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Thinking Fragments provides a brilliant critique of psychoanalytic, feminist, and postmodern theory. Examining the writings of Freud, Winnicott, Lacan, Chodorow, Irigaray, Derrida, Rorty, and Foucault, among others, Flax conducts a "conversation" among psychoanalysts, feminist thinkers, and postmodern theorists, evaluating the ways in which each group of thinkers succeeds in coming to terms with crises in contemporary Western culture. As she analyzes each theory in turn, the others are used to identify and interrogate its gaps and omissions. The result is a postmodern text of intertwined ideas, devoid of clear beginnings, endings, conclusions.
Flax addresses the question, "how is it possible to theorize in the contemporary West?" With the demise of objective notions of truth, knowledge, self and power, intellectuals have devised these new modes of thinking which both reflect and contribute to the uncertainties of the contemporary West. Each also addresses at least one aspect of what has become most problematic to modern individuals: How to come to terms with self, gender, knowledge and power without resorting to concepts that stress objectivity, universal knowledge, and a unitary self.
Flax finds that neither psychoanalysis, nor feminism, nor postmodernism is adequate to the task for which it was conceived. Each can illuminate certain aspects of problems of self, gender, knowledge, and power, but none is sufficient on its own. In fact, each incorporates characteristic blindnesses rooted in part in the very difficulties it addresses. Despite their failures, Flax concludes that these modes of theorizing are our best tools thus far, compelling us to use them even while we grapple with the problems they raise.
Thinking Fragments is a wide-ranging study that will elicit much discussion and debate. It is an essential text for social scientists and humanists alike, as well as anyone else who thinks about how to "do" theory in the contemporary West.
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"Thinking Fragments advances theoretical dialogue across a number of difficult borders. Of special importance is its sustained interrogation of postmodern and psychoanalytic theory from the perspective of feminist theory. Flax's text helps to bridge the gap between postmodern and feminist theory, a gap which is largely the result of male theorists' failing to pay attention to feminist currents."
—Christine Di Stefano, University of Washington
"Flax's long-awaited book is even better than I thought it would be. There are few scholars—if any—who could bring such a comprehensive, rich, and both appreciative and critical perspective to psychoanalysis, feminist theory, and postmodernist philosophy. Her even-handed attitude toward all three—and the balanced scholarly and practical background she brings to her analysis—is just about unique."
—Sandra Harding, University of Delaware
"Thinking Fragments advances theoretical dialogue across a number of difficult borders. Of special importance is its sustained interrogation of postmodern and psychoanalytic theory from the perspective of feminist theory. Flax's text helps to bridge the gap between postmodern and feminist theory, a gap which is largely the result of male theorists' failing to pay attention to feminist currents.")
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