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THE COMPAKATIST coexistence, some tentative rules ofplanetary behavior, that liberal education may adumbrate but cannot enforce." Hassan's question: "Where is the Archimedean point ofboth local and global awareness on this earth?" (135) brings up a whole range ofethical, political, and philosophical controversies concerning the role of unifying values in a radically dynamic, conflict-laden, and hybrid world. How indeed is one to conceptualize this Archimedean point without falling into the traps ofahistorical objectivism and cultural hegemony? The American Declaration ofIndependence and its motto, "Life, liberty, and the pursuit ofhappiness," Hassan suggests, may be a starting-point for (reinventing such transcultural principles. Despite its different cultures, ethnicities, and politics , Hassan argues, the contemporary world shares a quest for "happiness" that is "found in freedom from hunger, disease, bondage, pain" (135-36). At first glance, Hassan's argument seems to raise the specter ofthe West's ethnocentric projection ofsupposedly universal values on non-Western realities. Moreover, the lofty promises ofthe Declaration of Independence have from the beginning remained sadly unfulfilled even within American society and its history ofexclusion and oppression . Sharply critical ofthe social malaise and intellectual climate of the United States, Hassan is aware of these problems. For all his recourse to the (Western) philosophical tradition ofnatural rights, he regards concepts like happiness, freedom , and self-realization, not as metaphysically self-evident, timeless universals, but as ethical potentialities that need to be translated, redefined, and realized differently in different contexts and cultures. This is "a labor," he says, to which he can see "no end in our time" (136). Hassan's emphasis on the promotion oftranscultural values as a goal, as the object ofcontinual cultural work, is most appealing, even ifthe global obstacles to international dialogue—political oppression, ideological conflicts, warfare, economic deprivation—remain formidable. To pursue this work, we need to listen to critics like him, or to poets like Makoto Ooka, who says that he "was brought up immersed in the Japanese tradition," but is also "a modern poet" with a "Western sense ofself-consciousness" (141). For their voices, sustained by literary sensitivity and moral integrity, articulate the meaning of cultural hybridity as an eminently important precondition for the pursuit of international understanding. RolfGoebel The University ofAlabama in Huntsville TZVETAN TODOROV. The Morals ofHistory. Trans. AIyson Waters. Minneapolis and London: U of Minnesota P, 1995. xx + 228 pp. Originally published as Les Morales de l'histoire (1991), The Morals of History is a fascinating meditation on the relationship between ethics and history, and a wonderful journey through vital and timely issues in cultural criticism and theory. In this book, Todorov presents his opinions on a number oftopics ofgeneral interest to comparatists including colonialism, racism, relativism, ethnocentrism, democracy, truth, culture, freedom, and humanism in his characteristically lucid and lively manner ofwriting. What is more, the fourteen essays that make up The Vol. 21 (1997): 155 REVIEWS Morals ofHistory are all supported by an amazingly wide range ofhistorical and philosophical materials. In one respect, though, much ofthe subject matter covered by The Morals of History is not new terrain for Todorov. Many ofthe theses presented in this book are developed in much greater detail in La conquête de l'Amérique: La question de l'autre (1982) and Nous et les autres: La réflexion française sur la diversité humaine (1989). In La conquête de l'Amérique, Todorov closely examined documents relating to the discovery ofAmerica, and presented a morally committed evaluation ofthe historical relationship between the European and Indian in particular , and self and other in general. In Nous et les autres, Todorov explored the variety ofways in which French writers treat human diversity, showing that the positions ranged from the radical ethnocentrism of Ernest Renan and Maurice Barres, which regarded the other as merely an object, to the radical relativism of Claude Lévi-Strauss, who treated the other as everything and the selfas nothing. However, what makes The Morals ofHistory différèrent from La conquête de l'Amérique and Nous et les autres is that in this study we clearly see why topics like diversity, or conflicts between selfand other are so important for Todorov—and why time and again...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 155-158
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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