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Awakening struggle: Towards Buddhist critical social theory

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Product Description

By Robert Hattam

Published: 2004
ISBN: 978-1-876682-57-6
Pages: xx+337
Imprint: Post Pressed


The ground-breaking book offers the first extensive comparison of critical theory with socially-engaged Buddhism. Both traditions are concerned with the same thing, liberating/awakening society, but their contexts are so different that the relationship between them has not received the attention it deserves.

Awakening-Struggle culminates in an attempt to outline a Buddhist-inspired critical theory, focusing on how personal transformation - understood from a Buddhist perspective - might be the basis for social change. Against the tendency of so much social critique to lose sight of personal agency, Hattam shows us how to think more deeply about the dialectic of self and social delusion.

Professor David Loy
Bunkyo University, Japan

This book takes a personal voyage - an awakening struggle - as a starting point and reveals its general implications by using this reflective practical experience to generate wide-ranging, careful scholarship and theoretical virtuosity.

Awakening-Struggle demonstrates conceptual creativity through grappling with the foremost and advanced problems of contemporary critical theory. This work is a prodigious, scholarly account of critical theory that goes beyond the usual immanent reading and leads us to the 'affinity' between critical theory and Buddhism as a way of working towards a self-society dialectic that is a key to the critical theory tradition. Against critical theory's tendency towards social scientific objectivism that reinforces privilege in society, Hattam proposes Buddhist 'technologies of self' as resources for social activism and social revitalization.

Hattam illustrates not only how Buddhism can enhance critical theory, and critical theory Buddhism, but finally how theory, the individual, and collective life might look like if created beyond the pale of our reified, alienated dualistic existence.

Professor Philip Wexler
Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  1. A dialogical encounter between critical theory and Buddhism
    • Imagining a dialogical space
    • Outline of the chapter
    • Introducing critical theory, briefly
    • Introducing Buddhism, briefly
    • Dialogue and the convergence of a shared problem
    • But what is dialogue?
    • Representing traditions as analyzable formations
  2. Mapping the critical sensibility
    • An outline of the chapter
    • Representing critical theory now as a 'theory cluster'
    • What is the nature of the critical attitude?
    • The sensibility of critical intellectuals
    • Transformative intellectuals
    • A potted and skewed account of critical theory: Frankfurt School lineage
    • Critical theory as a problem complex
    • The problems as a critical theory
    • The problem of the subject
    • Critical theory and the problem of religion
  3. The perspective of the Bodhisattva
    • Outline of the chapter
    • Thinking about traditions
    • The Lam-rim as (re)presentation and tradition
    • The Lam-rim as advice for the three types of practitioner
    • Developing renunciation
    • I'm tired of samara and I want out
    • The four Noble Truths
    • The way of the Bodhisattva
    • Problems for Buddhism
  4. Socially-engaged Buddhism: A new social movement for degenerate times
    • Outline of the chapter
    • What is socially-engaged Buddhism?
    • A scriptural justification for socially-engaged Buddhism
    • The socially-engaged Eastern Buddhist: Radical activist-spiritual adepts
    • The Dalai Lama and universal responsibility
    • Thich Nhat Hanh and the Tiep Hien Order
    • Sulak Sivaraksa and a Buddhist vision for renewing society
    • Western reinterpretation of socially-engaged Buddhist praxis
    • Stephen Batchelor's imagining of a culture of awakening
    • Towards a Buddhist-inspired critical social theory
    • Think Sangha: Towards a Buddhist liberation theology
  5. Finding a Buddhist edge to critical theory: The case of Erich Fromm
    • Beware the secularing impulse of 'Western' sociology
    • Rereading Marx's radical spirituality
    • Critical theory's encounters with Zen
    • Erich Fromm: forgotten!
    • Fromm's inspiration: Racial humanist spirituality
    • Fromm's early interest in Marx and Freud
    • Fromm's encounter with Marx and Freud
    • Fromm and the unconscious
    • Towards a critical theory of well-being
  6. Towards a Buddhist-inspired critical theory of society
    • How can we live an ethico-political life in an unjust world?
    • Outline of the chapter
    • Critical theory's sociologism
    • The pain of being human: (Mis)understanding anxiety
    • Society as a product of mind
    • A Buddhist critique of a politics of the ego
    • To what end?
    • Towards a new constellation: Awakening-struggle
  • References
  • Index

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