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Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault Hardcover – August 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"By the end of the book, the reader may remain ill at ease with the postmodernist malaise, but Hicks's lucid account will demystify the subject. Hicks's impressive grasp of the history of philosophy over the past few centuries enables to explain postmodernism by identifying its signposts. He lets sensitive analysis of the memorable episodes of postmodernism speak to the essential issues that drive it. His treatment of the importance of Kant s skepticism in getting the postmodernist engine going down the track is especially instructive." --Professor Curtis Hancock, Review of Metaphysics (December 2005)

"Readers of Explaining Postmodernism will find much to reflect upon and engage with in the pages of this lucid study of the background, themes, and consequences of postmodernist thought and practice. With clarity, concision, and an engaging style, Hicks exposes the historical roots and philosophical assumptions of the postmodernist phenomenon. More than that, he raises key questions about the legacy of postmodernism and its implications for our intellectual attitudes and cultural life." --Professor Steven Sanders, Reason Papers (Spring 2006)

"Stephen Hicks has written a trenchant and provocative book on a vital topic. ... Though I have at times disagreed with Hicks, he has an excellent eye for essential issues and his views always repay careful consideration." --Dr. David Gordon, The Mises Review (Fall 2005)

About the Author

Stephen Hicks is a Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College, Illinois. A native of Toronto, Canada, he received his Ph.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington. He has been a visiting professor at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., a visiting scholar at the social Philosophy and Policy Center in Bowling Green, Ohio, and a senior fellow at the Objectivist Center in New York. He is co-editor of Readings for Logical Analysis (W.W. Norton & Co.) and has published widely in academic journals and other publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Baltimore Sun.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Scholargy Publishing, Inc.; First edition (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592476465
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592476466
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,084,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Stephen Ronald Craig Hicks (born 1960) is professor of philosophy at Rockford University, where he is also Executive Director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship. He is the author of *Nietzsche and the Nazis* (Ockham's Razor, 2006, 2010), *Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault* (Scholargy Publishing, 2004), and co-editor of *The Art of Reasoning: Readings for Logical Analysis* (W. W. Norton & Co., 1998). Hicks earned a Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1991 and his B.A. (Honours) from the University of Guelph, Canada in 1981.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

132 of 142 people found the following review helpful By F. Carr on October 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book isn't an introduction to postmodernism (PM). There are several introductions to PM on Amazon if that's what you want. Rather, its task could be described as turning some of the techniques of academic PM on its founders - Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, & Co. The title could have been "Unmasking Postmodernism" because Hicks does so with devastating effect.

I have read several hundred books on philosophy from Plato to the present and I cannot think of one that I consider to have been more clearly written than this. The exposition is admirably jargon-free and straightforward, although some terms might be unfamiliar to some folks. This is the only book in many years that I began re-reading and marking up as soon as I had finished reading it the first time - I think it's that good.

It's important to distinguish between PM in the arts, which is largely an aesthetic trend, and academic PM, which exists almost exclusively in some humanities departments in the universities and identifies with particular epistemological and linguistic assumptions. This book is concerned with the latter group and Hicks provides a well documented case for the following historical sequence:

1) Leftist socialists had traditionally believed that reason and facts would show the superiority of socialism - theoretically, morally, and economically.

2) Academic PM's creators were all leftist socialists around the time that leftist socialism was failing - theoretically, morally, and economically (1950s on).

3) The reaction of leftist academic socialists to this wasn't to accept that they had been wrong. Instead, they availed themselves of recent developments in epistemology and linguistics as a pretext for dismissing reason and facts.
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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Stanislav Rozenfeld on June 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Just finished reading this book. It took me about a week of very leisurely reading. The book is about 200 pages. This is how philosophy should be written, brief and to the point. People like me do not have a lot of time on our hands to pour through thick philosophical tomes hoping to discover one grain of wisdom in a sea of verbiage. What makes this book special is that every page, every word counts. This is not some superficial popularization, but a serious book filled with important ideas and serious implication for the modern world.

This is intellectual history written like a novel, and it reads like a novel. It's a dark novel, unfortunately, but there is reason for hope. The story it tells is of how postmodernism evolved from its dual roots of socialist utopianism and counter-enlightenment philosophy to become the dominant intellectual force in today's universities.

Beyond being just an intellectual history, the book represents a call to action for all those who value their Enlightenment heritage to articulate and defend the premises upon which the Enlightenment was built, but which were never fully articulated. In this book, Enlightenment doesn't remain some historical abstraction, but a great movement that has brought us individualism, science, technology, capitalism and all the fruits of the progress in all these fields. It's something that's worth defending, and I hope this book is read widely enough to make an impact in that direction.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful By G. Boggs on November 13, 2006
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I'm not a philosopher, I'm a retired scientist. So I'm probably not the best reviewer for this book. However, I did enjoy it. That in itself is unusual when I read philosophy.

In all fairness, I suspect this book probably would not be considered to be an "academic level" philosophy book, at least for the advanced undergraduate philosophy major. But it does take one through a history of philosophical thinking from the Enlightenment to the postmodern present.

I had done some prior reading about postmodernism. I enjoy reading about the subject for the same reason I like going to public aquariums - the denizens are so strange and alien that one is astonished that such odd creatures exist at all. Of course, behind the scenes in the aquarium are vast engineered systems to provide anm environment that will support the inhabitants. For the postmodernists, universities serve as that vast engineered system. This book explains why the postmodernists need such a system to survive in a world that doesn't focus on pickle slices, hot meat and trans-fats.

The book also does a good job of explaining in more-or-less plain English the vacuity of postmodern thought. If you aren't impressed and awed by the kind of self-congratulatory dense prose one often gets from philosophical writers, and you want a readable overview of the development and blossoming of dead-end thinking, this is the book for you. If you're a real philosopher, though, I'm sure you'll find it so accessible as to be beneath contempt. And if you're a postmodernist, stay away at all costs. It will be dangerous reading for you. Your trope might trip.
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100 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Peter Cresswell on September 7, 2004
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This book should be in every student's backpack. In the post-modern intellectual battleground in which each student find himself submerged - and sometimes drowning - this book offers essential intellectual self-defence for every student who still cares to think. No matter if you already know every answer to all the sundry irrationalities you face every day - herewith is a comprehensive summary of your intellectual enemy that for the first time clearly and comprehensively puts each of the post-modern heroes in their place.

Why is that so important? Well, what do you feel when you watch a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis? You watch it greet the sun, spread its wings and almost give thanks to existence for its rebirth. Imagine then another human being gleefully stamping their boot on that reborn butterfly, smilingly stamping the life out of it. Such is the situation in many places of academe. This book gives a defence to the fragile butterfly of the intellect.

One of the worst periods of my own life was spent at Auckland's Architecture School where I found myself being taught by intelligent human beings, many of whom seemed somehow intent on snuffing out young students' sense of certainty and their joy in learning about ideas and creating great art. I watched as many students became either irrational automatons emulating the noises made by these lecturers, or gave up in disgust - often questioning themselves and their own ability. They were crushed. That situation was not unique to my own alma mater - it pertains to nearly every grove of academia in the Western world. This book explains the mentality of scum who earn a pay-cheque by gleefully crushing impressionable young minds, and the strategies they employ to do it.

The book is a "great but very scary read.
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