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This review is taken from PN Review 126, Volume 25 Number 4, March - April 1999.

WHO'S WE? NICHOLAS BOYLE, Who Are We Now? Christian Humanism and the Global Market from Hegel to Heaney (T. & T. Clark) £24.95

The title of Nicholas Boyle's book seems both to pose and to beg a question. To ask 'who are we now?' is to assume that there is a collective subject for whom the question makes sense and thus perhaps to evade a more basic question: is there a 'we' now? But Boyle would see this latter question as itself evasive: in his view, there is indeed a 'we' now, and it is the cardinal sin of postmodernism that it seeks to deny it by emphasizing an illusory plurality and diversity. On one level, this 'we' is a collective identity to which we are compelled by the economic system which now embraces the globe; but for Boyle, to recognize this identity is also to resist its reduction of human beings to consumers - a reduction in which postmodernism is complicit. Boyle's sense of collective identity has a deeper and more ancient source than that of worldwide capitalism, however: it is rooted in Catholicism. He writes 'as a liberal Catholic humanist' whose 'central thesis' is 'that we all make up one world, even if we are only gradually coming to recognize it'.

Boyle does not, of course, only address himself to fellow-Catholics, although four of the ten essays of which this book consists appeared, in earlier versions, in the English Dominican journal New Blackfriars. Some of his analysis is very much what one would expect from a secular left-liberal; it would hardly ruffle the placid waters of the London ...


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