Academic journal article German Quarterly

Modern and Postmodern Strategies. Gaming and the Question of Morality. Adorno, Rorty, Lyotard, and Enzensberger

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Modern and Postmodern Strategies. Gaming and the Question of Morality. Adorno, Rorty, Lyotard, and Enzensberger

Article excerpt

Kilian, Monika. Modern and Postmodern Strategies. Gaming and the Question of Morality. Adorno, Rorty, Lyotard, and Enzensberger New York: Lang, 1998. 221 pp. $46.95 hardcover.

Of the numerous discursive practices that during the last two decades rallied around specific notions of postmodernism, Monika Kilian chose to focus on what has become known as "postmodern thought," first and foremost the important influence of French-cum-German phenomenology, mostly Derrida's, on the American tradition of analytical philosophy. In particular, it is the "anti-foundationalist" (and politically progressive) project of the pragmatist Richard Rorty that informs Kilian's study. Lyotard's application of Wittgenstein's notion of language games in his re-conceptualization of history in terms of "grand narratives" (The Postmodern Condition) is for Kilian the other major paradigm that constitutes "postmodern thought" as an "attitude." Fifteen years after Rorty's critique of Lyotard's relativism (see his "Habermas and Lyotard on Postmodernity," Praxis International, [1984]), the language of attitude, as Kilian's text suggests, has meshed those differences in forging the base vocabulary of a theorized "postmodern consciousness."

The study distinguishes itself by offering a most lucidly formulated survey of the tenets and concepts of poststructuralist critical theory from "post-metaphysical" to "reality as constructed," from "paradigm-dependant referentiality" to the obligatory dismissal of a "unified, essential subject." By drawing upon the Lyotard of "The Postmodern Explained to Children" and Adorno's Negative Dialectics, the author is careful not to design postmodern strategies as being radically opposed to "modern" thought. While Kilian's succinct elaboration of the confluence of philosophical directions that continues to shape contemporary critical consciousness must be regarded as the book's undeniable strength, there is a flip-side to these virtues.

The final clause of the study's lengthy title:"[...] and Enzensberger," signals the peripheral role that the work of this prominent German poet and critic plays in the study. Its author claims to illuminate the poetry of Hans Magnus Enzensberger by intersecting its themes with the complex of postmodern thought. That Enzensberger is not traded as a postmodern writer nor would tend to underwrite such a categorization is actually not the problem in the intertextual endeavor at hand. …

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