Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Postmodern Coddling

Written by: on December 1, 2023


In “Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault,” Stephen R.C. Hicks navigates the historical and philosophical evolution of postmodernism, tracing its roots from the Enlightenment critiques by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant to its manifestation as a critical lens in modern thought[1]. Hicks critically examines how postmodernism, often cast as a rebellion against the Enlightenment’s rationalism and the structures of capitalism, actually emerges from the very fabric of Western intellectual traditions.

Hicks identifies Rousseau as an influential figure in shaping postmodern thought but places significant emphasis on Kant’s role as the architect of the “Counter-Enlightenment” movement. This shift set the stage for postmodernism’s rise, reshaping societal attitudes towards long-standing values and redefining the discourse on capitalism. Hicks follows the thread of this intellectual shift through the works of later thinkers like Foucault and Derrida, noting how a rejection of established realities has become a hallmark of postmodern skepticism.

Postmodernism and Leadership

Hicks’ “Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault” offers a penetrating critique of the pervasive impact postmodern principles have on contemporary leadership. His exploration reveals how leaders, shaped by these doctrines, often perpetuate a system that heavily favors subjective interpretation over objective truths. This approach has woven its way into the very fabric of modern thought, reshaping our perceptions of authority and knowledge.

This trend toward subjectivity over objectivity aligns with concerns raised by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in ‘The Coddling of the American Mind.’ In chapter six of their book, they discuss how students in higher education have been taught to perceive language and behavior through a lens that emphasizes impact over intent, leading to a heightened sensitivity to perceived acts of aggression. This focus on subjective experience, often at the expense of a broader and more nuanced understanding, has contributed to a culture where the protection from discomfort is prioritized, potentially at the cost of resilience and intellectual rigor[2].

Hicks, Lukianoff, and Haidt together highlight a cultural shift in American society and especially in educational contexts, where the embrace of subjective meaning and the avoidance of uncomfortable but necessary truths have inadvertently led to what some may describe as the ‘coddling’ of the American mind. This coddling is seen as an obstacle to developing critical thinking skills and emotional resilience, key components of effective leadership and engaged citizenship.

Overall, Hicks’ work invites leaders and thinkers alike to reflect on the role of postmodern thought in shaping not only individual leadership styles but also the broader societal and organizational ethos. By presenting a comprehensive look at postmodernism’s journey from its philosophical origins to its current role, Hicks provides a lens through which to view the complex interplay between leadership, societal goals, and the subjective nature of meaning in the postmodern age.

  [1] [Roscoe, Illinois]: Ockham’s Razor Publishing. (1970, January 1). Explaining postmodernism: Skepticism and socialism from Rousseau to Foucault: Hicks, Stephen Ronald Craig, 1960- author: Free Download, borrow, and streaming. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/explainingpostmo0000hick#:~:text=v%2C%20266%20pages%20%3A%2022,20th%20and%20early%2021st%20centuries


[2] Haidt, J., & Lukianoff, G. (2019). The coddling of the American mind. Penguin Books.Pg 71

About the Author


Daron George

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3 responses to “Postmodern Coddling”

  1. Daron – Thanks for bringing The Coddling of the American Mind to my attention. It sounds as though it may have some good information that relates to my doctoral project on resilience. I will check it out and add it to my library!

  2. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Hi Daron,
    Great highlights around the coddling of the American mind. I found this pretty fascination in the ways you highlighted – “impact over intent.” How has the impact or intent of language shaped your leadership style, particularity in church/volunteer contexts?

  3. Kristy Newport says:

    This stood out to me:
    “a system that heavily favors subjective interpretation over objective truths.”
    This really speaks to our desire to have things the way we want ’em. How is it for you to preach the Word, with it’s objective truths? Have you had a sermon that was difficult to deliver due to the counter cultural message it provided?

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