Monday, September 19, 2011

Calcagno, Antonio. Review of Alan D. Schrift, ed. POSTSTRUCTURALISM AND CRITICAL THEORY'S SECOND GENERATION. NDPR (August 2011).

Schrift, Alan D., ed.  Poststructuralism and Critical Theory's Second Generation.  Vol. 6 of The History of Continental Philosophy.  8 Vols.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010.

Alan's Schrift's work, as scholar, philosopher and editor, is known for both its acuity and rigour. This volume of his The History of Continental Philosophy is yet another testament to Schrift's ability to gather leading scholars around an important theme, ultimately producing an excellent history of and guide to more recent developments in Continental philosophy. Volume 6: Poststructuralism and Critical Theory's Second Generation consists of 17 entries that commence with the reception of Nietzsche's thought into recent French philosophy and end with a discussion of Rorty among the Continentals, covering a period of Continental philosophy from about 1945 to 2007. The volume is also supplemented with a useful bibliography of major works relevant to the period as well as a chronology that simultaneously lists major philosophical, cultural and political events. This certainly helps situate thinkers, ideas and movements within the context of events in general but also within the broader developments in philosophy, including the Anglo-American and analytic traditions.

The volume opens with a preface by Schrift in which he explains the evolution of Continental philosophy. He notes,
"Continental Philosophy" itself is a contested concept. For some, it is understood to be any philosopher after 1780 originating on the European continent . . . . Such an understanding would make Georg von Wright or Rudolf Carnap . . . a "continental philosopher," an interpretation neither they nor their followers would easily accept. For others, "continental philosophy" refers to a style of philosophizing, one more attentive to the world of experience and less focused on a rigorous analysis of concepts or linguistic usage. (vii)
Rather than focus on a discussion of what constitutes Continental philosophy proper, Schrift maintains that one way to approach the question is to focus on the history of Continental philosophy, thereby avoiding nettling, polemical discussions between analytic and Continental philosophers. What we have, then, is the presentation of the content of a tradition broadly defined. This broad approach is both comprehensive and yields much food for thought about the particular philosophers discussed as well as the tradition as a whole, its past, present and future.

Schrift is not only the General Editor for the History but he also serves as the Editor of the poststructuralism volume. In total, there are eight volumes that constitute the whole History. In his Introduction to the present volume, Schrift sets the stage for poststructuralism, "French" Feminism and second-generation critical thinkers. Though he is mindful that poststructuralism has roots that go deeper than the turbulent years of the 1960s on the Continent, he begins with the theme of conflict and change that mark those years. Key in the development of poststructuralism in France was not only the death of philosophy as the master-discourse, mostly through the structuralists' engagements with the social sciences, but also the death of existentialism, which privileged subjectivity and consciousness. (5) Schrift identifies Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida as laying the groundwork for what would become dominant in the remainder of the twentieth century as Continental philosophy. . . .

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