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The New Constellation: Ethical-Political Horizons of Modernity/Postmodernity Paperback – January 21, 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0262521666 ISBN-10: 9780262521666 Edition: 1st MIT Press ed

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is the best book yet written on the tension between leftist political initiatives, of the sort attempted by Dewey and Habermas, and postmodernist philosophical thought. Bernstein's discussions of Foucault, Derrida, and Heidegger are models of careful commentary and fair-minded criticism." Richard Rorty, University of Virginia

Review

'This is the best book yet written on the tension between leftist political initiatives ... and post-modernist philosophical thought. Bernstein's discussions of Foucault, Derrida and Heidegger are models of careful commentary and fair-minded criticism.' Richard Rorty, University of Virginia

'Bernstein's book is an important contribution to perhaps the only aspect of the fashionable post-modernity debate which is still comparatively underexposed, the political.' Political Studies --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Applications; 3
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1st MIT Press ed edition (January 21, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780262521666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262521666
  • ASIN: 0262521660
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
Bernstein points out in the Introduction his inability to combine the subsequent essays into a single theme, generative principle, or common core. His way of characterizing the refractory nature of these strands is to liken them to a "constellation", which by definition contains elements resisting integration into a unified whole. Thus, the image of constellation stands as the book's central metaphor, and a characterization of how Western philosophy stands following the emergence of the post-modern "Stimmung" or "mood". Put in Hegelian terms, the "other" remains other, because the post-modern negation of reason offers no prospect of being reconciled into a more comprehensive whole. I think it's fair to say that for Bernstein, the "post" in post-modernism really does mean post. And though Bernstein doesn't emphasize the word, a thoroughly pluralist landscape would appear to be the result, a pluralism perhaps uniquely beyond all measure of integration.
Those who see the missing yet vital connecting strand in the triumph of a consumer mentality may find the work inadequate from the standpoint of broader cultural analysis. It's true, Bernstein does stick closely to the narrower philosophical level. Nevertheless, each essay represents a penetrating discussion of major post-moderns and their precursors, figures such as Foucault, Derrida, and Heidegger, along with more diverse thinkers, like Rorty, Habermas and MacIntyre. For me, the two most revealing chapters are the discussion of Heidegger and technology and Rorty's liberal utopia.
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Format: Hardcover
Bernstein's book is one of the more accessible (albeit still challenging to those not steeped in the postmodern tradition) works on postmodern political theory. The work is well worth grappling with. He helps identify some of the characteristics of postmodernism and then explores the contributions that this makes to political discourse.

The Other is an important theme among Postmodern thinkers. It arises, inter alia, from the very nature of language as such thinkers understand it. A key concept is the notion of binary oppositions. To use colors in the spectrum as an example. White is defined in terms of black, but we do not think of white as black--even though black is critical for white's meaning. In a sense, black is pushed to the side and becomes Other. Bernstein says that (71):

"This is the theme [in Postmodern thought] that resists the unrelenting tendency of the will to knowledge and truth where Reason--when unmasked--is understood as always seeking
to appropriate, comprehend, control, master, contain, dominate, suppress, or repress what presents itself as 'the Other' that it confronts. It is the theme of the violence of Reason's imperialistic welcoming embrace."

A classic binary opposition relevant here is Same/Other or Identity/Difference. The first term in each is privileged or "valorized." The second becomes Other, whose meaning is hidden or repressed. Rational ideals of the Modern era have it that we must try to explain all things, that there are underlying explanations to account for everything. We try to make "Same" or explain all components of a particular arena in common terms.
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