislocation to debunk privileged discursively (re)produced Truths and foundations that inevitably block out the voices and hopes of multiple Others. Our answer lies in a radical politic that tries to fertilise the Othered margins of essentialised discourse.…Border-crossing criminology is a permanent process of de(re)construction of discursively constructed, essentialised borders. Border-crossing criminology is a reflexive and flexible (hypermodern) praxis: it evokes infinite Other voices of oppression/suppression, even those that are—inevitably—being silenced in and through specific border-crossing discursive moves.
committed to publishing only the highest quality of scholarship.
What, asks Dalrymple,
would lower levels of scholarship be like?
That the kind of prose quoted is
not an aberration, a freak, but a manifestation of a widespread academic fashion or disease
is demonstrated by
(a) the fact that it is frequent in the journal, and
(b) the fact that the journal has an editorial board of 49 academics round the world, from Norway to Venezuela, from Poland to Japan.
Such prose, writes Dalrymple, is to academic life
what phylloxera was to vines in 19th-century France. Whether recovery will ever be possible must be doubtful.
Dalrymple writes that prestige in publications for academic intellectuals
is conferred by impenetrability, where truth and knowledge are kept as secret gardens that would be defiled by the presence of the uninitiated.
paid from public money, go a long way in polysyllabic incomprehensibility about subject matter that is describable in plain language.