In my day, I’ve had run-ins with a few self-declared “schools of thought,” and all those interactions have been invariably toxic. One is probably reminded of the old truism that if you have nothing but bad relationships, you have to recognize that the common factor is you — and I’m sure I’ve contributed in my own way. That being said, however, there are some familiar dynamics that seem to repeat themselves.
First, the new name brand is trotted out as though it was a well-defined position. Sometimes, as with Accelerationism, you’ll find a literal manifesto — but in all cases, there have been efforts at exposition and wide-ranging discussions of what an “X school of thought” position on a given issue is. We are informed of all the exciting influence that this school of thought is having in the most wide-ranging settings.
Second, when criticisms — or in some cases, actual innocent questions — arise, the previously well-defined label becomes radically indeterminate. Depending on the precise nature of the criticism, a few strategies are available. The first, and to me most annoying, is to claim that the critique doesn’t adequately account for the rich diversity of thought represented by this movement (which was formed a year and a half ago). This can shade into the claim that the movement as such doesn’t actually exist, that it’s just a contingent grouping of radically heterogeneous forms of thought that found some temporarily overlapping factors. The alternative is to hunker down and claim that the new school of thought is the subject of a widespread smear campaign, a brave persecuted minority. We can’t get a fair hearing in the academy for this thing that we just came up with! Will our suffering never end?
And of course, once the storm has passed, the school is yet again an exciting, influential movement that’s sweeping the globe. Rinse and repeat.