Review Of "Political Theory And Postmodernism" By S. K. White

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White's slim volume assessing the contribution of postmodern thinking to political thought merits inclusion in the excellent “Modern European Philosophy” series. He argues that the insights of Heidegger, Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida, and Rorty and such “difference” feminists as Ruddick, Shklar, Fraser, Ferguson, and especially Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice, CH, Oct'82) are not merely destructive, but suggest ways of developing positive answers to pressing ethical-political questions that are sensitive not only to “responsibility to otherness,” but also “responsibility to act.” Although White criticizes Habermas for blindness to the contribution of postmodern writers, he largely accepts his communicative ethics--see White's The Recent Work of Jurgen Habermas: Reason, Justice and Modernity (CH, Oct'88) and the two volumes of Habermas's own The Theory of Communicative Action (v.2, CH, Sep'88). White, however, supplements Habermas's ethics with greater attention to phenomena of injustice and to fostering (not merely tolerating) diversity. White defends the postmodern contribution against traditional liberals; communitarians, e.g., Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (CH, Nov'88); and Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality (CH, Oct'83). White's defense of “post-modern modernism” is remarkably free of unexplained jargon and written with an evident clarity and serious engagement with the debate between principled universalism and concrete particularism. Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduate and graduate collections.


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