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The Third Way: Back from Dogmatism and Skepticism

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: August 17, 1999
E-mail Faculty on the Site.

The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy
Anthony Giddens 1998 book on policy directions.
Centre-left sociological/political position.
Link added August 16, 1999.

Foucault's Alternative Way
Foucault Primer - find quote.
Philosophical position.
Link added August 16, 1999.

Ricoeur's "Universal Civilization and National Cultures"
Link added August 16, 1999.



The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy

Notes and review by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
August 16, 1999

Giddens is struggling in this book with the development of policy through which we may experience renewal. He tries to steer clear of both the overwhelming tendency towards univsersalism as an absolute good, as in the days of Enlightenment, and of the radical retreat into the totally individual or regional which opposes the universal. Negation most often relies on a counter-norm, which traps us as fully as the original norm against which we were struggling for liberation. Giddens, a theorist, here puts his skill to the test in trying to define policy that might guide us into the praxis to realize some of our theoretical approaches. He, like many others, calls this attempt to find our way out of the oppositional advocacy of "a right way to proceed" a "third way," a "non-confrontational way, what Habermas might call a listening in good faith to all the validity claims presented.



Foucault's "third" way

Notes and review by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
August 16, 1999

Foucault quote in Foucault primer



Ricouer's "third" way

Notes and review by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Copyright: August 17, 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.
August 17, 1999

Kenneth Frampton, Professor of Architecture, speaks of the architecture of resistance in pointing out the present day difficulties of building anything truly individual out of the building technology of our megalopolis mentality. He identifies the two primary symbols of modern "Megapolitan development--the freestanding high-rise and the serpentine freeway." This is the point at which he turns to Ricouer's concern of "how to become modern and to return to the source," how to move into the universalistic civilization without losing the regional flavor, of how to assimilate while retaining the core of one's own culture. (P.21 of The Anti-Aesthetic, Foster, 1998 reprint.)

Paul Ricouer comments: "No one can say what will become of our civilization when it has really met different civilizations by means other than the shock of conquest and domination. But we have to admit that this encounter has not yet taken place at the level of an authentic dialogue. That is why we are in a kind of lull or interregnum in which we can no longer pratice the dogmatism of a single truth and in which we are not yet capable of conquering the skepticism into which we have stepped." (Cited on pp. 21-22 in The Anti-Aesthetic, Foster, 1998 reprint.)

This is a theme on which we touch also in the role of the liberal arts in the 21st Century. Education, in order to preserve regional local patterns must balance the input of academic experts with "community knowledge," with the solid values and concerns of those who come to the institution seeking creative intellectual growth, not total assimilation. To the extent that curriculae and evaluative procedures are dictated by the "experts" without the interactive participation of the students and their community, we encounter the same dilemma of regarding academic truth over which we hold sovereignty as the only truth. That has led rather consistently in the past to dogmatism and dominance, rather than to the real parology of building ideas together. Perhaps, as Ricouer suggests, we have yet to see a genuine model of such encounters.

John Glassie, in the New York Times' Education Life, Section 4A, August 1, 1999, at p. 7, writes as punditry that Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton plans to open a new doctoral program, designed by Teresa Brennan, "a social theorist from Harvard . . . as an alternative to ultraspecialized, must-publish ivory-towerism." The program is designed to educate those who choose to play a more directly linked role in the community than the the traditional professor has done in recent times. Students already admitted to the program want to work at creating ethical policy for specific groups, like teachers, to make their work more meaningful to themselves through broadening its social content. Lined up to make appearances in the program are such well known intellectuals as Cornel West, Jeremy Rifkin and Stanley Fish. Today we laugh that they may put on their business cards "Public Intellectual," but tomorrow we may find that, indeed, they have led "a much more satisfying life than they would have as frustrated professor." (Ms. Brennan of Harvard, quoted in last paragraph.)

All of this would seem to suggest that those who have seriously considered the "modern" and the "postmodern" response find that regardless of the definitions we give to those terms, what is really needed is a self-reflexive good faith approach to understanding how we are to include the advantages of the universal and all that carries with it of technology and of conflicting authorities without losing the essential individuality of the local. The "third way" approach recognizes that dominance in forcing a given path leads to a reflection of that dominance in the culture that adopts it, to its detriment in prolonging the energy of its own existence. Of course, each accuses the other of forcing its choice. Whether it is modernism or postmodernism that will liberate us will always remain an issue in some context. The "third way" that Ricouer suggests is that we try encounters without dogmatism, without skepticism, that we listen to one another in good faith.