Postmodernism and Democratic Theory

Aryeh Botwinick
Book Cover

HC: $59.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-997-1
Publication: Mar 93

288 pages
6 x 9


In Postmodernism and Democratic Theory, Aryeh Botwinick is concerned with defining postmodernism and exploring its political-economic dimensions. Previous attempts at definition have foundered because the theory has a built-in incoherence: in their rejection of reasoned argument, postmodernists must rely on reasoned argument to make their case. This issue of "self-referentialism" is pivotal, for example, in Habermas's criticism of the postmodernists. But Botwinick shows that postmodernism can be coherently conceived as a "generalized agnosticism," which remains open to all possibilities—including the possibility of its own falsity. In developing this view of postmodernism, he applies it to the work of a whole range of both classic and contemporary political and economic thinkers—from Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, Freud, and Wittgenstein to Habermas, Lyotard, and Strauss—and attempts to plot the transition between modernist and postmodernist democratic society.


"Postmodernism and Democratic Theory fully lives up to Botwinick's reputation, his high standards of scholarship, and his acute sensitivity to ongoing debates in social and political philosophy. It seeks to buttress Botwinick's conception of agnosticism as a self-critical skepticism, now with application to democratic theory on a global scale. The book is timely, competently argued, and lucidly written."
Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame

"The breadth and originality of the philosophical insights and comparisons in Postmodernism and Democratic Theory are impressive. The author has an illuminating grasp of the historical tradition."
James B. Wilbur, Professor of Philosophy, College at Geneseo, SUNY

"He calls for a revolution in our notion of the kind of thinking appropriate to democratic politics—for nothing less than a different, if more difficult and overtly political, kind of coherence."
Social Theory and Practice

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Part I: Fixing the Theoretical and Intellectual-Historical Contours of a Generalized Agnosticism
2. An Epistemological Model for Postmodernism
3. Liberalism versus Communitarianism: Epistemological and Sociological Perspectives
4. Rousseau and the Discovery of Reflexivity
5. Habermas and Reflexivity: The Modernist versus Postmodernist Debate in Metatheoretical Perspective
6. Strauss and Reflexivity
7. Freud: A Postmodernist Reconciliation of Theory and Therapy
8. Wittgenstein's Postmodernist Theory of Action and Conceptualizations of the Relationship between Past and Present
9. Thoughts on Lyotard's Postmodernism

Part II: Between Hobbes and Plato: Envisioning the Transition Between Modernist and Postmodernist Democratic Society
10. Power and the Political and the Roles of "Distance" and Leadership in Plato
11. Moral Psychology, Power, and the Political in Hobbes
12. Abundance and Scarcity: Spatial and Temporal Politics
13. Hobbes's Metaphysics, Participation, and Scarcity
14. Justification of Basic Premises in Plato and Hobbes
15. Conversation: The Ethics of Participation

Bibliography Index

About the Author(s)

Aryeh Botwinick is Professor of Political Science at Temple University and the author of numerous other books, including Skepticism and Political Participation and Power and Empowerment: A Radical Theory of Participatory Democracy (co-authored with Peter Bachrach) both published by Temple.