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Postmodernism Rightly Understood: The Return to Realism in American Thought [Paperback]

Peter Augustine Lawler
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 29, 1999 0847694267 978-0847694266
Postmodernism Rightly Understood is a dramatic return to realisma poetic attempt to attain a true understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the postmodern predicament. Prominent political theorist Peter Augustine Lawler reflects on the flaws of postmodern thought, the futility of pragmatism, and the spiritual emptiness of existentialism. Lawler examines postmodernism by interpreting the writings of five respected and best selling American authors Francis Fukuyama, Richard Rorty, Allan Bloom, Walker Percy, and Christopher Lasch. Lawler explains why the alternatives available in our time are either a "soulless niceness," which Fukuyama, Rorty, and Bloom described as the result of modern success, or a postmodern moral responsibility that accompanies love in the ruins, as articulated by Percy and Lasch. This is a fresh and compelling look at the crisis of the human soul and intellect accompanied by the onset of postmodernity.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

...admirably ambitious... But Lawler is a gadfly—of that distinctively southern sort, with an eviable combination of intelligence, learning and wit. Lawler's account far surpasses the leading scholarship on Percy..... (Steven J. Lenzner, Political Theorist, Cambridge, Massachussetts The Weekly Standard)

Lawler challenges us to take Post-Modernism away from the academic left and give it to those who see the end of the modern Enlightenment as an opportunity for recovering the truth about God and man formerly known as "moral and metaphysical realism. His work inspires hope that our age of disillusionment can be followed a new age of faith. (Robert P. Kraynak, Colgate University)

Postmodernism Rightly Understood is an admirable, and admirably ambitious, book. Not the least of its ambitions is to show what it is about the character of modern life—and postmodern thought— that renders it so difficult to address the twinproblems of love and death and why our humanity requires that we make the effort. Lawler employs an enviable mix of intelligence, learning and wit to make his case. For this reason alone, Postmodernism Rightly Understood deserves to be read widely and debated thoroughly, and not simply by academics. (Steve Lenzner The Weekly Standard)

This is a remarkably insightful book. The understanding of 'modernity' and 'post-modernity' requires serious intellectual effort. Lawler has, in a sense, turned the tables on the usual understanding of 'postmodernity' to ask if there is in it anything that can be 'rightly understood'? This leads him to investigate the American discussion of this issue. He recalls the discussions of classical and medieval thought. The solution to the many modern and post-modern enigmas is a return to a systematically rejected, but unfounded realism. In this he follows the lead of Christopher Lasch and Walker Percy in examining the theses of Fukayama, Rorty, and Allan Bloom. It is an original, brilliant effort. (James V. Schall, S.J., Georgetown University)

Lawler's book on a number of contrasting writers on post-war society and politics of the West is an excellent one. I found Lawler's chapters on Fukuyama, Percy, and Lasch to be models of intellectually provocative commentary. Postmodernism Rightly Understood is a necessary panegyric for competent and dignified citizens for our times. (Kenneth Deutsch, SUNY, Geneseo)

Postmodernism Rightly Understood is an admirable, and admirably ambitious, book. Not the least of its ambitions is to show what it is about the character of modern life—and "postmodern" thought— thatrenders it so difficult to address the twin problems of love and death and why our humanity requires that we make the effort. Lawler employs an enviable mix of intelligence, learning and wit to make his case. For this reason alone, Postmodernism Rightly Understood deserves to be read widely and debated thoroughly, and not simply by academics. (Steve Lenzner The Weekly Standard)

...admirably ambitious...But Lawler is a gadfly—of that distinctively southern sort, with an eviable combination of intelligence, learning and wit.Lawler's account far surpasses the leading scholarship on Percy. (Steven J. Lenzner, Political Theorist, Cambridge, Massachussetts The Weekly Standard)

Lively and engaging . . . represents something of great importance to the authenticity and reality of modern realism. . . . Lawler has, I think, presented a very powerful argument about the real needs of postmodernity. (James V. Schall, Professor of Government, Georgetown University Homiletic and Pastoral Review)

Enlightening treatment of contemporary American intellectual thought in Postmodernism Rightly Understood. The work will be eminently interesting not only to specialists in political philosophy and specialists in political philosophy and students of postmodernism, but even to casual observers of American letters. (Paul Howard, Fordham University Perspectives on Political Science, Vol. 29, No. 2)

Deeply serious and richly thought-provoking (Thomas Pangle, University of Toronto American Political Science Review)

Since many conservatives might be intimidated by such a risky and ambitious project, they can be greatful that Peter Augustine Lawler has shown them the way in his new book. It challenges religious and cultural conservatives to take postmodernism away from the academic Left and to develop it themselves—"rightly understood," of course. Each essay is elegantly writtnen, the five esays hang together nicely because of the way Lawler frames the unifying isuue... (Modern Age)

About the Author

Peter Augustine Lawler is professor of government at Berry College and associate editor of "Perspectives on Political Science", is the author and editor of eight books and over 100 articles and chapters.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (July 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847694267
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847694266
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #987,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant -- and quirky in the best sense July 20, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Peter Augustine Lawler is a rare find, and may be the most original and insightful political philosopher writing in America today. This book takes seriously the possibility that our age can meaningfully be understood as "post-modern," but concludes ultimately that what are taken to be indicators of the post-modern condition are actually artifacts of, as it were, hyper-modernity. An authentically POST-modern philosophical position would look very different from what is commonly believed. Lawler here begins to mark out a path which would lead us truly beyond modernity.
He does so, moreover, in a prose style that is direct -- readers who have slogged through the ponderous obscurity of continental European theorists will give thanks! -- but also seriously ironical. There is humor, playfulness here, but it is playfulness with a purpose.
For those enamored of Foucault, Derrida, and company, not least of interest in this book is that Lawler reveals the genuinely philosophical dimension of American thinkers. The book takes aim at Richard Rorty and ultimately finds our best philosophical guide in the reflections of the Southern novelist Walker Percy.
With surprising formulations on almost every page, a reader with an interest in things post-modern may at first be tempted to dismiss an author who says such unheard-of things. But give this book a chance. You just might have to conclude that Lawler has it right after all.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neo-Realism -- the time has come February 6, 2004
Format:Paperback
Lawler makes a valiant effort to rescue the name Postmodern from the clutches of meaninglessness but it is time for a change anyway now that more and more people are using the name. Lawler points in the right direction by saying "Postmodernism is the return to realism." So why not call it that instead of fighting against the tide? I can't see everyone getting used to the term "hypermodernism" instead. Imagine what Derrida would say?
Can this be overcome by the linguistic manipulation of the imagination?
This is a very rewarding book.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bring it up October 5, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is the first book to make sense of postmodernism
and the best introduction available to the thought of
Walker Percy--philosopher and novelist. It has become
a kind of cult classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Genuine Surprise - A Remarkable & Rewarding Book April 14, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First of all, I likely would never have known about this book had it not been nominated as of possible interest for me on an Amazon webpage. It did look appealing then, so I ordered a copy with only rather vague if positive expectations. The purchase turned out to be a big win, even though my philosophy background was definitely lacking (e.g., pragmatism). In all, the "understanding of postmodernism" conveyed was intriguing, eclectic, salutary, and intuitively satisfying. Furthermore, the book's content has stimulated several follow-up threads of pursuit for me via cited references (e.g., Walker Percy's).

Clearly, the book was "intriguing" to me because it held my interest well despite limitations in my background. I attribute this to ample but not pedantic elaboration of key concepts or viewpoints. Moreover, there were often differing views presented with an interplay of perspectives among diverse thinkers; such contrasts in viewpoints aided appreciably in their clarification or amplification. Then, certain themes were propagated and reinforced over succeeding chapters. The author recapitulates rather incisively his view of "postmodernism rightly understood" on pages 109-110, with acknowledgement of Percy's influence.

Of especial note, the contrast between psychoanalysis as originally conceived and psychotherapy as widely practiced nowadays was quite unexpected and most "intriguing" to me (pp. 161-164). Their respective protocols reflect diametrically opposed approaches for coping with the exigencies of human circumstances, especially the ineradicable prospect of death.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A return to realism March 15, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It has been a long time since I have written in, highlighted and underlined this much in one book. Peter Lawler has given us armchair philosopers, or in my case wannabe!, a valuable tool to help us understand our time. The clarity of definition and distinction (post modern versus hyper modern for example) are most helpful. It has been a long time since I read any Percy, this book encouraged me to reread and rethink his novels in a more informed light. I found the book to be a real treasure. Thank you Dr. Lawler.
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