The book asks two main questions: Can there be a postmodern politics? And can postmodernism provide the marginalized Other with a practical plan to change their status. The author goes through the theories and views of three post- philosophers: Lyotard, Rorty, and Foucault, and tries to see if they can present us with a viable political theory that can be used for the purposes of the oppositional struggles. Lyotard's theory of " terror" indicating that no "language game" should gain precedence over another is seen unable to promise of any change in the status of the unrepresented or the margenalized groups. Rorty's elitist, partisan, and totalitarian views are not of much help either. Foucault, though in this respect, is more advanced than the other two and provides a sense of empowerment through his theory of power, also fails because of his deemphasis on the importance of community for the formation of the subject of resistance. The author also argues that the concept of the subject as lacking in coherence is the challenging problem that deprives postmodernism from the ability to present us with a viable practical politics of opposition. Her alternative can be summarized in her view of the subject mainly as " subject-in community" in the sense that every subject belongs at the same time to many different communities, some of them might be marginalized or unrepresented. A writer, for instance, can be a woman, black, etc. It is through identifying with these groups and speaking up for them that the voices and causes of these groups can be heard and foregrounded The book is generally accessible and the arguments are presented in a detailed and clear way. The author seems to be repeating many ideas over and over again throughout the book but this can be very useful for a student newly introduced to the subject, since repeating the idea in different context seems to make it a bit clearer every time.
This author attempts to build a new platform for political theory by including a formal way for oppositional politics (or the politics of difference) to be recognized, heard and incorporated.
She does this by eschewing the much-romanticized poststructuralist's formulation of deconstructionist politics as being essentially an autonomous, individualistic self-interested appetitive enterprise. This old formulation she claims, eats its own tail at the same time that it intentionally masks more than it reveals. Under the guise of being an objective, universal, rational, individualistic and a-historical whole, it mutes the voices of, and then marginalizes (mostly non-white) differences and thus all oppositional politic. Indeed, if you take this method to its asymptotic limit, all politics inexorably would end in anarchy.
This "essentialist," normalizing and universalizing strategy towards totalizing (and universalized) knowledge systems effectively reduces them to being hermetically sealed-off, self-contained metaphysical worldviews: an ontology that has been used throughout Western history to justify white dominance, patriarchy, classism and racist regimes.
Her reformulation starts with the recognition that everything -- economics, religion, science and culture -- are all essentially political. Or, are at the very least formed against the backdrop of the political. And since individualism is inscribed by language (i.e., within multiple knowledge contexts), individual differences are always political since they too are part of a specific culture and history (both of which are contextualized in specific knowledge areas with specific vocabularies and grammars, and within specific social frameworks).Read more ›
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