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HUMANITIES 573 censure from many leftists who usually support him. Chomsky, whose intellectual and cultural beginnings root in Jewish culture and family, has found himself called an anti-Semite. Another element of Chomsky's work is his belief in creativity as a defining attribute of the human species. Language, Chomsky's generative grammar demonstrates, is inherently creative. Every person draws on 'inherited genetic abilities' that provide 'the means for an unbounded set of individual"creative" acts.' To express their natural creativity, human beings must live in circumstances 'set up to encourage rather than stifle human potential.' Here Chomsky's linguistic observation and political struggle link. The domination of thought by 'intellectual commissars,' whose interest is to protect power and privilege, attacks the potential all people have to work creatively and to take responsibility for their world. Chomsky's life and work have combined scientific rigour and moral passion. His achievement remains hard to know. Barsky sketches outlines for our thinking in his remarkably economical account of a remarkable person among us. (GuY ALLEN) Marie Fleming. Emancipation and Illusion: Rationality and Gender in Habermas's Theory ofModernitt; Pennsylvania State University Press. 244ยท us$4o.oo cloth, us$17.95 paper Marie Fleming makes her polemical stance clear from the outset of this carefully argued internal critique of Habermas's thinking: while she does not dispute the value of those conceptual pillars of modernity, rationality and universalism, she aims to demonstrate that 'for all Habermas's concerns about universalism, his theory turns out to be not universalist enough.' Fleming's central contention is that Wliversalism has to include a vision of gender equality, and her objective in this study is to examine how and why Habermas's theory ofcommWlicativeactiondoesnotallow for the articulation of such a vision. Fleming's critique thus continues a line of questioning found in the work of feminist critical theorists like Seyla Benhabib and Nancy Fraser, contributing to a critical project with interesting parallels to the feminist engagement with Foucault. Feminists have been drawn to the critical projects of Foucault and Habermas because of perceived areas of compatibility with their own concerns, but have also been critical of major conceptual lacunae, especially regarding the theorization of gender. Emancipation and Illusion is divided into three parts, subtitled 'Rationality ,' 'Gender,' and 'Communicative Action.' Fleming uses her opening discussion of Habermas's critique of Foucault and Derrida to introduce central aspects of her own critique of Habermas. Key is her argument that Habermas's attempts to strengthen universalist claims by making them 574 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 immune to genealogical and deconstructionist critiques lead, in effect, to a weakening of universalism. Genealogy, deconstruction, and gender analysis, Fleming maintains, pose questions of history and context that carmot be dismissed as merely 'supplementary,' and that indeed problematize the very distinction between matters of rationality and matters of culture and history. What is at stake is the possibility that Habermas's theory of communicative action incorporates a self-understanding that universalizes (falsely) as the norm its ownhistorically specific experiences. Addressing such a possibility is made difficult Flemingpoints out by the two methodological abstractions on which Habermas's theory is based: abstracting the development of cognitive structures from the 'historical dynamic ofevents/ and abstracting the evolution of society from the 'historical concretion of forms of life.' One of thepolemical/interpretive strategies usedby Fleming throughout the book involves demonstrating that while Habermas introduces gender at various points in his theory, gender aspects of his discussion remain undertheorized, since as a rule his references to gender are in support of some presumably larger point, yet once that point is established, gender is put aside. Particularly compelling are Fleming's discussions ofHabermas's thesis of internal colonization and his comments on sati. Reflecting onHabermas's analysis of the British prohibition of the Hindu practice of sati (the burning of women upon the death of their husbands), Fleming asks: Why does a theorist who is professedly egalitarian offer an example of extremely asymmetrical gender relations to explain what he means by a 'self-maintaining' form of life that ought to have been left intact? Fleming further questions Habermas's relegation of sati- and by extension gender issues -to the cultural...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 573-575
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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