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Modern Social Imaginaries (Public Planet Books) Paperback – December 29, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0822332930 ISBN-10: 0822332930

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Product Details

  • Series: Public Planet Books
  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (December 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822332930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822332930
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 6.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Charles Taylor presents a fundamental challenge to neoliberal apologists for the new world order—but not only to them. Anyone who wishes, as I do, to defend transcultural political ideals, notions of development, or the like, will have to face his formidable array of hermeneutically inspired reflections on Western modernity’s defining cultural formations. His particular take on the ‘social imaginary’ makes the strongest case there is for the idea of ‘multiple modernities.’”—Thomas McCarthy, Northwestern University

From the Inside Flap

"Charles Taylor presents a fundamental challenge to neoliberal apologists for the new world order—but not only to them. Anyone who wishes, as I do, to defend transcultural political ideals, notions of development, or the like, will have to face his formidable array of hermeneutically inspired reflections on Western modernity’s defining cultural formations. His particular take on the ‘social imaginary’ makes the strongest case there is for the idea of ‘multiple modernities.’"—Thomas McCarthy, Northwestern University --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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I must say -- one thing that troubles me about Taylor is his writing style.
Secret Squirrel
Highly recommended those who interested in themes such as modernity in general, modern construction of market, and public sphere and public opinion.
Sonho Kim
The current work puts the concept of modernity into a theoretical framework which Taylor terms the "social imaginary" (hence the title of the book).
benjamin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By benjamin on December 31, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Charles Taylor is one of the Western world's foremost intellectuals and theorists of what is broadly called "modernity" which begins somewhere around the 16th century and continues today, even as it is challenged by so-called "post-modernists". The current work puts the concept of modernity into a theoretical framework which Taylor terms the "social imaginary" (hence the title of the book).

The "social imaginary", broadly speaking, consists of images, stories and legends, is shared by large groups of people, and serves to make possible "common practices and a widely shared sense of legitimacy" (23). The particularities of the *modern* social imaginary is that "Modernity is secular ... in the fact that religion occupies a different place, compatible with the sense that all action takes place in profane time" (194). The modern social imaginary consists of the objectivity of the economic sphere, the public sphere (which is beyond the control of any particular political or religion interest group) vs. the private sphere (which is the sphere of the family and of religion), and the sovereignty of "the people".

What emerges, then, is a series of fairly thick discussions of political philosophy, economic theory and, yes, theology. Taylor ties modernity to Protestantism for in setting itself against the medieval/catholic worldview of sacred time (feast and fast days with their attendant saints, liturgical seasons) and the broadly accepted idea that the world was enchanted - miracles, angels, demons and saints were all a part of the medieval worldview - time itself became a profane realm such that it would eventually become eclipsed by nationalism with its own local feast days and national saints (patriots, so to speak).
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on May 15, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor (not to be confused with the Liberian ex-dictator of the same name!) at his most concise and accessible. Here he uses his typical "history of ideas" approach to explaining the content of the modern way of seeing the world, one that so profoundly affects the West and its policies yet is so hard to describe.

Taylor's general philosophical project is to attack the idea of Western liberalism as being a "neutral" or "non-ideological" view of the world, and to downplay its role in the formation of modern man. Instead, he proposes a more communitarian view of liberalism, where liberalism is one comprehensive moral doctrine between others, but happens (for historical reasons) to be one that has been very succesful in shaping the mindset of Western man, rather more so than it has been succesful politically.

Taylor also rejects many of the ideas of liberalism itself, in particular the "rights-based" thinking and its concept of the individual's relation to his culture. The former is most clearly seen in his book "Sources of the Self", whereas the latter is most clearly expressed in this work. The modern social imaginary, i.e. the ways in which modern man is capable of seeing the world (which is not the same as the way he sees the world!) is explored from every possible cultural and philosophical angle.

On the whole, his communitarian philosophy tends to be conservative, but rather of the traditionalist conservative kind than of the religiously inspired reactionary kind one sees in the US so much (though Taylor is very catholic).
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Sonho Kim on June 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book seems an extension of Charles Taylor's Tanner Lecture delivered a decade ago on public sphere as a moral value imbedded in Western modernity. Now, he develops an interpretation on three modern imaginary (but real) spheres of market economy, public sphere, and self-governing people, regarding them as different instances in the construction of primary modern morality, 'mutual benefits.' I think this is an important step that seamlessly connects two different philosophy giants-Habermas and Foucault- as well as an original explication of Western modernity. Highly recommended those who interested in themes such as modernity in general, modern construction of market, and public sphere and public opinion.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Seaboard Lit Prof on January 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
I'm glad Taylor wrote this short, concise book. His book Sources of the Self, a long tour through modern Western ideas of the human individual and their implications for moral philosophy, is wonderful and illuminating; but you don't always want to read 800 pages. So this book has the virtue of relative brevity. It also extends Taylor's ideas about Western thought from models of modern selfhood to modern institutions: the market and political self-governance.

But I have to agree with "Squirrel's" comment that this book is not always clear. The sentences are always lucid and graceful. The examples are germane. But Taylor too rarely pauses to explain the implications of this analysis (as he does very beautifully in Sources of the Self). Unless you already know the larger framework of Taylor's philosophy, it can be hard to puzzle out exactly why he has been going on about a given topic. I tried to use this book in a graduate course, but most of the students had difficulty detecting what was at stake in Taylor's arguments.

This is a case where one might wish a short book were just a bit longer. If Taylor had added even a couple of pages to each chapter, unpacking the larger implications for the way he had just mapped out a given sector of the modern social imaginary, it would have made this a better book. Even so, the map itself is learned and valuable.
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