Book Review: The Practice of Political Theory: Rorty and Continental Thought, by Clayton Chin

AuthorDavid Rondel
Date01 February 2020
Published date01 February 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
/tmp/tmp-174YajvhZzyENo/input Book Reviews
The Practice of Political Theory: Rorty and Continental Thought, by Clayton Chin.
New York: Columbia University Press, 2018, 293 pp.
Reviewed by: David Rondel, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0090591719839353
Clayton Chin’s The Practice of Political Theory: Rorty and Continental
is a rich and insightful study into the relationship between Richard
Rorty and various strands of contemporary continental political thought. There
are many books about Rorty and more broadly Anglophone, analytic, liberal
political theory but Chin’s book is, as far as I can tell, the first book-length
study that explicitly addresses Rorty’s relationship to central currents in con-
temporary continental political theory. In assessing this relationship, Chin
takes the big questions head on—questions about foundationalism, the sources
of normativity, ontology, political justification, pluralism, about method in
political theory—in a way that is both clear and incisive. And his discussion of
various thinkers (such as Jürgen Habermas, Michel Foucault, and William E.
Connolly) and their relationship to Rorty’s thought is always nuanced, chari-
table, and illuminating. Chin’s book is for all these reasons a welcome contri-
bution. It will be read with profit by scholars and students in political theory
and philosophy, especially those interested in the dispute between the pragma-
tist and “weak ontological” turns in recent political theory.
The book is organized into three main sections. The first, “Rorty and
Political Thinking,” sets the stage for the arguments to come by placing
Rorty’s work in conversation with, and at times in opposition to, various meta-
political trends in recent political theory. Chin is a careful, sympathetic, and
extremely learned reader of Rorty. This is amply on display in the early chap-
ters of the book, which feature meticulous discussion of Rorty’s early metaphi-
losophy; his critique of epistemology from Philosophy and the Mirror of
and beyond; his brief flirtation with hermeneutics; and his later turn to
a more...

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