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Moral Images of Freedom: A Future for Critical Theory (New Critical Theory)

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0847697939
ISBN-10: 0847697932
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Editorial Reviews


Climbing the highest mountains of philosophical reflection, Moral Images of Freedom is an illuminating and profound journey to a promised land of self-discovery and authentically grounded hope. Cornell remarkably manages to displace prevailing political pessimism with an inspiring vision of emancipatory politics and moral engagement. (Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University)

Drucilla Cornell's Moral Images of Freedom places philosophy on the side of hope. Its distinctive contribution is to show how the tendencies in twentieth-century thought that threaten us with nihilism may also inform and inspire a deepening of our faith in ourselves. To read this book is to discover a path to greater freedom and connection in what had seemed to be a history of despair. (Roberto Mangabeira Unger)

The power of this book lies in the courage, erudition and openness to the future that it mobilizes in making its case for continuing the struggle on behalf of a moral ordering of our social world. Moving deftly through Kant, Heidegger, Cassirer, Fanon, Lewis Gordon and others, Prof. Cornell makes a powerful contribution to the revitalization of contemporary critical theory by resting this project on the principle that if we attend to the limits of our knowledge, we will discover that it is still possible to imagine the surpassing of our present order by a more just one. As such, it speaks courageously to our present moment of disjuncture. (Paget Henry, Brown University)

In the face of terrible suffering, Cornell advances what she calls an affirmative political philosophy. Offering a theoretical vision attuned to this relationship of reason and sensory existence, Cornell exemplifies just how this can be done by mining what is vital in Kant, Heidegger, Derrida, Fanon, Cassirer, and Benjamin. One of the book's great gifts is the way that it develops this insight, showing how engagement with Cassirer's understanding of the diversity and generative power of language can be put to the service of 'decolonizing' critical theory. Cornell calls for a new poetics of consciousness. Such a poetics takes us beyond the limitations of conceptual knowledge, opening us to unlikely, and uncanny, connections. The result is a stirring vision of what critical theory can be: hopeful, invigorating, humane. (Review Of Politics)

Drucilla Cornell is one of the last grand critical theorists in our time. This great tradition ― from Kant to Benjamin and Adorno ― is made relevant in her profound and courageous philosophical engagements with redemptive possibilities in our dystopian era. She sustains a contagious utopian defiance of the bleak present with a subtle wrestling with our limits ― a wrestling that takes us through empire, class, race and gender toward a just and free world. (Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary)

About the Author

Drucilla Cornell is professor of political science, women's studies, and comparative literature at Rutgers University and has recently been appointed as chair of philosophy and law at the University of Cape Town. She has written numerous articles on contemporary continental thought, critical theory, grass-roots political and legal mobilization, jurisprudence, women's literature, feminism, aesthetics, psychoanalysis, and political philosophy. A produced playwright, her plays The Dream Cure, Background Interference, and Lifeline have been performed in California, New York, Florida, and Ohio. Her dramatization of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake runs every year in Dublin, Ireland.

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Product Details

  • Series: New Critical Theory
  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (August 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847697932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847697939
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,891,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Much contemporary critical theory suffers from the ironic problem of lacking any "critical" thought. Consider the recent spate of texts that have as subtitles "New Directions in Critical Theory," "Rethinking Critical Theory," or a related combination of the aforementioned words and phrases. While Drucilla Cornell's book under review has as a subtitle "A Future for Critical Theory"--a potential warning sign for disappointment--, Cornell thankfully succeeds in accomplishing what several of her peers fail to do: provide fresh, new thinking that does not reinforce hackneyed arguments of old.

MORAL IMAGES OF FREEDOM (2008) is Drucilla Cornell's passionate attempt to resuscitate the uses of political imagination and the "imaginary domain" for practical politics in a post-9/11 world. Freedom is a word widely invoked yet heavily misunderstood. In five incisive Chapters along with the equally important Preface, Introduction, and Conclusion, Cornell makes the case for "decolonizing critical theory" (Chapter 4) and using the capacity for the "redemptive imagination" (Introduction) to transform how we understand the morals underlying the political actualization of freedom. The implications of Cornell's project are wide-ranging. Cornell is formally trained as a lawyer, having received a J.D. from UCLA in 1981. However, she has spent the last several years bridging the spheres of law, philosophy, women's studies, comparative literature, and political theory with the hope of changing normative structures of oppression pervasive in the global North and global South. Cornell's institution building between the United States (Rutgers University) and South Africa (where she now holds the Chair of philosophy and law at the University of Cape Town) exemplifies this longstanding commitment.
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