The postmodern debate and the search for emancipation : rationality, the self and politics in the thought of Foucault, Derrida, Rorty and MacIntyre
The postmodern philosophical project, which aims to undermine the universalistic, metanarrational and transcendental aspects of traditional Western thought and to bring about an awareness of 'otherness' through deconstruction, has been dismissed out of hand by some theorists. This thesis aims to demonstrate the following points: firstly, that the postmodern insights and critique of the Enlightenment project are well founded, that there do not exist any universal or transcendental truths.Secondly, that the attempts of postmodern theorists to derive from these insights any implication for politics, society, or the self, whether of an emancipatory or of a pragmatic nature, are misplaced. The validity of the second point will be supported by a demonstration that there is an inevitable use of a priori truths in the work of the chosen thinkers as well as everyday discourse; and that postmodern theory, highlighted in the specific concerns of the deconstructed 'other', remains very much within the liberal democratic tradition, which can itself be seen as a product of the Enlightenment project.The philosophers Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty, and Alasdair MacIntyre have been chosen for analysis as their work exhibits the most fundamental tensions within the postmodern stance, tensions which need to be delineated and examined for an appraisal of the future of postmodern political philosophy. Each chapter is divided into sections on Rationality, The Self, and Politics and Society, in part to try to simplify and make accessible their often complex and vague theses, but also as an attempt to reflect how their own rationalities, and views of rationality, are developed into political commentary and prescription.