Fin de Siècle Social Theory: Relativism, Reduction, and the Problem of Reason
Verso, 1995 - 231 pages
In four closely interwoven studies, Jeffrey Alexander identifies the central dilemma that provokes contemporary social theory and proposes a new way to resolve it. The dream of reason that marked the previous fin de siècle foundered in the face of the cataclysms of the twentieth century, when war, revolution, and totalitarianism came to be seen as themselves products of reason. In response there emerged the profound skepticism about rationality that has so starkly defined the present fin de siècle. From Wittgenstein through Rorty and postmodernism, relativism rejects the very possibility of universal standards, while for both positivism and neo-Marxists like Bourdieu, reductionism claims that ideas simply reflect their social base.
In a readable and spirited argument, Alexander develops the alternative of a "neo-modernist" position that defends reason from within a culturally centered perspective while remaining committed to the goal of explaining, not merely interpreting, contemporary social life. On the basis of a sweeping reinterpretation of postwar society and its intellectuals, he suggests that both antimodernist radicalism and postmodernist resignation are now in decline; a more democratic, less ethnocentric and more historically contingent universalizing social theory may thus emerge.
Developing in his first two studies a historical approach to the problem of "absent reason," Alexander moves via a critique of Richard Rorty to construct his case for "present reason." Finally, focusing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, he provokes the most sustained critical reflection yet on this influential thinker.
Fin de Siecle Social Theory is a tonic intervention in contemporary debates, showing how social and cultural theory can properly take the measure of the extraordinary times in which we live.
Avis des internautes - Rédiger un commentaire
Aucun commentaire n'a été trouvé aux emplacements habituels.
Autres éditions - Tout afficher
abstract action actors Alexander American antimodernization argue argument autonomy become Bellah Bourdieu Cambridge capital capitalist century Civil Society claims codes Colomy communism concept concrete contemporary critical critique cultural cultural Marxism democracy democratic demonstrate differentiated discourse dominant earlier economic Eisenstadt empirical epistemological essay example fact field Foucault foundationalism fundamental Geertz Giddens Habermas habitus hermeneutics heroic historical homology human ibid ideas ideology impersonal insists intellectual internal interpretive Kabyle knowledge liberal logic logical positivism Marxist modernization theory moral movement narrative neo-Marxist neo-modern norms objective period Phenomenology philosophy Pierre Bourdieu Piotr Sztompka political position possibility postmodern postpositivist postwar practice produced radical rational rational choice theory reality recent reference reflection relation relativism revolution Rorty Sartre scientific semiotic sense social science social structure social theory Sociology strategies structuralist struggle suggest symbolic theoretical theorists thinkers tradition transformation truth understanding University Press violence Weber Wittgenstein York