RE-FOUNDING THE WORLD: A Western Testament

Jean Claude Guillebaud, Author, W. Donald Wilson, Translator , trans. from the French by W. Donald Wilson. Algora $24.95 (338p) ISBN 978-1-892941-55-8

For at least a decade now, various cultural critics have denounced the excesses of the modern world. Railing against rampant individualism, moral relativism and uncritical acceptance of the values of the market, these critics lay the blame for the wretched state of society mostly at the feet of postmodernism and yearn for a time when moral absolutes provided universal cultural meaning. These modern-day prophets, however, disagree about where to find such absolute values. Cutting through such disagreement, Guillebaud (The Tyranny of Pleasure) confidently contends that the foundations of Western culture clearly derive from Judaism, Christianity and Greek thought. To recognize our culture's origins in central ideas from these cultures offers us a way of re-founding our world on these principles. From the Jewish idea of time, he says, comes our idea of progress. While the Greeks emphasized reason as the superior way of knowing reality, both the Greeks and the Christians formulated an image of the universal that animated the material universe. According to Guillebaud, Christianity invented the idea of the individual, as well as the notion of equality, and both Judaism and Christianity teach the primacy of social justice. Through a dazzling narrative, Guillebaud traces the history of the development of these ideas from their origins to their expressions in contemporary culture. He argues that the greatest threats to these principles in our culture are inequality, the "waning of the future," scientism, globalization, communitariansim and litigiousness. Although Guillebaud attempts an encyclopedic approach to knowledge, he treads no new ground here not already covered by Jürgen Habermas, Slavoj Zizek and Christian philosophers such as Max Stackhouse. (June 15)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
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