Monday, January 23, 2006

Seduced by Rorty?

Finished reading The Seduction of Unreason. The weakest chapter seems to be the one where Wolin looks at Anti-Americanism. The problem isn’t that he is wrong that for many writers the attitude is an automatic pose. Rather, he fails to make his case that the attitude of today’s anti-Americans is the descendant of authoritarian anti-Americans of yore who feared America’s claims to democracy were earnest. The problem is that today’s anti-Americans fear America’s claims to democracy are hypocritical. I think that Wolin would agree with humanist, democratic, rational critiques of today’s America; yet, his analysis fails to bring that out sounding very much like a simple rejection of anti-Americanism. I wonder why he wrote the chapter in this way. Particularly given the context of the Bush administration currently being the biggest threat to the kind of humanist, democratic values he holds so dear – threatening them both within the States and around the world.

At the same time, I wonder what Wolin makes of Richard Rorty who accepts the kind of antirationalist views Wolin discussed and, then, instead of going on to praise power, claims to want to defend democratic, humanist, liberal values on the basis that these values happen to be ‘our’ values. I think Wolin would probably first critique the political effectiveness of such a position – according to it, liberal views are essentially in no way better than fascist view or any other kinds of views. At the same time, it seems questionable that they are ‘our’ values, at least if by ‘us’ we’d like to mean all of the people of the developed world – there seem all too many examples of ‘us’ having ‘their’ values. I’ll write to him and see what he says.


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