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Crossing the Postmodern Divide 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226066271
ISBN-10: 0226066274
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this liberal, communitarian, and religious critique of the postmodern United States, Borgmann describes the intellectual, cultural, economic, and political forces that have configured our sullen and hyperactive culture. The various elements of postmodernism and the postmodern critique of contemporary life are explained. The failure of individualism and modernism leads Borgmann to a new vision of community life based on "bodily engagement, communal celebration, and focal orientation." The section on postmodern realism is especially noteworthy as a concise view of the choices facing us. A provocative essay, this is a fine approach to the political ideas that will influence the voters in this election year. Recommended.
- Gene Shaw, Elmwood Park Lib., N.J.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Rather astoundingly large-minded vision of the nature of humanity, civilization, and science, by Borgmann (Philosophy/Univ. of Montana at Missoula). To recap: As if climbing out of the sea and becoming a land creature, man now climbs out of the once modern, now postmodern era into a being that finds him thinning out as he covers more space. The great thinkers and explorers (Bacon, Columbus) came, shattered, and remade the past and changed us all forever. Luther broke the bond to a central authority; Copernicus decentralized us from the sun; Descartes gave us rational method; Locke overthrew the rule of kings and headed us toward individualism and democracy. Then came the rise of industrialism, as the railroad and the corporation squeezed us into the modern era and we split up our spiritual center into work, family, and community, which are now fading before the flood of information technology, TV, and our privileged classes' lack of interest in the poor. And we have lost faith, too, while living in our ``sullen'' postmodern era, with its rampant individualism and meaningless institutions. The more we grasp, the more ghostly our lives: ``The hyperintelligent sensorium, just because it is so acute and wide-ranging, presents the entire world to our eyes and ears and renders the remainder of the human body immobile and irrelevant.'' Borgmann finds hope in once-dying, now reviving Missoula, Montana, where daily city life has real spaces, real people, real tasks, and favors a ``bodily vigorous, richly connected, and securely oriented life.'' It is a place of charms and traditions, festivals and ``the holy game of baseball.'' The author ends with a ringing of church bells in his ``heavenly city'' and calls for all churches to follow Manhattan's St. John the Divine with its commitment to social works. Not a light read--and never disingenuous. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226066274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226066271
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on February 10, 2001
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This is a fascinatingly interesting, endlessly provocative, and eminently worthwhile read penned by a thoughtful philosopher who seems to have one foot in the heavens and the other planted firmly in every-day life. Borgmann serves up a busman's tour of history, ranging from observations on icons such as Bacon, Descartes, and Locke, yet at the same time coldly,cautiously, and carefully illustrating how we have lost so much more than we have gained in our earnest struggle to free ourselves from tradition and its hold on us, as we have increasingly become the mindlessly individualistic souls so boldly detached from any meaningful connection to one another that we have now become both socially and spiritually bereft, strangers in a strange land indeed.
Borgmann's view of contemporary society offers us nothing that others have not written even more eloquently about elsewhere; his gift to us is rather to illustrate with uncommon verve and precision exactly how the our dance in the history of ideas as well as our enthusiastic embrace of materialism has acted to gradually bankrupt us in terms of having any real meaningful sense of who we really are and why it is we are alive. According to the author, we are now living in circumstances so far estranged from any kind of natural connection to or relationship with the environment that we seem to believe that whatever artificially created surroundings we may have are mere furniture, incidental and unconnected to us or how we experience our lives, and therefore we cannot understand the ways in which this "mere furniture" fatefully influences and determines our own possibilities, both in terms of our material well being, and for Borgmann, at least, also in terms of our waning recognition of the possibility of any substantial spiritual existence.
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The book itself is thought provoking, altho I find myself wanting some followup discussion from the author in light of the events of 9-11-2001. I bought this book primarily because I'd seen a quote of one paragraph, and wanted to read the rest of the book! I received the book promptly, but was somewhat disappointed to find that the binding had separated, so the interior of the book is in two pieces. But, I was aware that I was purchasing a previously read book, so this is more an inconvenience.
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When reading philosophical monographs, the reader often finds him/herself in a maze of convoluted text that requires no small amount of eyebrow-furrowing and concentration to decode. Is it possible that the confusing landscape of social and conceptual issues of the postmodern condition could be plainly and poetically delivered in philosophical discourse? Albert Borgmann's volume "Crossing the Postmodern Divide" manages to do just this. It is an entrancing and fascinating read that guides the reader through a few of the philosophical conditions of modernism, traces their evolution into postmodernity, predicts the outcomes of these conditions, and proposes possible solutions to the less desirable aspects of these conditions.

Although Borgmann is not completely flawless in his logic, nor is he without his own bias, his analysis and conclusions "feel" right. Modernism, in light of Bacon's "aggressive realism," Descartes' "methodical universalism," and Locke's "ambiguous individualism," seems to directly relate to the postmodern ideals of "information processing," flexible specialization," and "informed cooperation."

Borgmann sees the postmodern atmosphere as transitional. He seems to feel that unless a newfound emphasis on local community is found, it will lead to "hypermodernity," in which the present dichotomy of sullenness and hyperactivity will create an unbridgeable gap between the real and unreal. In this scenario, the "hyperreality" of video games, movies, recorded music, and the undifferentiated commodification that shopping malls (much less online commerce) represent will come to dislodge us from everyday experience.
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Borgmanns's work contains not only thoughtful analysis, but striking critique and a powerful vision of how to bring meaning back into our lives. Borgmann traces the rise of modernity back to the work of Bacon, Descartes, and Locke; continuing by examining the course of the modern age and its' eventual end. He gives us a startling look at the extent to which our culture is one of sullenness and hyperactivity. Borgmann ties in his analysis with the idea of "the promise of technology" from his earlier work Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. The promise of technology is deeply tied to liberal democracy and while originally it was a relief to be saved from many of the burdens of life now people seek to be alleviated from or compensated for every burden. It is for this reason the Borgmann suggests that "we are in danger of loosing our sense of reality."

Borgmann continues with an economic examination of modernity and what he sees as its' decline. He gives us an outline to the postmodern economy which is forming with the end of the modern era: "information processing in place of aggressive realism, flexible specialization instead of methodical universalism, and informed cooperation rather than rugged individualism." It is in Borgmann's chapter on moral decisions and material culture that we see his plan for a life of interaction and community as opposed to the vacuous modern life of individualism and universalism.

From his history of the rise and fall of modernity to the sullenness and hyperactivity of our culture, Borgmann provides vivid and mindful insights into prevailing attitudes. Examining the failure of individualism and modernism, he presents alternatives to the joyless and artificial culture in which we are trapped by proposing a life of "bodily engagement, communal celebration, and focal orientation." Borgmann's work is not only philosophically engaging but powerful on an individual level which can touch us all.
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