This book is by far the most sustained and intelligent critique of post-structuralist theory yet published in Britain or America. It is argued from an adversary stance, but with a vigour and passion all too rare among opponents of 'theory' in whatever threatening shape or guise. According to Rose, it is the fault of post-structuralism, not that it has become too much embroiled in theoretical issues, but that it has failed to think through the problems bequeathed by philosophers in the critical tradition descending from Kant. That tradition she sees as having set the main terms for a debate whose categories are centrally those of jurisprudence, or the individual subject and his or her standing before the law. Post-Kantian philosophy is heir to certain problems in the nature of its own grounding concepts which cannot be simply pushed aside in the name of some radical break with 'Western metaphysics'. Such gestures are a species of intellectual nihilism, a refusal to engage with hegemonic structures of reason, legality and ethical discourse alike. Taking issue with Foucault and Derrida especially, Rose argues that post-structuralism has not come out - as its proponents would claim - on the far side of those problems and antinomies that dominate classical reason. Rather, it has attempted to exclude them de jure from its own more 'radical' or liberated discourse, only to reveal how far it is in thrall to those same (unrecognised) critical motifs. In short, these thinkers have opted for a rhetoric of militant unreason, thereby depriving thought of any power to criticise its own concepts and categories.
LRB 18 July 1985 | PDF Download