In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

388Philosophy and Literature Reading the Postmodern Polity: Political Theory as Textual Practice, by Michael J. Shapiro; ? & 173 pp. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992, $15.95. MichaelJ. Shapiro, a professor of political theory at the University of Hawaii, calls for a revision ofthe traditional discourses of political theory. The discipline of political theory has traditionally emphasized questions of power, authority, and the just, while simultaneously ignoring questions concerning its own textuality . Shapiro identifies this tradition with the anti-modern, Western apologetic mode of political theory associated with Leo Strauss as well as the metaphysical proclivities of his philosophical progenitor, Plato. Within this political philosophical nexus, philosophy and society are viewed as irreconcilable; imagined space and the space of the political are hierarchicalized. The postmodern political theory ofShapiro, however, rejects all such discursive formations in which the relationship between different social spaces is rendered distinct. "A politics of discourse," he states, "is inextricably tied to a politics of space" (p. 5). In other words, the relationship between spatial and discursive practices is always already a discursive phenomenon. For Shapiro, then, the social must be read as the textual. This relationship between space and meaning is thus the necessary site for any analysis of the postmodern polity's terrain of discourse. From the outset of this exemplary collection of essays, Shapiro challenges several traditional political philosophical presuppositions: its interpretive methodology (hermeneutic), its separation ofintellectual and nonphilosophical space, and its treatment of language as referential. On the contrary, Shapiro argues that political theory is primarily a literature and that "reality" is a textual phenomenon . Moreover, he claims, it cannot be articulated in the traditional politico -epistemological discourses. His focus, then, is on "the domains of power and authority with which various modes of representation are complicit" (p. 37). Taking his cue from poststructuralism, Shapiro's political philosophy emphasizes a specifically Foucauldian genealogical mode of critical interpretation. It is an attempt to destabilize interpretations in general such that the economies in which they operate may become manifest. Hence, Shapiro does not limit his discussion of the postmodern to what has traditionally been perceived as the terrain of the political. On the contrary, his analysis of the postmodern polity involves such diverse essays as "Politicizing Ulysses: Rationalistic, Critical, and Genealogical Commentaries" and "American Fictions and Political Culture: DeLillo's Libra and Bellah et al.'s Habits of the Heart," as well as "Spatiality and Policy Discourse: Reading the Global City" and "Strategic Discourse/Discursive Strategy: The Representation of'Security Policy' in the Video Age." Chapter four, for example, entided "Political Economy and Mimetic Desire in Babette's Feast," attempts an analysis of various political economies ofdesire. Shapiro's particular postmodern approach to political economy Reviews389 (deconstructive) exists in opposition to Marx's modernist, anti-representational mode and is certainly informed by Baudrillard: "The shift from the production and exchange of goods to the production and exchange of signs in theorizing political economy," he states, "is intimately connected to some significant shifts in the structure of social space" (p. 59). He further suggests that Isak Dinesen's Babette's Feast, "chronicles a disruption of a spiritual economy . . . while at the same time exemplifying the various mechanisms involved in desiring's relationship to economy in general" (p. 60). In chapter eight, "The Politics of Fear: DeLillo's Postmodern Burrow," Shapiro suggests that DeLillo's repolitization of fear, especially in his White Noise, reflects the condition "againstwhich DeLillo writes." That is, like Kafka, DeLillo's writing is "aimed at escaping from closed systems, from the web of codes that remain unread because they are confused with the 'real' " (p. 130). Its narrative, in other words, is a deployment of "modernity's repressive politics of fear"; it informs us "about the powerful delegating effects of modern, commercial/ consumer-oriented space" (p. 136). Shapiro invokes DeLillo's textual practice as representative of the postmodern mapping of the authority of modernity's structure of mediating codes. Textual practice, thus, is inseparable from the politicizing mode of Shapiro's genealogical analysis. For those interested in questions of the postmodern, Reading the Postmodern Polity is, once again, an exemplary collection of essays. Shapiro's thinking is indebted not only to Foucault but to Nietzsche...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 388-389
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.