Literary Theory and the Claims of History: Postmodernism, Objectivity, Multicultural Politics

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At the core of postmodern thought, especially in literary theory, is the belief that such ideals as truth, reason, and objectivity are social constructs that have no universal or trans-historical validity. In exploring this constructivist view, Satya P. Mohanty examines its underlying epistemological claims and their social and political implications. His book points the way toward a critical alternative to the epistemological and cultural relativisms. Mohanty grounds his critique in readings of some of the major figures of postmodernism, including Paul de Man, Louis Althusser, Fredric Jameson, and Jacques Derrida and analyzes the views of Mikhail Bakhtin, C. S. Peirce, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty, particularly their notions of language and referentiality. Mohanty defends a post-positivist realist conception of objectivity as a legitimate ideal of all inquiry. He outlines a realist theory of social identity and multicultural politics which sees radical moral universalism and cultural diversity as complementary-not competing-ideals.