THE ENNOBLING OF DEMOCRACY: The Challenge of the Postmodern Era by Thomas L. Pangle

THE ENNOBLING OF DEMOCRACY: The Challenge of the Postmodern Era

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Following in the wake of Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind--a valiant attempt by Pangle (Political Science/Univ. of Toronto) to deconstruct deconstructionism and to post a warning of the threat of postmodernism. Pangle asserts that it is a mistake, despite the collapse of Communism, to believe that the threat to the West and to traditional conceptions of liberal education is over. He argues that, while we possess powerful technological and economic resources, they ""fuel a society that is deeply unsure of its moral purpose and foundations"" and that has come to be ""increasingly penetrated and shaped by a new, highly problematic and skeptical (not to say nihilistic) cultural dispensation known as 'postmodernism.'"" It is in this trend, dominant in many universities and hostile to the principles of liberal democracy, that Pangle finds civic irresponsibility, spiritual deadliness, and a philosophical dogmatism--all of which require a serious response. He traces the roots of postmodernism in Heidegger and in the recent work of Lyotard, Derrida, Vattimo, Rorty, and Levinson, and he finds the proper response to be a reexamination of the views of the founders of American republicanism, and of the Greek philosophers who so powerfully affected their thinking. Pangle believes that many aspects of Greek and early American thought, including a responsiveness to the emancipation of women, have been lost, and that a rediscovery of that thought would provide grounds for a regeneration of public life not only in the US but in countries like Canada, where some of these values also, he says, have fallen away. The prose is dense, sometimes clotted, but Pangle provides a useful warning of the possible dangers of current modes of thought.

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press