at mission 21 graham cray pronounced postmodernism as over (or words to that effect) and suggested that the new cultural landscape had arrived. it was part of quite a provocative address all round which i quite liked - always good to get everyone going. anyhow i keep thinking about it and i have decided i simply don't agree... i kind of understand what graham is getting at - we can't just remain post for ever not knowing what the new cultural landsacpe looks like, but on the other hand we can't be too hasty if indeed it is still taking shape. other large cultural turns took a long time after all.
anyway all this is by way of a preamble to a book review. doug gay, whose opinion i always respect and listen to carefully e-mailed me and rang me to enthuse about jamie smith's book whose afraid of postmodernism. he said something like this is the book that captures the moment. in fact let me dig out his e-mail -
just needed a moment to rave to some interested bods about Jamie Smith's new book Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault to Church - Baker Academic.
I have to say that in one slim volume this seems to have caught what a lot us are groping after more directly than anything else I have yet read. Personally I would sell your shirts and get it (you'll read it in an evening) And he's a Brethren boy like me! Risking the derision of his Rad-Orth buddies he also makes a fascinating attempt to connect his thinking to the legacy of Schaeffer and Doyeweerd.
high praise eh? (most of you may not have heard of dooyeweerd - but he was a genius philosopher...)
anyway i have got hold of the book and it is excellent. there's a chapter engaging with each of foucault, derrida, and lyotard, using a film to get into the issues. he takes a pretty positive engagement with the philosophers - refreshing for christian authors, but also not afraid to offer his own critique. i'm reminded of a little booklet i read many years ago called 'ideas have legs' by al wolters which basically showed the importance of philosophy because it shapes the way people live - delighted to say i found it online - he says for example -
Ideas have legs in the sense that they are not the disembodied abstractions of some ivory-tower academic, but are real spiritual forces that go somewhere, that are on the march in somebody's army, and that have a widespread effect on our practical, everyday lives.
while for many, engaging these postmodern thinkers may seem an academic irrelevance, this book shows how true it is that ideas do have legs and the postmodern landscape we are living in is far from over, dare i say contrary to what bishop cray's current take is...
on another note if you are visiting the blog from the durham summer school - hi! good to be with you yesterday. i enjoyed the sessions and the worship - hope it provokes some good stuff...