Murray Jardines's Post-Critical Political Theory
Tradition & Discovery
Key Words: post-critical political philosophy, William Poteat, Michael Polanyi, Alaisdair MacIntyre, orality and literacy, narrative practice, speech act, places of faithfulness, public participation. This review essay discusses Murray Jardine's argument in Speech and Political Practice, Recovering the Place of Human Responsibility, showing how the author skillfully draws on the thought of Michael Polanyi, William Poteat and Alaisdair MacIntyre. Jardine offers a sharp critique of contemporary
... e of contemporary culture and politics as well as political theory. He develops the idea of place, drawing attention to the acritical reliance upon context in human speech acts; this motif he argues can be a component of the new political vocabulary necessary to initiate public conversations about the common good. There are interesting questions about how Jardine's account "fits" with some of the themes in Michael Polanyi's political philosophy. Murray Jardine, Speech and Political Practice, Recovering the Place of Human Responsibility. Albany: SUNY Press, 1998. Pp. 207. ISBN 0-7914-3686-1 paper. Murray Jardine's volume in the SUNY Series in Philosophy of the Social Sciences is now a dozen years old. It was, unfortunately, overlooked as a prime candidate for a TAD review when it originally came out, but Wally Mead's comment on a more recent Jardine book in this issue of TAD provides an opportunity for belated remarks about Speech and Political Practice (SPP). Below I outline Jardine's complex argument and then comment on a few elements. This interesting book treating political theory makes use of Polanyi's thought, and its writer acknowledges William Poteat as one of his important mentors, suggesting that Poteat's graduate seminars "inspired" (ix) the thesis of the book. I am sure as a reader that I fared much better with this eloquent but sometimes dense Poteat-like reflection because I first returned to Polanyianian Meditations to refresh myself about Poteat's main themes. SPP is a bold discussion that takes large steps and is in this regard reminiscent of some Polanyi and Poteat's essays and books in which there is a sharp challenge to the status quo. What SPP aspires to do is to redirect much that is standard in political theory discussions. Just as Poteat digested Polanyi and then turned to meditate on other things (e.g., post-critical logic), Jardine has interiorized Poteat (as well as other thinkers Poteat appreciated such as Polanyi, Wittgenstein and Walter Ong) and then turned to the project of criticizing and re-imagining political theory and political life. SPP offers both a sharp fin de siècle cultural critique (as opposed to Polanyi's mid century critique) and a constructive philosophical alternative view. He begins by quoting Nietzsche to suggest that the emerging postmodern order is an exhausted bourgeois culture that has "degenerated into the technological nihilism of total war and insatiable consumerism" (1). Late modernity is marked by the "breakdown of any sense of human limits" and therefore any new model of political life must provide "some way of reestablishing such a sense of limits, or human finitude" (1). Jardine's constructive project explores the possibilities of reestablishing human finitude by considering "the uniquely human capacity for speech" which leads him ultimately to "rearticulate the human sense of place" (1).