The malaise of modernity, its cause and cure: a historian of science vividly diagnoses the familiar...



The malaise of modernity, its cause and cure: a historian of science vividly diagnoses the familiar Baconian-Cartesian-Newtonian syndrome and convincingly--more or less--prescribes heavy doses of Gregory Bateson. Berman gets his title from Max Weber and his analyses of the disenchanted world from all over the lot. Blake attacked ""Single vision & Newton's sleep"" (i.e., a frigidly mechanistic approach to nature), and Berman quotes him. He cites Jung's rehabilitation of alchemy, and praises alchemists for their attempt to practice science ""erotically,"" blending the sacred and the manipulative, unlike the heirs of Descartes who champion ""nonparticipating consciousness"" and the fantasy-abstraction of the value-free, objective observer. Berman enlists the aid of Wilhelm Reich, R. D. Laing, and others in attacking ego psychology and its rationalist proponents, from Freud to Rollo May. For any sort of livable future, Berman argues, the ""Idol of the Head,"" the reified monster of angst-ridden Western individualism, will have to go. This ""paranoid construct"" (Lacan) is the basis of the frenzied competition, ecological havoc, dehumanized capitalism, and nuclear madness now harrowing us. And the best bet for a remedy is Batesonian holism, which doesn't separate fact and value, mind and body, subject and object; which views nature relationally, stresses the unconscious, prizes ""wisdom, beauty, grace"" over ""conscious, empirical control"" of matter. Berman is vague about how this humane epistemology might be translated into politics, but he makes, on the whole, a very strong case. If none of the components of his synergistic manifesto is original, he still shapes them and combines them with powerful lucidity--never drifting into the sentimentality of counter-cultural dreamers, even faulting Bateson on a number of issues. Some solid lessons in the history of ideas together with cogently presented radical cultural criticism: popularization at a high level.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1981

ISBN: 0801492254

Page Count: -

Publisher: Cornell Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981