Uncritical theory: postmodernism, intellectuals & the Gulf War
Shortly after the cessation of hostilities, Jean Baudrillard published an article entitled "The Gulf War Has Not Taken Place," arguing that the conflict had been a "hyperreal" event, a product of superinduced media illusion and saturation TV coverage. Moreover, there was something like a duty to abandon any belief in its real-world occurrence, since in Baudrillard's view "the true belligerents are those who thrive on the ideology of the truth of this war." It is in response to Baudrillard and other proponents of the so-called postmodern condition that Christopher Norris has written this extended essay. He argues that their stance is both politically disabling and philosophically confused; that it rests on a wholly unwarranted skepticism with regard to the claims of enlightened critique; that there exist more cogent alternative theories of truth, language, ideology, and representation; and that postmodernism is best understood as a symptom of the deep cultural malaise that marked many responses to the Gulf War. Norris's book combines a vigorous critique of these ideas with a strong counterargument grounded in the values of reasoned inquiry and open exchange. He offers incisive commentary on the work of Baudrillard, Lyotard, Foucault, and other influential French theorists and on the American neopragmatist school represented by Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish. While careful to remark the differences between them, Norris finds many of these thinkers adopting an "end-of-ideology" rhetoric that has also been revived by Francis Fukuyama and other celebrants of United States hegemony in the guise of a "New World Order." Aligning himself most closely with Habermas, Chomsky, Eagleton, and the tradition of enlightened dissident critique, Norris here offers an impassioned defense of the modern intellectual's continuing role as critic of real-world politics and government. Uncritical Theory is a timely challenge to much of what passes for radical thinking in an age of postmodern commodity culture.
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Deconstruction versus Postmodernism
How the Real World Became a Fable
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