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Objective truth isn’t a Western construct

Maori students in Auckland. Michael Bradley/Getty

“Colonisation is the process of establishing control over a foreign territory and its indigenous inhabitants,” says Jonathan Sumption in The Spectator. But decolonisation “has come to mean much more than the reversal of that process”. Chiefly, it contends that “objective truth and empirical investigation are mere Western constructs” imposed on the world by force. In Against Decolonisation, the University of Exeter professor Doug Stokes argues that this narrative was adopted to “fill the intellectual gap left by the decline of Marxism”. It means you have a revised school syllabus in New Zealand which treats Maori folk beliefs “as if they were just as valid” as empirical science. Even Oxford’s Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division has issued a statement committing to “challenging Western-centric ideas of ‘objectivity’, ‘expertise’ and ‘merit’”.

The problem with these postmodern theories is that they ignore the universality of abstract ideas. “The fact that Aristotle or Einstein first articulated an idea does not make it a ‘Western’ idea. If some statement about the world is true in New Zealand or Africa, it must be equally true in Britain or America, or it is not true at all.” And the decolonisers are not just trying to defend their views; they are “seeking to upend the free market in ideas by imposing them”, and sabotaging the careers of those who disagree. “Perhaps books like this one will encourage more academics to summon up the courage to resist the bullying and challenge the new conformity.”

Against Decolonisation by Doug Stokes is available to buy here.