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124Philosophy and Literature heretofore served to validate knowledge and to explain the human condition. The human has become both mechanized and marketable: human nature is information stored in data banks; human tendencies and needs are recognized and satisfied to the extent that these "tendencies and needs have purchasing power" (p. 76). The hegemony of computers in imposing its own special logic and knowledge has ceased to be an end in its own right, as it was in the humanistic tradition; its use value is determined by goals of performance and efficacity, by criteria relating to the production, storage, accessibility, and operativity of information. The power of knowledge is proportional to its deployment in industrial, commercial, and military activities. On an individual plane, the value of knowledge is related to a subject's socioeconomic status because, in a capitalist economy, knowledge follows "the flow of money in which some channels are used in decision making while others are good only for the payment of debts" (p. 6). If the current cultural paradigm — an amalgam of rationales valorizing humanism and enlightenment — is no longer able to justify social contracts and political responsibility, what a postmodern critique needs to elaborate first is a tactic for escaping the system of unifying and totalizing truths that serves the designs of those who are in charge. From a postmodern critical perspective, knowledge is a "savoir" understood as a totality of competencies that determines the situation of a given subject. Instead of a knowing subject, we have a strategist, an expert whose domain is a discursive network made up of processes of communication, information, and legitimation. In this field, "moves" made by a player are evaluated by the efficacity they achieve in the context of a cultural or an institutional setting. The law of consensus is thus replaced by paralogy and a politics of consensus is made obsolete by a politics of paralogy. Considering the possibility of a politics "that would respect bodi the desire for justice and the desire for the unknown" (p. 67), Lyotard makes us understand that criticism cannot simply concern itselfwith language games; it needs to forge a link between them and justice. Wright State UniversityKarlis Racevskis The French Enlightenment in America: Essays on the Times ofthe Founding Fathers, by Paul Merrill Spurlin; xi & 203 pp. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984, $$0.00. Shortly before he completed his service as minister to the French court in 1789, Thomas Jefferson urged an American correspondent to cultivate a knowledge of the culture he had come to know so well; but, Jefferson insisted, this education must be secured somewhere other than in France. For there "a Reviews125 young man's morals, health and fortune are more irresistibly endangered than in any country of the universe." Thus did America's most steadfast Francophile betray the pervasiveness of the late eighteenth-century stereotype which took that nation to be inhabited by a more or less equal number of atheistic libertines and Papist authoritarians. Paul Merrill Spurlin has written a modest book which contradicts those who have argued that suspicion of Parisian culture during the Revolutionary era generated a disregard for France's literature and philosophy. Taking aim at Carl Becker and Harvey Gates Townsend in particular, Spurlin employs his investigation of personal correspondence, booksellers' advertisements, library holdings, private collections, and periodical reviews in order to demonstrate that, especially in the years between 1778 and 1798, some but not all of the central figures of the French Enlightenment achieved a sizeable readership in the new nation. He concludes, for example, that Rousseau's La Nouvelle Héhïse found a receptive audience in America although his Du Contrat social did not; that Voltaire's polemic against Christianity facilitated the spread of deism to the other side of the Atlantic but that the theological diatribes of D'Alembert, whose critique of the Book of Genesis once promptedJohn Adams to ask whether "this Stupendous Universe" was "made and adjusted to give you Money, Sleep, or Digestion?," fell upon deaf ears; and, finally, that Condorcet's doctrine of human perfectibility proved sufficiendy appealing to win him a tide as honorary citizen of New Haven, while La Mettrie's defense of the materialistic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 124-126
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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