- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; 3/31/08 edition (April 30, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674027469
- ISBN-13: 978-0674027466
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation 3/31/08 Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Scholar and author Lear (Therapeutic Action: An Earnest Plea for Irony) decodes the courage and wisdom of the last great chief of the Crow peoples, Plenty Coups (1848-1932), in this "philosophical anthropology" which seeks to pin down the way societies-and the individuals who lead them-carry on in the face of "cultural catastrophe." As a jumping-off point, Lear uses a quote from Plenty Coups's oral history, given to Frank B. Linderman shortly before the chief's death: "But when the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground... After this nothing happened." The first part of the book explores the meaning of "nothing happened," explicating the idea that history itself comes to an end when the concepts a culture uses to define its world-in this case, concepts tied to hunting, battle, and honor-become obsolete. The second part tackles "Ethics at the Horizon," the possibilities for "radical hope" in the face of inconceivable cultural change through courage, wisdom and flexibility, on both a personal and cultural level. The third part discusses the ramifications of "radical hope," both practically and philosophically. Lear's study is probably too rigorous rhetorically to appeal to a wide audience, and his insistence that "we live at a time of a heightened sense that civilizations are themselves vulnerable" could have been supported with some explicit contemporary parallels, but for those interested in the final years of the Crow nation or the ethical challenges faced by victims of cultural destruction, this book will prove enlightening.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Lear, a psychoanalyst and professor of philosophy, delves into what he calls the "blind spot" of any culture: the inability to conceive of its own devastation. He molds his thoughts around a poignant historical model, the decimated nation of Crow Indians in the early decades of the twentieth century. The last Crow chief, Plenty Coups, told his white friend and biographer, Frank B. Linderman, about what happened to his people "when the buffalo went away." They were despondent, and in Plenty Coups' words, "After this nothing happened." Lear dissects this phenomenon, and the Crows' struggle for continued survival, in a highly esoteric discussion drawing on the writings of Aristotle, Plato, and other philosophers. What makes this discussion relevant to mainstream readers is his application of the blind-spot hypothesis to the present, in which the twenty-first century was ushered in by terrorist attacks, social upheavals, and natural catastrophes, leaving us with "an uncanny sense of menace" and a heightened perception of how vulnerable our civilizations are to destruction, as was the Crow's. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Radical Hope is a detailed exploration of the ultimate chaos that can afflict cultures when they quickly collapse from external pressures. This book shows how insight and the use of traditional problem solving provided Crow leadership with a pathway to re-establishing themselves in this most challenging of circumstances.
This book is highly recommended to those people fascinated with how culture institutions respond to crippling challenges and how hope can emerge in the bleakest of circumstances.
We speak of "sounding the depths" but rarely is this act accomplished with sustained attention to any given utterance. But this is a singular accomplishment of Jonathan Lear in this book. Focusing attention on the utterances of the last great chief of the Crow Indians, Plenty Coups--utterances that have their focal point in the dramatic and enigmatic statement that "the buffalo went away...after this nothing happened"--Lear sounds the depths of Plenty Coup's voice through interpretive questioning both within and beyond it's crumbling cultural context as well as from the perspectives gleaned through a wide range of thought-traditions. But all of this is done while sustaining respect for the particular person in his particular life circumstances. In this sounding, then, we have the rare opportunity to witness a deep listener listening...without getting lost in his listening.
Of course, detractors might point out that the author's analysis is based on reading rather than listening. But I suggest the monastic practice of lectio divina --a practice of deep reading for the sake of recovering the voice, that is, a reading that is transformed into a listening--is a closer description of the kind of receptivity Lear is engaged in here.
It is this respect for the primacy of the life that is lived beyond any interpretation that can be brought to bear upon it which is a hallmark of the primary traditions out of which Lear works--philosophical anthropology and psychoanalysis. What it yields, though, is no high-brow, esoteric document but, rather, a suspenseful circling down into deepening, yet suggestive interpretations of a decisive moment in one man's life and culture that is accessible to any intelligent lay reader (no graduate degree required). The engaged reader comes away with a thoughtful consideration of an exemplar of hope and courage from which one can draw lessons for one's own life and times.