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Buddhist-Christian Studies 20 (2000) 267-278

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Book Review

Healing Deconstruction: Postmodern Thought in Buddhism and Christianity

Healing Deconstruction: Postmodern Thought in Buddhism and Christianity. Edited by David Loy. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996. 120 pp.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.--Karl Marx, Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach

Healing Deconstruction, edited by David Loy, is a collection of essays which are situated by and elaborate the intersection of radical Christian, Buddhist, and deconstructionist discourses. With the exception of "Mindfulness of the Selves" by Morny Joy, all of these essays were first presented at the Fourth International Buddhist-Christian [End Page 267] Dialogue conference in Boston in 1992. While each author addresses different aspects of problems associated with suffering, the self, language, and healing, they share certain poststructuralist sensibilities in common and, with the exception of Robert Magliola, share a commitment to developing "a more holistic praxis" (p. 2). The title of this volume is, says Loy, "intentionally ambiguous. On the one side, it emphasizes the healing possibilities of deconstruction in a field where the deconstructive turn has too often been understood reductively" and on the other, it "refers to the potential healing power of this dialogue for deconstruction itself, whose critique of logocentrism had led to a rupture within contemporary thought" (ibid.). 1 The authors both affirm "the liberating and healing potential of de-essentialized concepts and images, language, bodies and symbols" and maintain "that actually realizing this healing potential requires a move from theorizing to practice, for only that can truly deconstruct the self" (p. 10).

Chief among the problems they identify as presenting barriers to developing a new way of relating to the world and a new self are dualistic thinking and the notion of the autonomous self. Each of the authors contributes to comprehending the philosophical factors that foster the creation of these barriers and what may be done philosophically to dismantle them. Moreover, Philippa Berry, Joy, and Magliola not only deploy Christian, Buddhist, deconstructionist, and feminist tactics to dismantle these barriers, they also articulate alternative modes of relating to the world.

Creating new ways of relating to the world and new senses of self are clearly in order. Profit-driven global development, enforced by U.S. directed, taxpayer financed military power, is not only fostering the growth of illiteracy, homelessness, poverty, slave labor, and starvation for hundreds of millions of persons worldwide it is also threatening the biological basis of life. To make matters worse, revolutions in communication, transportation, and weapons systems have accelerated the rate at which these processes are developing around the world. The left used to say: either socialism or barbarism. Today we might say, either a way of life or death. In light of the fact that, as Joy indicates, "[r]acism, sexism, and classism still pervade our social structures in ways that damage the lives of billions of people"; it is clear that we need "a new way of relating to the world: a different sense of self" (pp. 71, 97). It is no exaggeration to claim that we must build an alternative mode of being and becoming to that which presently exists in order to ensure that all human beings are able to enjoy the rich abundance of life. The authors in Healing Deconstruction make diverse contributions to this end and provocatively stimulate our thinking about how we might best create an alternative mode of human existence.

Their contributions suffer, however, from problems which are, among other things, symptomatic of the state of critical theory and politics as we begin the twenty-first century. With the triumph of global capitalism and the retrenchment of the political right, critical theory and politics, particularly in their academic manifestations, have in large measure retreated from the radical agendas that characterized political movements in the 1960s. Whereas anticolonial, civil rights, antiracist, feminist, indigenous, environmental, and working class organizations and movements sought to transform existing institutions in order to insure universal access to social, [End Page 268] political, and economic resources, most liberals and many...