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In 1995, a New York University physicist named Alan Sokal, frustrated by what he considered the misuse of science by academic philosophers and literary critics, decided to play a meaningful prank. After studying the arcane jargon of postmodernism, he cooked up a superficially au courant but patently ill-founded paper called "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" and submitted it to the journal Social Text, edited by a collective of academic celebrities. Wooed by the article's apparent endorsement of their approach and evidently unschooled in basic science, the editors accepted and published the paper.
The Sokal Hoax gathers Sokal's paper; the Social Text editors' arch, wounded reply when it was revealed, in the pages of the academic journal Lingua Franca, that the paper was a transparent scam; and a selection of journalistic accounts, letters to the editor, and accusations and counteraccusations surrounding what came to be called "the Sokal hoax." Some of these documents are thoughtful, addressing ways in which it might be possible to bridge the wide gap between the sciences and the humanities. Many, however, are defensive and polemical, almost embarrassing to read. They compound Sokal's charge that faddishness has overcome common sense in the halls of academe, and that the postmodern emperor has no clothes.
In its modest way, the collection is an entertainment, serving as an anthology of ivy-covered silliness. More seriously, it adds depth to Sokal's collaboration with physicist Jean Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense, and other books about the hoax and its implications, which continue to excite discussion. --Gregory McNamee
"Readers who struggle through Sokal's essay will be relieved to find the rest of the book lucid, readable, and positively stimulating."--Kirkus Review
If you're reading this review, you're an academic, or hopelessly lost on this Web-site.
If you're an academic in the humanities, you're hopelessly lose (or at least you... Read more
This is a nice variety of commentary on the Sokal Hoax, and includes Sokal's infamous paper, which I suspect few people read. Read morePublished on October 6, 2007 by Ethanator
The value of this book is not so much as a good read, but as a detailed account of a turning point in history. Read morePublished on April 23, 2007 by S. Plowright
I had to read this for a class on the subject of the "Science Wars", and in this regard, it was very informative and useful. Read morePublished on March 8, 2007 by Leo Douglass
Although I applauded Alan Sokal for perpetrating his hoax, there's really not enough to it to justify this 264 page book. Read morePublished on September 9, 2006 by R. Gale
Before you get your hopes about the intellectual adventure Sokal & Bricmont have pretended to engage in, you should know what constitutes "scholarship" to these showmen by digging... Read morePublished on August 24, 2005 by B. Artese
It is probably worth noting that virtually no intelligent Sokal enthusiast has ever denigrated or denied the importance of critical science studies. Read morePublished on May 22, 2005 by Drew Hunkins
"The Sokal Hoax" is, by its very structure, a fair coverage of Alan Sokal's exposure of postmodernist pseudo-intellectualism; both sides' views are presented through the reprinting... Read morePublished on April 26, 2005 by Bukkene Bruse
This isn't just a book about a brilliant hoax. It's also an introductory course on pomo (AKA postmodernism, poststructuralism, postconstructionism), a collection of heated... Read morePublished on February 3, 2005 by The Spinozanator