Human beings have taken one thing for granted since our earliest days: we are bodily creatures dealing with one another on a face-to-face basis. The internet has shattered this fundamental feature of human existence. We are suddenly living our lives in two worlds at once—shifting endlessly from virtual to physical reality as we reach out to others.
Worse yet, we are developing different personal identities in our two worlds. We say and do things in virtual reality that flatly contradict our face-to-face commitments to family, friends, and fellow-workers—and vice versa. The Postmodern Predicament explores these dilemmas at each phase of the life cycle, beginning at the moment a young child picks up a cell phone.
The existentialist tradition of the twentieth century provides a precious perspective on our postmodern dilemmas. Thinkers and doers like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre considered the fragmentation of modern life as a central source of contemporary anxieties. Like them, Ackerman views the challenges of the internet age as a political, no less than personal, problem—and proposes concrete reforms that that could mobilize broad-based support for democracy against demagogic assaults on its very foundations.
“Bruce Ackerman is one of the brilliant political philosophers of our time. He understands that we each have a multiplicity of identities in a digital age, and he is the first serious philosopher to grapple with what justice and political community look like considering our fragmented online and real-world identities. Ackerman has penned a magnum opus that attempts to answer the deepest questions of our humanity in a postmodern context.”—Congressman Ro Khanna, author of Dignity in a Digital Age
“This amazing new book inquires into the most profound roots of the current democratic crisis. Surprisingly, Ackerman pushes the reader beyond the political to approach the crisis’s existential origins.”—Marta Cartabia, president emerita of the Constitutional Court of Italy
“With great clarity and bold imagination, Bruce Ackerman rethinks the very grounds and tasks of a liberal conception of social justice. His comprehensive argument for a project of democratic innovation based on the demands of ‘existential justice’ raises the urgent debate of what citizens owe each other to a new level. A masterpiece by one of the great thinkers of our time.”—Rainer Forst, Goethe University Frankfurt