The New Constellation: The Ethical-Political Horizons of Modernity/Postmodernity (Anglais) Broché – 21 janvier 1992
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Revue de presse
′Bernstein′s book is an important contribution to perhaps the only aspect of the fashionable post–modernity debate which is still comparatively underexposed, the political.′ Political Studies--Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
Présentation de l'éditeur
Bernstein argues that modernity / post–modernity should be understood as a kind of mood – one which is amorphous, shifting and protean but which exerts a powerful influence on our current thinking. Focusing on thinkers such as Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault, Habermas and Rorty, Bernstein probes the strengths and weaknesses of their work, and shows how they have contributed to the formation of a new mood, a new and distinctive constellation of ideas.
This new constellation has put ethical and political issues back on the philosophical agenda, forcing us to confront anew, the Socratic question ′How should I live?′ --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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The Other is an important theme among Postmodern thinkers. It arises, inter alia, from the very nature of language as such thinkers understand it. A key concept is the notion of binary oppositions. To use colors in the spectrum as an example. White is defined in terms of black, but we do not think of white as black--even though black is critical for white's meaning. In a sense, black is pushed to the side and becomes Other. Bernstein says that (71):
"This is the theme [in Postmodern thought] that resists the unrelenting tendency of the will to knowledge and truth where Reason--when unmasked--is understood as always seeking
to appropriate, comprehend, control, master, contain, dominate, suppress, or repress what presents itself as 'the Other' that it confronts. It is the theme of the violence of Reason's imperialistic welcoming embrace."
A classic binary opposition relevant here is Same/Other or Identity/Difference. The first term in each is privileged or "valorized." The second becomes Other, whose meaning is hidden or repressed. Rational ideals of the Modern era have it that we must try to explain all things, that there are underlying explanations to account for everything. We try to make "Same" or explain all components of a particular arena in common terms. However, the idea of binary oppositions in language means that Same can only be defined in terms of Other (remember, the color white can only be defined in terms of the color black--black becomes Other to white). By trying to reduce everything to Same, we are repressing Other.
There is a striking political metaphor here, according to Bernstein. He claims that (71):
"For the 'logic' at work here is the 'logic' at work in cultural, political, social, and economic imperialism and colonization--even the 'logic' of ethical imperialism where the language of reciprocal recognition and reconciliation masks the violent reduction of the alterity of 'the Other' (l'autrui) to 'more of the same.' What is at issue here is acknowledging the radical incommensurable singularity of the Other (l'autrui), to recover a sense of radical plurality
that defies any facile total reconciliation."
For the postmodern analyst, the suppression of the "Other" is a form of violence. What is needed is a "letting be." Jacques Derrida, a major Postmodern figure, calls out for ". . .the respect for the other as what it is: other. Without this acknowledgment, which is not a knowledge, or let us say without this 'letting be' of an existent (Other) as something existing outside me in the essence of what is. . ., no ethics would be possible" (quoted on 184-185). And Derrida clearly wants an ethics of tolerance and "letting be." We must never cease questioning; we must not allow one truth to become dominant and, thus, to disallow other truths to coexist. This questioning thrust is as much in order in the politico-social realm as in the literary or philosophical realm.
The task for democratic theory today is to think through how to do justice to both universality and particularity, sameness and difference, to conceive and develop practices in which we recognize the indeterminableness of conflict and nevertheless can learn to respect the otherness of the other.
The postmodern thinker would argue that democracy is only possible if we resist the temptation to marginalize/suppress/oppress/repress Other. That is, a "letting be" and tolerance of Other/different is mandated if we are truly to experience freedom in a democracy.
This is a challenging book-not a quick read. But Bernstein is more accessible than many other writers. Well worth confronting to address the many issues at stake.
Those who see the missing yet vital connecting strand in the triumph of a consumer mentality may find the work inadequate from the standpoint of broader cultural analysis. It's true, Bernstein does stick closely to the narrower philosophical level. Nevertheless, each essay represents a penetrating discussion of major post-moderns and their precursors, figures such as Foucault, Derrida, and Heidegger, along with more diverse thinkers, like Rorty, Habermas and MacIntyre. For me, the two most revealing chapters are the discussion of Heidegger and technology and Rorty's liberal utopia. The former makes a revealing connection between Heidegger's philosophy of Being and his refusal to disavow a Nazi past; while the latter illuminates an important theoretical issue confronting the post-moderns--- how to finesse the paradoxes facing an anti-foundationalist politics as it seeks to avoid outright nihilism. Despite the work's breadth, this is by no means the flabby work of an eclectic. Bernstein's reputation is built upon a sympathetic and fair-minded understanding of both Anglo-American and Continental traditions. This work is certainly no exception.