I have noted in the past that my studies as a physicist are inherently apolitical. This is a simple consequence of the fact that the subject matter with which I deal is abstract. Matter and energy, space and time are all very real things, but the scales at which I look at these things are all so far away from Human experience that they might as well just be a bunch of pretty symbols on a chalkboard. I can therefore (for example) dismiss an entire class of fundamental interactions as being “irrelevant due to dimensional considerations,” and I will never have to deal with people taking umbrage at being dismissed as “irrelevant.”
This, obviously, is not the case with social sciences. Thus, even the most seemingly-innocuous of theories of society can have the most unfortunate political implications; and, it would seem, some people are quite incapable of critiquing society, in terms of it’s materialistic structure, without adopting an extremely condescending, snooty and superior attitude towards certain elements of it. Case in point, all of those delightful young Freudian wannabes who use their hack and/or misunderstood theories of sexuality to explain away the “problem” of asexuality in terms of repressed Homosexual tendancies, pedophilia, or some other ridiculous nonsense.
This is not, of course, exclusively endemic to the social science; any theoretical field which directly pertains to Human behviour can fall prey to this; thus, for example, do we see practioners of medical science talk (almost universally, in fact) talk about autism as if it were a disease; any discussion of the risk factors for autism will almost invariably being extremely condescending, if not outright dehumanizing, towards those of us on the spectrum.
But the worst offenders of all, at least insofar as I am concerned, are utopians. Because utopians, by definition, are not only interested in studying or deconstructing society, but are rather married to a particular ideology, which they espouse with all of the heat and fervour of a secular religion. And like all ‘true believers,’ they have a way of trying to hammer all inconvenient facts (that is to say people) flat until they accord with whatever it was they already believe. You see this all over the place in the world of politics: Marxists for whom every businessman is a lying snake-in-a-suit and who reinterpret every action taken by one into an elaborate conspiracy theory; Libertarians who are convinced that everyone on welfare is a parasitical leech on the bottom of the productive class (and who are not in the slightest interested in any accounts to the contrary).
To give an example particularly near-and-dear to my heart are those feminists* who claim that transsexuality is an artefact of the patriarchal gender binary, thus relegating ‘effeminate men’ to the status of ‘surgically-constructed women.’ In their ideal world, gender would be destroyed and we**, problematic specimens that we are, would cease to exist. Not, mind you, that I think that most transsexual people would be especially amenable to living as their birth sex, even if men and women were completely equal in every way, but this view disagrees with the ideology, so it must be wrong.
That’s alright, of course. People like this wouldn’t exist in my utopia, so why should I exist in theirs?
*and here it is usually customary for bloggers of my stripe to throw in some scare-quotes, thereby to insinuate that these “feminists” are not real feminists. I will not, however, be doing this, as it seems very much like courting the No True Scotsman fallacy.
**And I have no major objections to destroying gender as a social construct, but quite frankly, I would still want to live as a woman.