Terry Eagleton, ‘The Ideology of Irish Studies’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring 1997), pp.5-14:

‘study of Irish history has become ensnared with potent mythologies from which it needs to be cut loose … liberal humanism, postmodern pluralism, Eurocentrism, Anglophilia, multinational cosmopolitanism, ideolgoies of progressivism, modernisation, and the like … ’

Deconstructing Irish nationalism is fairly fashionable in some circles these days and with any luck will get oyu a job; deconstructing liberal humanism … will probably not … [5]

some of my best fiends are middle-class liberals [5] more hopelessly mystified than unionism or nationalism ever were [6] …

committed to the values of justice, freedom, tolerance, and the like … [but] actually seem to believe that all of thise could be achieved without the most shattering transformation of the existing world system. [6]

The provincialism of supposed cosmopolitanism is truly staggering. [6]

Ireland on the whole lacks a liberal humanist heritage, with the result that what liberalism it now breeds tends to overreact against an illiberal society and betray its own liberal tenents int the act of doing so … very unBloomsburyish [6]

difference between revisionists and their critics … about class [6]

it has all been unspeakably dreadful so far and most people in history, let’s face it, would probably have been far better off not being born … this glaringly obvious truth [7]

on the whole the working class movement’s view of things is truer than that of its antagonists, Schopenhauer more realistic than Hegel [7]

ideology of modernism … Blairism, Ballsbridge or the smarter parts of Belfast [7]

… grossly reductive binary opposition betweetn atavistic traditionalism and a liberal, pluralist,

enlightened world order on the other. [7]

Atavistic traditionalism is usually a hideous enough affair [7] Oxford [7]

Local atavisms and predatory transnationalism are sides of the same coin; the answer to whether the world is getting more regional or more global is surely a resounding yes. [8]

Modernisation in Ireland today means a host of precious things like pluralism, feminism, tolerance, civic rights, secularisation, flexible notions of sovereignty; it can also mean being shamefaced and sarcastic about your historical culture - that cultural specificity which all good postmodernists are supposed to celebrate, except perhaps in the case of Irish postmodernists - so as to leap, suitably streamlined and amnesiac, into the heart of a European order characterised by racism, structural unemployment, urban barbarism, military campaigns against the third world and the abandonment of the Irish small farmers and working-class to a brutally neoliberal polity. As far as celebrating specific cultures goes, this is acceptable when what’s at stake is gay, rather that G.A.A. Tradition in the Irish Republic means an oppressive church, a stifling patriarchy, Gaelic chauvinism, dancing statues of the Virgin and the commission for building new roads going to whatever crony of the Minister happens to be most strapped for cash. It also means a respect for one’s cultural particularity, a refusal to surrender without a struggle to late-capitalist homogenising, a suspicion of the success ethic, and a respect for a church without which millions of Irishmen and women would never have been nursed, educated and cared for. How utterly non-pluralist to imagine that one could simply choose here! Why are the liberal pluralists so zealously one-sided about these matters? [8]

Liberal middle-class Irish historians tend not to know much about postmodernism, being devotees of Lyons rather than Lyotard; but it would help if they did, since they might then realise that they are to some extent part of it. [9]

Postmodern anti-essentialism (a mistaken philosophical fashion, in my view, but that’s also another story), also fits reather well with revisionism, if somewhat inconsistently so. [9]

Culturalism is another place where a specific postmodernism schema, and a certain revisionist or liberal middle-class reading of Ireland, conveniently intersect. … Indeed if part of the theoretical struggle of our time has been to shift the very notion of culture from its narrow (aesthetic0 to its wider (anthropological) meaning, two meanings of the word dislocated by modernity, then Ireland seems a splendidly appropriate mediation here. [11]

To put it another way: Ireland can be made to signify both cultural affirmation and political failure, spiritual centrality and political marginality, and this particular blend consorts excellently with the preoccupations of a postmodernist era, in which culture has been foregrounded partly as a displacement of political deadlocks we just can’t resolve. This displacement has been an age-old stratefy in Ireland itself … [12]

One of the universal political problems which ireland incarnates is simply this. There is almost nothing more politically valuable than tolerance, pluralism, mutual understanding. … For there is indeed something even more important than tolerance, and this is justice … Justice is essentail so that tolerance and plurality can thrive, but the struggle for it often undermines them. There seems to me absolutely no intellectual resolution to this dilemma. You just have to try it with the ball. [13]

Some time ago, I published a somewhat abrasive critique of the historian R. F. Foster, which contained, alongside a good many barbs, a fair amount of whaf seemed to me rather lavish praise for his work, entirely sincerely intended. Those who leapt to Foster’s defence in print dealt with the somewhat inconvenient fact that I had praised as well as criticised his work by the ingenious device of suppressing this fact altogether. So much for pluralism. There was, I allow, one lonely exception to this censorship. One commentator, seizing on my admiring comments on Foster ’s elegant prose style, remarked that since elegance was not a quality associated with the Irish, I was really insinuating that Foster wasn’t truly Irish. When paranoia goes that far down, it is unlikely that it will be laid to rest by the liberal-rationalist view that if they don’t agree with you, you just have to say it again rather more persuasively.

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