In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal published an essay in Social Text--an influential academic journal of cultural studies--touting the deep similarities between quantum gravitational theory and postmodern thinking. Soon thereafter, the essay was ...
say was revealed to be a brilliant parody, a catalog of nonsense written in erudite but impenetrable lingo. The event sparked a furious debate in academic circles and across many disciplines--psychology, sociology, feminist studies, history, literature, mathematics, and the hard sciences--about the use and abuse of scientific theories in fields outside the scope of science.
Now Sokal and fellow physicist Jean Bricmont expand from where the hoax left off. In a witty and closely reasoned argument, the authors thoroughly document the misuse of scientific concepts in the writings of some of the most fashionable contemporary intellectual icons. From Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva to Luce Irigaray and Jean Baudrillard, the authors demonstrate the errors made by some postmodernists in their attempts to use science to illustrate and support their arguments. More generally, Sokal and Bricmont challenge the notion--held in some form by many thinkers in a range of academic fields--that scientific theories are mere "narratives" or social constructions.
At once provocative and measured, Fashionable Nonsense explores the crucial question of what science is and is not, and suggests both the abilities and the limits of science to describe the conditions of existence.