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Lyotard: Towards a Postmodern Philosophy



Lyotard: Towards a Postmodern Philosophy

James D. Williams

ISBN: 978-0-745-61100-6 October 1998 Polity 160 Pages


Jean-François Lyotard was one of the most influential European thinkers in recent decades. He was a leading participant in debates about post-modernism and the decline of Marxism, and he made important contributions to ethics, aesthetics and political philosophy.

In this authoritative introduction, Williams tracks the development of Lyotard's thought from his early writings on the libidinal economy to his more recent work on the post-modern condition. Williams argues that despite the wide-ranging character of Lyotard's writings, they are animated by a long-standing concern to develop a new theory of political action. Lyotard's productive use of avant-garde art and the aesthetics of the sublime are interpreted within this context. In the final chapters some of the main criticisms that have been levelled at Lyotard's work are outlined and assessed.

A challenging but also accessible book, it will be welcomed by students and researchers in continental philosophy, literary theory and the humanities generally.


1. Introduction: Rethinking the Political.

2. Lyotard's Materialism.

3. States of Society: The Postmodern Condition.

4. States of Society: The Libidinal Economy.

5. Methodology.

6. Politics.

7. Hegel, Levinas and Capital.

8. Critical Debates.



'I would recommend this book to anyone in search of a concise, intelligent and well-researched introduction to Lyotard. Williams writes as an advocate but also with a welcome independence of mind and a knowledge of wider philosophical debates - both 'analytic' and 'continental' that enables him to offer some pointed criticism along the way. His book stands out from the mounting pile of post-modernism primers by its avoidance of the usual hand-me-down formulas and its keenness of insight when dealing with issues central to Lyotard's extensive body of work on philosophy, art, and politics.' Christopher Norris, University of Wales Cardiff
* Critical analysis of the work of one of the most influential philosophers in recent decades.
* Gives particular attention to Lyotard's writings on postmodernism, which have been particularly influential.
* Establishes the importance of Lyotard's contribution to the fields of both philosophy and literary theory; includes an examination of his work on ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, as well as his thoughts on the debate about postmodernism and the decline of Marxism.