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Reading the Postmodern Polity

Reading the Postmodern Polity: Political Theory as Textual Practice

Michael J. Shapiro
Copyright Date: 1992
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Reading the Postmodern Polity
    Book Description:

    Offers the first demonstration by a political theorist of how textuality is inherent to political practice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8388-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Language and Power: The Spaces of Critical Interpretation
    (pp. 1-17)

    Critical interpretation appears in many forms, but virtually all of them — from the mildly critical, as in some versions of the liberal democratic and hermeneutic, to the more critical, as in Marxist, Frankfurt/critical, and poststructural — derive their political significance from an attempt to disclose the operation of power in places in which the familiar, social, administrative, and political discourses tend to disguise or naturalize it. Thus we learn from Marx and his successors that social processes that appear simply to involve the creation and exchange of value also embody relations of domination and subjugation. And we learn from...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Politicizing Ulysses: Rationalistic, Critical, and Genealogical Commentaries
    (pp. 18-36)

    Read with the appropriate discernment, the history of autobiography reveals how the structural features of an age are reflected in the modes of representation through which persons or selves are identified. For example, in the Middle Ages the individual was typecast and not, as in today’s autobiographies, represented “through the organizational center of his own individual inner life.”¹ The medieval self was situated in a spiritual Odyssey with stereotypes the writer drew from the morality of the day, and, in general, the medieval individual was represented in ways that valorized the then dominant institutions, the nobility and the church. Although...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Weighing Anchor: Postmodern Journeys from the Life-World
    (pp. 37-53)

    For some time, the debates over the politics of postmodernism have tended to be debates over the way to treat representation. The more conservative postmodernists, reacting against radical modernist styles, have preached a return to “representation,” which they understand as a close connection between what “is” and the way of expressing it. The more radical forms of postmodernism, such as the poststructuralist version, have advocated a different view. Critical of an exclusive emphasis on an epistemological, truth-falsity axis for treating representations, they have focused on the domains of power and authority with which various modes of representation are complicit.¹


  7. CHAPTER 4 Political Economy and Mimetic Desire in Babette’s Feast
    (pp. 54-67)

    There are repressed “economies” (systems of value production, interpretation, and exchange) immanent in cultural practices and texts, but these economies and the systems of authority and power to which they are related tend to remain fugitive. They usually achieve oblique expression and do not receive explicit recognition as part of discourses that are understood to be economic in orientation. Part of the problem inheres in the traditional practice of putting narrow boundaries around “economy” and restricting its recognition to more familiar systems of exchange involving money payments. Pierre Bourdieu has characterized this tendency as “economism,” a way of treating economy...

  8. CHAPTER 5 American Fictions and Political Culture: DeLillo’s Libra and Bellah et al.’s Habits of the Heart
    (pp. 68-85)

    What does one seek to determine when investigating the American political culture? At a minimum, there is an attempt to be able to account for both tendencies and events, to discern both a general orientation toward public affairs and to anticipate how people are likely to act at different times and in different places. This would imply that at the most general level, interpretive strategies must attempt to construct the diversity of character types and to situate them in the different kinds of social space in which they are spawned and contained. Within such general strategies, however, the substrategies are...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Spatiality and Policy Discourse: Reading the Global City
    (pp. 86-103)

    In every age, the city has been the domain reflecting spatial strategies. For example, the medieval city was among other things a fortress. It was less appropriate to ask about policymakinginthe city than to think of the city itself as policy. Its walled perimeter constituted a defense against predation from groups as diverse as outlaw bands and the mercenary armies of the great dynasties. When people were in the city, they were safer than when outside its walls, and discourse about the “city”—understood as protected space—was to a large extent oriented by the shape of the...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Strategic Discourse/Discursive Strategy: The Representation of “Security Policy” in the Video Age
    (pp. 104-121)

    The public disclosure of the Iran-Gate, arms-for-hostages trade in the fall of 1986 led to the raising of issues in the mass media that had earlier been treated only in more esoteric professional and academic publications. Agency was perhaps the most persistent theme. A central concern, it would appear, was how to identify the responsibility for operating the U.S. defense or, as it has been expressed in recent decades, “security” policy. It had become more evident than ever before to the public at large that there is a coordinated subculture of official, quasi-official, and unofficial military and ex-military, intelligence and...

  11. CHAPTER 8 The Politics of Fear: DeLillo’s Postmodern Burrow
    (pp. 122-139)

    By the time Franz Kafka wrote his story “The Burrow” (early in this century), the age of merchandising had arrived, and people in industrial societies were beginning to experience a saturation of private, commercially oriented appeals, along with all the publicly disseminated codes aimed at producing docile, officially approved forms of citizen consciousness. Our “postmodern condition” experiences a density of messages and images, a cacophony of codes, competing for pieces of contemporary consciousness on a scale that far exceeds the situation in which Kafka wrote. It represents a qualitative shift in the relationship between the cultural and the social that...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Terminations: Elkin’s Magic Kingdom and the Politics of Death
    (pp. 140-158)

    In their different ways, Richard Ramirez and Stanley Elkin have used fierce tactics to produce a pedagogy about death. Ramirez made the above statement in response to a reporter’s question about whether he was concerned that he might get the death penalty for his many grisly murders. At a simple level, Ramirez’s remark is disquieting, for it displays no ambivalence toward the fierce, remorseless, and cruel acts he perpetrated on his victims. He is saying he is indifferent to and undeterred by the possibility of paying for his killing with his life. Indeed he may even be welcoming his execution—...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 159-174)
  14. Index
    (pp. 175-178)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-179)