Top critical review
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Brilliantly written, but not always hitting its targets
on 29 August 2010
This is a hugely enjoyable book to read. Filled with wit, laugh-out-loud humour, insight, and written in way where chapters follow effortlessly together, it is no wonder that Eagleton is so highly regarded as a writer as well as a literary critic.
This book is basically about how we stand today, in a world where global capitalism is master of all, fundamentalisms betray the central messages of peace of their own religions, and marxism is all but dead. Eagleton, a marxist, looks at the state of marxism today, what it can still have to say after the abominable acts committed in its name, and also how the left itself has changed over the 20th century and since. The book is called 'After Theory', because, we live in a period after a dramatic rise (and now, subsequent decline) in (largely left-wing) continental philosophy and a new form of literary criticism, where the likes of Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, Kristeva and co. transformed the way we think about our reality. Eagleton is surely right that we can never go back to a time 'pre-theory', we cannot think, and think seriously, as if this earthquake had never happened.
So far so good, so why only 3 stars? The problem with this book is the vagueness regarding Eagleton's 'postmodern' and post-structuralist targets. Frequent reference to 'weaker' postmodern theorists make his own case seem weak, for he never tells you who these weaker theorists are, and whats more, why should we care what weaker postmodern theory says? Shouldnt he be tackling it at its most demanding and challenging if he is going to protect his meta-narrative, a certain marxism, from it? It simply isn't good enough to shoot down un-named weaker targets. This is particularly disappointing, when you consider that Eagleton criticises Richard Dawkins for this very same thing regarding religion.
In summary, I really enjoyed this book, I'm very glad I read it, but be prepared to be frustrated at points. I would suggest reading Derrida's 'Specters of Marx' and then Derrida, Eagleton, Jameson et al's symposium of this book of Derrida's, entitled 'Ghostly Demarcations', if you are interested in deconstruction's relation to marxism and some far more detailed responses.