Elif Batuman: How to Stay Sane
20 November 2008
Show More Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida by Elisabeth Roudinesco, translated by William McCuaig.
Columbia, 184 pp., £15.50, November 2008, 978 0 231 14300 4Show More
“... We are certainly living in strange times’ is how Elisabeth Roudinesco’s Philosophy in Turbulent Times begins. Roudinesco’s reader, too, is in for a turbulent and strange time, starting with the introduction, a five-page polemic against the spirit of our age: Jean-Paul Sartre – for or against? Raymond Aron – for or against? … Should we take a blowtorch to May 1968 and its ideas … seen now as incomprehensible, elitist, dangerous and anti-democratic? Have the protagonists of that revolution … all become little bourgeois capitalist pleasure seekers without faith or principles, or haven’t they? … The father has vanished, but why not the mother? Isn’t the mother really just a father, in the end, and the father a mother? Why do young people not think anything? Why are children so unbearable? Is it because of television, or pornography, or comic books? … And women: are they capable of supervising male workers on the same basis as men are? Of thinking like men, of being philosophers? Do they have the same brain, the same neurons, the same emotions, the same criminal instincts? Was Christ the lover of Mary Magdalene, and if so, does that mean that the Christian religion is sexually split between a hidden feminine pole and a dominant masculine one? Has France become decadent? Are you for Spinoza, Darwin, Galileo, or against? Are you partial to the United States? Wasn’t Heidegger a Nazi? Was Michel Foucault the precursor of Bin Laden, [and] Gilles Deleuze a drug addict … ? Was Napoleon really so different from Hitler? Do these questions strike you as ‘the absolute nadir of contemporary interrogation’? Do they articulate your sense of the ills of the present cultural moment? Do you want to hear more of them? Would you like to have a long conversation with someone who feels the same way? If so, you will enjoy the latest English translation of a book by Roudinesco, the author of Lacan & Co, Why Psychoanalysis? and, most recently, La Part obscure de nous-mêmes (not yet translated ...”