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Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Expanded Edition) by [Hicks, Stephen R. C.]
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Editorial Reviews

Review

By the end of Explaining Postmodernism, the reader may remain ill at ease with postmodernist malaise, but Hicks s lucid account will demystify the subject. * Curtis Hancock, Ph.D., Review of Metaphysics --Review of Metaphysics

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. * Steven M. Sanders, Ph.D., Reason Papers --Reason Papers

Refreshingly, Hicks does not take it as given that the poststructuralist viewpoints have been demonstrated to be in error. Rather, he seeks to trace them to a powerful ressentiment directed against the partisan of the Enlightenment and of capitalist achievement, and to provide the Enlightenment thinker with openings for serious intellectual engagement. * Marcus Verhaegh, Ph.D., The Independent Review --The Independent Review

About the Author

Stephen Ronald Craig Hicks (born 1960) is professor of philosophy at Rockford College, 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; expanded edition, 2011), 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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2158 KB
  • Print Length: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Ockham's Razor; Expanded edition (December 19, 2013)
  • Publication Date: December 19, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005D53DG0
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,283 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
Rather than echo the many excellent reviews of Explaining Postmodernism, I thought it'd be useful to offer a different perspective - to illustrate why this book helped me understand a bewildering experience in a university course.

In 2009, I took a university English course called "Critical Introduction to Literature." I anticipated literary criticism, somewhat reminiscent of E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel Rather, the class was rooted in "Critical Theory;" our textbook was called Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. However, neither the textbook nor the professor made clear that Critical Theory was an explicitly Marxist philosophy.

In critical theory, the artistic merits of literature are, essentially, irrelevant. In critical theory, literature is used mainly as a prop to critique society. Again, none of these core Marxist principles were made explicit to the students in my English class. In retrospect, I find this omission telling; an attempt to conceal an ideological agenda. If students understood the philosophical roots of critical theory and were given the chance to take an informed decision, they might ask some difficult questions or opt for another major.

The first chapter in the textbook was devoted to Marxist criticism. I asked the professor why we were studying Marxism, when the pillars of Marxism had been roundly disproved in theory and practice. Historian Richard Pipes wrote how Marx's core principles fly in the face of reality, and how Marx's key predictions were all disproved within a few decades of his death.
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