This week’s reading, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault has been a struggle. While I understand how this book can be helpful and useful in certain contexts, I struggled to relate to this book on a personal, academic, or professional level. From reading reviews, it seems as though I am not the only one.
Stephen R. C. Hicks is a professor of Philosophy at the Rockford University, Executive Director for the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship, and Senior Scholar at the Atlas Society. He wrote Explaining Postmodernism in 2004 and re-released an expanded edition in 2011. The book has a pretty robust description of modernism, which is designed to help the reader understand how postmodernism then comes to pass. Hicks views postmodernist philosophy as a strong reaction against the Enlightenment, citing the work of Kant and Rousseau in the 18th century. He says, “Postmodernism then becomes an activist strategy against the coalition of reason and power.”
Reviews agree with Hicks overarching explanation of postmodernism, however some have reservations with who and how Hicks outlines the different ways postmodernism is lived out. Some find challenge with Hicks portrayal of Rousseau, others it’s Hicks portrayal of Kant, but nonetheless, there is much frustration around this book, which overall, I agree with.
Let me make this clear, I am not a philosopher, nor do I care to be. I am honestly quite confused by philosophy and find it to be more frustrating than liberating. This book was a perfect example of annoyance for me. I felt that this book really highlighted the dichotomy that is philosophy. I was struck most by Hicks contradictory statements as political strategies. He gives examples of postmodern contradictions like, “On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely destructive and bad.” To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to do with this. I understand the concept of dialogue and extremes, but when I view statements like this, I have empathy for how people know or understand anything anymore. When I read Hicks in light of our other reading this semester, like Taylor and Noll, I am left wondering more and more about the mystery of faith. I love the imagination that Taylor referenced, and I feel a deep sense of loss for it, as we seek to understand and defend polarized positions. I feel a sense of loss for the imagination of faith and wonder where faith fits in black and white explanations of the world. Hicks, in his attempt to identify and locate postmodernism, in historical society, made me frustrated by humanity’s desire to explain everything away. Taylor says, “The big obvious contrast here is that for believers, the account of the place of fullness requires reference to God, that is, to something beyond human life and/or nature; where for unbelievers this is not the case; they rather will leave any account open, or understand fullness in terms of potentiality of human beings understood naturalistically.” This sense of fullness that Taylor refers to is what I missed in Hicks. While I understand that he does not identify as religious, I find that those who push everything to the margins of the dichotomy spaces miss the fullness that comes from seeing the whole picture as one. Because of that, this book felt dry, stoic, and not relatable. Who knows, maybe I’m a postmodern skeptic myself.
 “Contact/Bibliography”, Stephen Hicks personal website. Accessed on February 6, 2020: https://www.stephenhicks.org/biography/
 Stephen Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to. Foucault (Ockham’s Razor Publishing, 2011), Loc. 478.
 Matt McManus, “A Review of Explaining Post Modernism by Stephen Hicks” Areo Magazine. October 17, 2018, Accessed February 6, 2020: https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/17/a-review-of-explaining-postmodernism-by-stephen-hicks/
 David Gordon, “Finding Meaning”, Mises Review 11, No. 3, Fall 2005: https://mises.org/library/explaining-postmodernism-skepticism-and-socialism-rousseau-foucault-stephen-r-c-hicks
 Stephen Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to. Foucault (Ockham’s Razor Publishing, 2011), Loc. 3972.
 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 7.