In spring 1996, a highly respected American cultural-studies journal, Social Text, published an article with the strange title "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." Its author, Alan Sokal, supported his ideas by extensive quotations form prominent French and American thinkers. Shortly thereafter, Sokal revealed that the article was a parody. His goal was to attack, by means of satire, the widespread misuse of scientific terminology and the promiscuous extrapolation of ideas from the natural to the social sciences. More generally, his aim was to denounce postmodern relativism, which holds that truth is a mere social convention. Sokal's hoax unleashed an animated debate in intellectual circles around the world.
In Fashionable Nonsense, Sokal teams up with Belgian physicist Jean Bricmont to assemble and analyze a series of texts illustrating the physico-mathematical mystifications perpetuated by Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Bruno Latour, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Paul Vivilio. They show that, behind an imposing jargon and an apparent scientific erudition, the emperor is naked.