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Record Type: Review   ID: 714

Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions

Rosenau, Pauline Marie

 Although this book offers first a scholarly review of all aspects of postmodernism, it is applied to the social sciences. Rosenau debates both sides of every potential application of an aspect of postmodernism to the social sciences. Rosenau is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Quebec-Montreal. She begins the work with a useful glossary of post-modern terms. In the first chapter, which is introductory, she says her aim is to evaluate "the relevance of post-modernism in the social sciences, its essential elements, its central foci and organizing premises, its strengths and weaknesses, its appeals and pitfalls (p. 3). More specifically, she has tried to accomplish four primary goals: (a) "to explore the range and complexity of post-modern approaches with special attention to their origins in the humanities"; (b) "to explain and illustrate their applications to the social sciences"; (c) "to examine some consequences of their adoption in the social sciences"; and (d) "to provide the beginnings of an assessment" (pp. 3-4). Thus, although she writes primarily about postmodernism, the aim is always its relevance to the social sciences. She points out that postmodernism in the humanities and social sciences represents more than a new academic paradigm—it is "a radically new and different cultural movement [that] is coalescing in a broad-gauged re-conceptualization of how we experience and explain the world around us" (p. 4). Thus, it also presents the possibility of the same revolutionary conception of exceptional human experience and its place in the world. There follow eight chapters each dealing with a major component of postmodernism. First she describes the aspect of postmodern-ism under consideration, and its history, and indicates its relevance to the social sciences: pro and con. Chapter titles 2-9 are: Abandoning the Author, Transforming the Text, and Re-Orienting the Reader; Subverting the Subject; Humbling History, Transforming Time, and Garbling Geography (Space); A Theory of Theory and the Terrorism of Truth; Repudiating Representation; Epistemology and Methodology: Post-Modern Alternatives; Post-Modern Political Orientations and Social Science; and Elements for an Assessment. She points to the relevance of post-modern approaches to exceptional human experience when she writes of "affirmative postmodernism," which she says "offers any number of imaginative alternatives, including a synthesis of postmodern science and theology, an opening up of social science to the metaphysical and the mystical" (p. 174). Parapsychology is a protypical example of a behavioral approach to some forms of exceptional human experience that depotentiates them. A positive postmodern approach to them might allow us to potentiate these texts, not puncture them. Rosenau, always mindful of both sides, also deals with "the trade-off of internal consistency versus relevance" (p. 174). She also deals with "the unreflexive dimension of post-modernism." The bibliography alone has the makings of a separate book in itself.
Publisher Information:Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992. 230p. Bibl: 185-216; Glossary: xi-xiv; Index: 217-229
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