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The Private Death of Public Discourse…
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The Private Death of Public Discourse (American Society)

by Barry Sanders

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0807004340, Hardcover)

Why has our culture become increasingly violent? Barry Sanders believes the root of the problem can be traced to a widespread collapse in individuals' "self-sustaining interior lives." Without firm senses of our own identity, the argument runs, we aren't able to relate to other people in a meaningful fashion. He attributes the disintegration of the inner self to a decline in literacy. Literacy, according to Sanders, is what makes critical thinking possible--not merely the ability to read and write but the capability of learning from what one has read and sharing one's insights with others.

The breadth of Sanders's argument is impressive. An exploration of the American cultural attitudes that led to the aggressive support of the 1991 conflict in Iraq, for example, delves into the neoconservative philosophy of Allan Bloom's >The Closing of the American Mind. Sanders can be overly dogmatic in his insistence that computer technology cannot contribute to the type of literacy he champions, as in his claim that writing with a word processor inspires less respect for language than writing directly onto paper. Although he is certainly correct to say that using a word processor is a fundamentally different experience from any other form of writing (a notion Steven Johnson explores thoughtfully in Interface Culture), one simply cannot lump together all other writing technologies, such as pencils and electric typewriters, and say that word processing is the opposite. His assertion that no genuine conversation could occur in cyberspace seems equally harsh.

But Sanders cannot and should not be dismissed as a neo-Luddite. He has clearly given deep consideration to the importance of direct participation in the social discourse, and his call to enrich our inner lives by engaging ourselves in the lives of others is worth hearing out.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:32 -0400)

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