In his Critique of Rationality, John Eustice O’Brien proposes a fascinating rectification for the distortion of technical necessity in Western Society due to unbridled instrumental reason. He begins with a review of this issue first raised by the Early German Romantics as discussed by Isaiah Berlin and Walter Benjamin. Following French social philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s radically different apperceptive epistemology, he explores the possibility of a social world in which each is anchored by a préobjective disposition to meaning based on the intersubjective presence of all. This justifies the postulate of aesthetic-consciousness as the site of socialization in communities of meaning, as a frame for judgment and creativity. The struggle must continue for awakening that consciousness if an open society is to be realized.
John E. O'Brien
Using the historical-materialist method to unravel the promise and limits of critical practice since the Revolutionary Age, John E. O’Brien investigates the problems and prospects of cultural criticism for the 21st century through absorbing studies of the contested perspectives of Voltaire, Friedrich Schiller, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, Terry Eagleton and Hayden White. In spite of recurrent crises due to a flawed Western political-economy, why is there so much critical intellectual activity with so little effect? Framing his study with the early work by Max Horkheimer, Luc Boltanski and Teresa Ebert, O’Brien's investigation of resistance in America and Europe challenges the bourgeois philosophy of history, pointing to the urgency of critique as mode of analysis and intervention.