Academic journal article The Romanic Review

Bruno Chaouat. L'Ombre Pour la Proie: Petites Apocalypses De la Vie Quotidienne

Academic journal article The Romanic Review

Bruno Chaouat. L'Ombre Pour la Proie: Petites Apocalypses De la Vie Quotidienne

Article excerpt

Bruno Chaouat. L'Ombre pour la proie: Petites Apocalypses de la vie quotidienne. Villeneuve d'Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2012. Pp. 134.

In this fascinating and challenging book, Bruno Chaouat sets out to chart a difficult terrain: a group of contemporary French thinkers who criticize the cultural effects of postmodernity in the West (ultraliberalism, globalization, Americanization, etc.). The corpus includes such well-known figures as Alain Finkielkraut and Jean-Francois Lyotard, as well as lesser-known ones such as Philippe Muray, Jaime Semprun, and Dominique Quessada.

The book's title derives from an allegorical story from 1813 by Adelbert von Chamisso, L'Etrange Histoire de Peter Schlemihl, in which a man loses his shadow. For Chaouat, the loss of the shadow is akin to the disappearance of the "other" in ultra-liberal Western societies in which all restraints or taboos have supposedly been left behind in the drive toward hyper-consumption and universal jouissance. According to Chaouat, the writers who criticize this state of affairs fit into a long tradition of antimodern thinking that has marked France since the time of the Revolution and that, as Antoine Compagnon shows in Les Antimodernes, is ultimately quite modern, indeed quintessentially so. But more difficult to determine is whether their critique of (post)modernity is therefore reactionary or whether it represents instead a progressive, leftist hostility to a liberal, democratic, capitalist consensus. Much of Chaouat's book is dedicated to exploring the paradoxes of this question.

Chaouat does a good job of explaining difficult texts that cross boundaries between philosophy and other disciplines, such as political economy. …

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