Summary by Addison-Wesley of
The Resurgence of the Real

by Charlene Spretnak

The closing years of this century find Americans skeptical of modern institutions -- the political system, the globalized economy, the public schools -- and their abilities to solve the most basic problems of our time. Amid the rising tide of discontent, the public debates -- including the "culture wars" -- seem to be a mere spinning of wheels.

In a penetrating analysis of our times, Charlene Spretnak asserts that both the liberal and conservative sides in those debates are situated in the very orientation that created the modern crises: the mechanistic worldview with Homo economicus at the center. The grand claims of modernity no longer inspire confidence because its destructive effects seem to be multiplying. The author, an influential public intellectual, speaks poignantly to our growing sense of what has been lost and what is slipping away.

Yet Charlene Spretnak argues persuasively that the intensification of the modern crises is not inevitable and is already being challenged by an impressive network of corrective efforts. The new acceptance of holistic medicine (forced by the healthcare crisis), the new understandings in science of nature's powers of dynamic creativity and self-organization, the new political opposition of community-based activists to the forces of globalization, and the new surge of independence efforts by ancient nations that have been devoured by modern states -- all are part of an emergent value system that counters the modern conception of liberty as a flight from body, nature, and place.

After identifying "epochal rumblings" embedded in the nightly news in the 1990s, Charlene Spretnak illuminates the sources of the modern condition with exceptional clarity. Moreover, she reframes "the other history" of the modern era: the ecospiritual lineage of movements that resisted the corrosive effects of the industrialized modern world. These include the Arts and Crafts movement, the cosmological schools of painting, the stream of Modernist writers and artists who did not embrace the "machine aesthetic" after World War One, and Gandhi's "Constructive Program." The grassroots movements today that are forging a new politics of local and regional revitalization beyond left-and-right are heir to a rich tradition, to which the author brings original interpretations.

Finally, Charlene Spretnak concludes her wide-ranging exploration with an engaging story of an American heartland city in the near future that has largely decoupled from the destructive dynamics of the globalized economy and initiated a range of pragmatic alternatives in its region.

Both a sharp critique and a graceful performance of the art of the possible, The Resurgence of the Real changes the way we think about living in the modern world.

Charlene Spretnak has written several books on social issues, ecological politics, and spiritual concerns, including Green Politics (coauthor) and States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age.