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388Philosophy and Literature diree decades to the many topics that he discusses, but this, as weU as his dire warnings about the tendency of aestheticians to generalize, does not stop Passmore from generalizing about the state of art theory and the phüosophy of art. In the end, what one gets are Passmore's opinions freshly delivered in a scholarly vaccuum—presumably for the sake of posterity. The book is lively, enjoyable to read, and not at aU dreary. But, as the author warns us in his introduction, it is a book that is not always well informed and is invariably and frustratingly under-referenced. University of Canterbury, New ZealandDavid Novitz Matrix andLine: Derrida andthe Possibilities ofPostmodern Social Theory, by BUl Martin; xii & 255 pp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992, $49.50 cloth, $16.95 paper. Certainly we are past the time when Derrida—considered alongside the more immediately workable "historicisms" of Foucault, Williams, and their revisionists —was sometimes prematurely dismissed as a merely "hermetic" thinker. In his fine book Matrix and Une, BUI Martin does much to clarify my notion that this is the case. Martin proposes a Derridian social theory which emphasizes the materiality of the signifier. Arguing that our values and behaviors are produced within "matrices" of signifiers, Martin suggests that an alterian matrix can reinvent our experience of "responsibility" as the activity of "letting the other speak" (p. 143). Such a matrix can be set in motion by alternative "lines" of signification— lines that offer no "apocalyptic" break with the matrices currendy at work, but which transform them to encourage sensitivity to social alterity. Martin thus wants to introduce our "hypersecular" or "flattened" postmodern noncommunity to the possibility of a "postsecular" community which devalues the paranoid irresponsiveness ofa debased secular humanism. Martin's move entails that we recognize liberal pluralism as a hypersecular recasting of identity-logic, and that we affirm diversity in the ethico-political act of letting others signify themselves. The first chapter introduces the antiapocalyptic tone of the analysis. It addresses the themes of possibility, impossibility, and counterpossibUity relative to the constitutive dimensions of language and discusses "the relation of subjectivity to human agency and responsibility" (p. 9). The second is an "oudine Reviews389 for a postmodern cartography" that demonstrates how Hegel's discriminating treatment of Judaism shows identity-logic to be inescapably inhabited by its other(s). The third is a social analysis of the language-based theories of Habermas, Davidson, and Derrida, which criticizes Habermas in favor of the latter two, while recounting a brief history of subjectivity through Kant, Fichte, Hölderlin, Schelling, and Hegel. Chapter four emphasizes how autonomous subjectivity must be recast as positionality, and how feminisms have contributed importandy to the transformation of secular matrices; Martin revises Heidegger 's notion of "clearing" as a protolanguage of active "letting," and offers Baker's "soul field" as a matrix that an alterian community would need to engage, to let speak. Chapter five proposes thatresponsive people actively enable alterity by occupying our telecommunicative world in a deconstructive way (p. 190), and the Afterword addresses problems that the text raises in the form of a self-interview. Martin might be said to be putting Derrida's emphasis on "the letter" to Deleuzian use; he describes a "world" within which the letter can yield alterian experiences of urgency. This is an important world to describe. Moreover, the example of Martin's social theory encourages attentiveness to the rhetorical "matrices " within which theorists theorize. Has the important multicultural emphasis on "diverse literatures" become insensitive, given its matrix of articulation, to "textual difference"? Do secular new pragmatists simply rename "textuality" "literature"? Might the residual identity-thinking in cultural criticism reduce any "post-artistic" view of textuality to "antiart" or "avant-gardism"? Has even Benjamin's distinction between "politicized art" and "aestheticized politics" become too reified to be alterian? Martin's reading of Derrida, like John Rajchman's work on Foucault and Lacan, thus demonstrates how cultural criticism of identity politics needs to think within the "nominalist politics" of poststructuralism. Not to do so is to engage a secular rhetoric that on the political level of the signifier risks reproducing a one-dimensional...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 388-389
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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