Review Of "Making Things Public: Atmospheres Of Democracy " Edited By B. Latour And P. Weibel

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This thick tome is intended for a bookshelf: it is too heavy for a coffee table. The title and subtitle make clear the book's intention. Most of the essays--mostly postmodernist, mostly by Europeans--are exceedingly short (several pages at most). But the book itself, at more than a thousand pages, is quite long. It is packed with striking and arresting images, though their relevance is often sideways. Some of the essays, such as that by Noortje Marres on the Walter Lippman-John Dewey debate, are excellent. Dewey, in fact, figures more prominently than one might expect, probably in part because he was the preeminent exponent of democracy in America in the 20th century. In fact, the book--insofar as it has a unifying theme--celebrates "making things public," but sees that the American pragmatic approach is often facile, hiding more than it reveals (hence the subtitle). Here Latour's lengthy introductory essay emphasizing insights from Heidegger is well worth reading. There are indeed many short essays worth reading, but this work is one to be dipped into from time to time--not read straight through or with the thought that the unifying themes are systematic. Summing Up: Recommended. Large public libraries; general readers.


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