The Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment (review)


Christian Thorne’s The Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment is a highly provocative and remarkably erudite study on the pre-history of anti-foundationalist thought. Thorne’s aim, broadly, is to call into question the widely held (though less and less confidently articulated) belief among contemporary theorists of the Left that attacks on metaphysics, on epistemology, on claims to universality, humanism and, of course, the Enlightenment contain the (ever-deferred) promise of political reform simply by virtue of their predilection for “self-defeating concepts, concepts that resist the very abstraction to which they are otherwise addicted” (312). Opposing this view, Thorne’s conceptual-historical account reminds us that “anti-foundationalism is not everywhere the same” and that theories that tend “to convert early modern skeptics into post-structuralists before the fact” amount to little more than “an epistemological determinism fully as egregious as the economic or technological determinisms that have preceded it” (13).

Read Article On Muse