Following a series of links brought to be an interview with Slavoj Zizek, who is, in some circles, an academic superstar (see xhttp://newcloud.com/exchange/interviews/zizek.html). The following exchange reminded me of some of the issues Charles Taylor is wrestling with.
Chance: What does it mean to return to big theory?
Zizek: You remember, years ago it was fashionable to say big theory overlooks its own historical, concrete, anthropological conditions and presuppositions. That it is naive. Foucault has this attitude in its utmost when he says, before asking what's the meaning of the universe, you should ask in what historical context is it even possible to ask this question. So direct truth questions become questions about the concrete historical conditions in which one can raise such a question. I think this was a deadlock.
Today's big theory is no longer a naive big theory. It's not saying "let's forget about historical context and again ask, does god exist, or are we free." No, the point is that concrete theory - the idea that we cannot ask metaphysical questions, only historical questions - had a skeleton in the closet: it has its own big theory presuppositions. Usually, even some rather primitive historicist, relativist ideas, for example, everything depends on historical circumstances or interactions, there are no universalities, and so on. So for me, it's about not forgetting from where one speaks. It's about including into reflection, into historical reflection, the very historicism, which was unquestioned in this eternal, Foucauldian model. I find it so boring. It's so boring to say, "no, you shouldn't ask are we free, the only question is what does it mean in our society to ask the question are we free."
Of course, I could now just be in my dotage.
-- John McCreery The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
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