death of metaphysics

I found Benhabib's attack on the tranquilizing effect of the 'end of history' thesis pretty unconvincing. The crux of her argument is that "the thesis occludes the epistemological interest in history and in historical narrative which accompany the aspirations of all struggling historical actors" (23). This seems to me empirically false. My hunch is that meta-narrating would reduce the study of history to the examination of data which confirms the telos of the meta-narrative, whereas a postmodern incredulity opens up the idiosyncratic and contingent events of history to Foucault-style genealogies. Nor do I think hopes for a better future need to be justified as the outgrowth of process reaching into the past.
The area of incompatibility between feminism and postmodernism I found most compelling was on the 'death of metaphysics (as legitimizing discourse)' thesis. Benhabib argues that without metaphysics there are no more extra-local-discourse criteria against which to evaluate social practices, no meta-discourse to enable critical distance. She then, I think, tries to regain that critical distance in social exile. My question is what happens if you phrase the 'death of metaphysics' thesis as 'incredulity towards metaphysics'. The problem doesn't seem to be that we woke up and our metaphysical criteria were gone (and I don't think Benhabib is saying this, but, rhetorically, it sounds that way) but that we no longer believe in them.
Benhabib writes that "Social criticism needs philosophy precisely because the narratives of our cultures are so conflictual and irreconcilable that, even when one appeals to them, a certain ordering of one's normative priorities and a clarification of those principles in the name of which one speaks is unavoidable" (27).
After the death/incredulity of metaphysics, those normative priorities and clarified principles formerly given metaphysical foundation in philosophy appear as mere prejudices, but prejudices we continue to find 'unavoidable' to resort to even after their metaphysical justification has been removed. My question is whether or not the 'death of metaphysics' is as threatening as Benhabib believes, or whether it is merely marks the continuation of the same process of legitimation under a new name.

I got the sense that her point in the passage you cite from p. 27 is to revive "philosophy" - in the sense of meta-historical or meta-narrativized claims re: overarching emancipation project - because situated discourse is (according to its own premises) always-already contaminated by contextual factors. In other words, I think it's something like: Look, we're never going to rise above localized contingency, and philosophy is necessary to order the disparate positions of situated subjectivity (i.e. it's necessary to avoid an outcome of "sheer heterogeniety," which is to say, relativism).
Your question as to whether the "death of metaphysics" is a legitimate rupture speaks to the exchange that Guattari Hero and I have been having elsewhere. What do you make of it - rupture or continuity (or some mostrous hybrid, to channel Haraway, of the two)?

I agree with your reading of the passage on p.27, but I think that if you recognize philosophy as a sort of formalized set of *contextual, contingent, contaminated* assumptions which allow you to order the often disordered, unformalized positions of situated subjectivity, the difference between situated criticism and philosophical criticism gets pretty blurred -the idea being that situated criticism would necessarily have to fall back on similar sets of assumptions in order to proceed anyway. So, I guess I see this as an epistemological rupture in a continuous practice, and, insofar as critics change their language from 'we all know we are subjects constructed of such and such categories' to 'assuming, pragmatically, for the sake of argument, we are subjects, positions in language, etc' I don't know that any substantive shift in critical practice has occurred.

Hm. I'm simultaneously inclined to agree and disagree, though the latter comes more from some indeterminate aversion that I'll have to ponder more. I guess the question is something like: is there any difference, as far as critical practice is concerned, between essentialism and strategic essentialism? For instance, if I say that I believe in women's rights, does it *matter* if I understand the referent "women" to signify some unchanging aprioristic group, or rather, as an inherently unfounded, radically situated designation? At some crude level of practice, the two seem on par.

Re: "At some crude level of practice, the two seem on par"

It seems that adhering to the idea of "women" as an unchanging group would, on another level, undermine the cause of someone who views that idea as inherently unfounded. The ultimate goals of these two "camps" are incompatible in that the latter would demand the negation of the former's "women" conception.