Return to media reviews

Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody

Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, well-known for a hoax where they submitted bogus papers to left-leaning social science academic journals, directly address "critical theory" and the rise of woke-ism in academia and culture. It's interesting and inciting if you're moderate or right-leaning and want more reasons to dislike American progressivism, but the whole book felt like a series of misunderstandings and cheap shots. It's not that they're wrong, it's that they specifically are arguing against a strawman version of progressive politics—admittedly, that does exist—without much critical analysis towards objectivity. It's a part of the same culture war that they claim they hate.

In other words, it's fine. It'll probably get you mad, whether you agree (curse what the wokes have done to America!) or disagree (how dare they mislead readers with this nonsense!). If you want to read this and want to walk away with your own moderate informed position, balance it out with someone equally as one-sided from the other side.


These are entirely subjective, and roughly try to capture my personal enjoyment and usefulness, and how likely I'd recommend it to others. Don't read too much into this unless you love my judgement. Rough guidelines:

A: Top quartile. Changed the way I think about something.

B: Worthwhile. I took away something useful.

C: Didn't hit, wouldn't directly recommend. Likely won't revisit.

Stay connected

I send out occasional updates on posts, interesting finds, and projects I'm working on. I'd love to include you. No tracking, one-click unsubscribe.