Book: Earth, Empire and Sacred Text
Chapter: Chapter 3 BEYOND MODERNISM: FROM THEORY TO ACTIVISM
I argued in the previous chapter that the modernist view of the autonomous self was progressively rejected by a flurry of movements from the late nineteenth century on, and that the human “I” can only understand itself in a movement of self-reflection over time— the subject as perceived through narrative in a community of “Thous.” But with its emphasis on narratives spun out by individuals and com- munities, postmodernism has, most famously in the words of Jean- François Lyotard, expressed its “incredulity towards metanarratives.” This observation led Jane Flax to weigh the postmodernist claim of “the death of history.” I continue here Leyla Benhabib’s discussion of these issues, first with the problem of history and then with the larger question of metaphysics—though, admittedly, they overlap at points. The reason for starting this chapter with Malcolm X and King, however, was also to highlight the issue of activism. Thus I later move from theory to the practice of a “postmodern” kind of activism, a kind of holistic perspective that is rooted in specific communities, but which breaks out onto the global scene, much like the Mexican Mayans accomplished with their Zapatista movement.