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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
REVIEW | ANNABELLA PITKIN 111 college and university professor. This book at its best combines the blunt humor and combative energy of punk with a well- practiced, familiar ranging between Pali sources, Continental European philoso- phy, Zen koans, and trenchant critique of the neoliberal order of things. Those who have found Wallis’ previous work fruitful will find much to excite them. This new volume offers a more complete, in-depth, detailed, and fully worked out presenta- tion of Wallis’ theory, sources, and meth- odology, and also draws out in more depth both his critique of Western Buddhism and the implications of that critique. Readers who are encountering Wal- lis’ project for the first time, on the other hand, may be put off, not so much by his critique of modernist, Western Buddhism (which echoes and builds in various ways on the work of major scholars of Buddhist modernism including David McMahan, Donald Lopez Jr., Heinz Bechert, and Jens- Uwe Hartmann, and may echo concerns that Wallis’ readers already bring to the table) but by the need to enter into the conceptual system and vocabulary of the French philosopher Laruelle that Wallis so wholeheartedly embraces. At several points, Wallis acknowledges that he is turning to philosophical tools that lie outside of Buddhism and that some readers may find jarring. He defends his extensive use of Laruelle’s work by assert- ing that “Paradoxically...we cannot look to Buddhism—to its teachers and defend- ers, to its commentaries and explications, to its communities and organizations—to assist us in removing its auto-erected bul- wark of resistance.” That is to say, Wallis argues that precisely because of the slippery nature of Western Buddhist avoidance of the true impact of terms like “emptiness,” places, practices, philosophical systems) to a remarkable extent, even as he acknowl- edges the claims of such particularity. He generally chooses as his interlocutors a specific kind of Western Buddhist general- ist (or occasionally a Pali iteration of the canonical Buddha) and then generalizes from these examples, while insisting that his criticisms extend to all “Buddhism” (whatever that is). Wallis offers sophisti- cated asides about the vast complexity of Buddhist identities and forms, and the arti- ficiality of affixing labels such as “Zen,” “Tibetan,” “mindfulness,” “Theravadin,” and so on. Yet the reader may be left feel- ing that the tumultuous and contentious living worlds of Buddhism in our present moment have gotten elided into what at times appears a smooth philosophical sur- face, ripe for critique to be sure, but also strangely silent. To put it another way, where are the people in this book? Wallis has his inter- locutors, and he moreover offers a promis- ing turn to narrative (“buddhofiction”) in the book’s final sections, but the characters and people featured here often function more like theoretical abstractions. Ideas and terms frequently float free of people. A historical or anthropological intervention might enrich this abstraction, though Wal- lis takes pains to make clear that this is not his project; perhaps it is unfair to ask this of him. Nevertheless, this is an unpeopled book. And as such, despite his engagement with his chosen interlocutors, at points the reader comes away with the sense that the only voice we really hear is Wallis’ own. For some readers, Wallis’ polemical clarion cry will be a thrill. Wallis’ biog- raphy on his websites and dustjackets alike note his punk rock musician creden- tials, his Harvard PhD, and his years as a