Editorial: Living in Post-truth: Power/Knowledge/Responsibility


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Benjamin Tallis

Much has already been written and said about the UK’s Referendum on EU membership and on the vote in favour of Brexit. This editorial does not seek  to rehash the many insightful analyses and heartfelt commentaries on these topics, but, rather, to highlight that from a progressive, post-positivist academic point of view, four key issues stand out.

First, there is a need to engage with the kind of ‘post-truth’ politics that has emerged as a significant, anti-democratic and anti-progressive trend (see, e.g., Stokes, 2016; Viner, 2016). Second, progressive post-positivist academics are uniquely equipped to engage with post-truth politics, and we have a particular responsibility to do so – beyond as well as within academia. Third, progressive, post-positivist academics need to go beyond the safe, postmodern haven of critique and instead do more to inform and propose positive (although not positivist) and positional, rather than merely oppositional, alternatives. Fourth, in fashioning such new positive perspectives for the post-truth world, post-positivists can draw inspiration from modernist as well as postmodernist sources, notably from the avant-gardes of the 20th Century.

This editorial elaborates on these points and link them to ongoing debates – in and beyond academia – some of which also feature in this issue of the journal. The purpose is to provoke innovative responses to, as well as reflections on, the issues that are raised by the widely recognised emergence of post-truth politics. However, any such responses will come in the context of the wider – and also widely recognised – challenges for progressive politics, of which Brexit and the campaigns that led to it are just the latest examples. As engaged post-positivist academics we have much to contribute to addressing these challenges, and in the post-truth world, we also have the tools to make such contributions.