Politics and Truth

Political Theory and the Postmodernist Challenge

By Theresa Man Ling Lee

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Political Theory: Contemporary Issues
Paperback : 9780791435045, 243 pages, August 1997
Hardcover : 9780791435038, 243 pages, August 1997

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Table of contents


1. Introduction

Part I Historical Overview

2. Plato: Truth, Nontruth, and Legitimate Power

3. Hobbes: The Science of Politics

Part II Contemporary Conundrum


4. Weber: Rationalization and Politics

5. Foucault: Discursive Politics and the Modern State

6. Arendt: Totalitarianism and the Human Condition

Part III Conclusion

7. The Politics of Truth in Context: The Case of China

8. Politics, Truth, and Democratic Practice




Considers the contested concept of truth in contemporary politics in light of the postmodernist challenge to Enlightenment ideals and examines the treatment of truth in an unusual lineup of thinkers ranging from Plato and Hobbes to Weber, Foucault, and Arendt.


The political momentum gathered by the postmodernist challenge to Enlightenment ideals has made the notion of truth more central than ever in politics. Postmodernism maintains that the philosophical validation of ideas by way of truth is intrinsically linked to the legitimation of power. In this political context Lee considers a series of related questions. Why does it matter politically how truth is validated? Does the claim to having truth necessarily imply a certain claim to authority by those who possess truth? Is truth therefore power? Is a foundationalist notion of truth antidemocratic by implication? Is a contextualist notion necessarily democratic, as the postmodernists suggest?

Politics and Truth examines the treatment of these problems in the work of thinkers ranging from Plato and Hobbes to Weber, Foucault, and Arendt. The book concludes with a consideration of ideology in post-Mao China that shows the elusive if not illusory openness of contextualism.

Theresa Man Ling Lee is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.


"Most political theorists have been distrustful of power; and in contemporary political debate, the association of truth and power has been condemned for belittling truth. Professor Lee's elegant account of their interconnection steers clear of such simplifications and sheds some much needed new light on old controversies. " -- Alan Ryan, New College, Oxford University

"Politics and Truth is a work of thorough and intelligent scholarship. What above all distinguishes this ambitious book is its impressive breadth. This isn't a conventional scholarly monograph on a particular thinker or debate but rather a wide-ranging attempt to address in a sustained way the problem of politics and truth as occasioned by the postmodernist (primarily Foucauldian) critique of philosophical foundationalism. Lee's project is to vindicate what she sees as politically salutary in the postmodern challenge to foundationalist appeals to truth while resisting some of the more extravagant extrapolations of the postmodernist movement. " -- R. S. Beiner, University of Toronto

"The selection of philosophers is unusual; it allows Lee to escape the standard modern/postmodern dualism, to discuss surprising connections, e. g., between Weber, Foucault, and Arendt, and, after presenting an array of options, to reconsider their shared concern for a disjunction between politics and truth. The book is written in concise, elegant prose, and offers striking insights. " -- Nancy S. Love, Pennsylvania State University