This is the central focus of Chapter 8, and is not explored in detail here. The feminist disquiet about postmodern theorising has been largely confined to the feminist journals. The terror postmodernism has aroused in a few self-styled defenders of science has, in contrast, led to coverage in the media aimed at the general reader. The 1990s saw the outbreak of the ‘science wars’ (Mackenzie, 1999) in which a few scientists attacked postmodernism and a group of sociologists of science who were not postmodernists at all. The contributors to Koertge (1998) argued that the future of science was being undermined by ‘postmodernism’, as a fashionable intellectual movement and by the sociology of science.
Most scientists are totally untroubled by such claims – if they are even aware of them being advanced – and continue to ‘do’ science in the traditional way (Pearson, 2000). In practice, scientists remain content with the ‘Truth Will Out Device’ (TWOD) (Gilbert and Mulkay, 1984). The real ‘two cultures’ debate is not the phoney war fought in the 1960s between C. P. Snow and F. R. Leavis, but that between scientists and the postmodernists in humanities and social sciences today.
While the caveats of critics of postmodernism are important, and will be an element in the scepticism deployed in Chapter 8, it is also important to recognise how enjoyable postmodern analyses can be. In the unlikely best-seller of 1997, Courtesans and Fishcakes James Davidson writes: ‘What is interesting about Foucault’s work is the realisation that misrepresentations are just as interesting as representations and even more useful, when you can identify them, are outrageous lies’ (1997: xxii). Studying ‘outrageous lies’ is enormous fun: fun I have enjoyed (Delamont, 1998).
Feminist methods are the most influential and, simultaneously, contentious development and achievement of feminist sociology.